Pets, Kids and Pit Bulls

Franklin the Fish
Just Wants to Play
Dan England - Greeley Tribune

Joshua Miller, left, and Ash Unruh, both, 2, talk with Franklin the pacu fish Monday at Adventure Gymnastics and Child Care Center in west Greeley. Franklin has become a favorite of the kids, staff and parents at the child-care center. JIM RYDBOM/

The morning, when the coffee is just beginning to percolate at Adventure Gymnastics and Child Care Center, is probably Franklin's favorite time of day.

It was a long, lonely night, but now it's morning, and his favorite person, Mona Fresnilla, is cooing at him. Franklin jitterbugs and seems to smile. And here come the little ones walking through the door at 5800 18th St., Greeley. The 1s and 2s, as they are called, greet him with their high-pitched squeals and say good morning.

The attention is almost as good as the food, and when Fresnilla gives him his pellets, it's almost too much, and his body wiggles with joy.

If Franklin were a dog, you'd probably wonder why he made the paper. Aren't all dogs like this? Perhaps even a cat with that much personality wouldn't merit a story, even if Tribune Cat Lover Mike Peters might disagree. But Franklin deserves a story. There's no one like Franklin.

Franklin, after all, is a fish.

He's not only a fish, he's probably the biggest pet fish you've ever seen. Franklin's tank could probably hold hundreds of tropical fish, but Franklin's the only resident. There's no room for anyone else.

He's a pacu and a member of the piranha family, but don't be alarmed. Franklin doesn't want to eat one of those adorable little 2s. He just wants to play.

“He's got a personality all his own,” Fresnilla said.

Oh, Franklin's not always an angelfish. He can drive the employees crazy. He's certainly cute when he follows them around his aquarium, but he's not quite as cute when he splashes them, either because he's playing or because he, like the 1s and 2s in the day-care center, sometimes gets petulant when he doesn't get his way.

But since the child-care center got him in June from a woman who was overwhelmed by his demands and size, those same 1s and 2s have fallen for him.

“The kids really love him,” Fresnilla said. “They love to talk to him.”

Fresnilla didn't explicitly say this, but so does she. When they had to move him out of his tank into a larger one, Franklin raced around, agitated at his new home. Fresnilla just rubbed her fingers on the side of the tank, and Franklin quickly calmed down.

They don't know his age, and though pacu can bite off fingers, Franklin, like almost all of his species, eats pellets, veggies and the occasional M&M as a special treat. Franklin savors those M&Ms, leaving them in his mouth until the candy coating melts away.

“I've only given him an M&M a couple of times,” Fresnilla said. “I really don't know how good chocolate is for fish.”

Whenever there's talk of moving Franklin away or even upstairs, Fresnilla is the first to defend him. The kids, she said, would be heartbroken, and it's quite possible that Fresnilla would be, too. He's probably the most unique pet a day-care center's had in her 50 years of working for such places.

At the end of the day, the kids say goodbye, and Fresnilla might rub a finger or two against his tank. Then it's another long, lonely night before Fresnilla starts cooing, the kids say good morning, and Franklin starts wriggling in anticipation of his favorite time of the day.

Wig Out:
Kitty Wigs Gives
Cats a New 'Do
USA Today

Cats in wigs. This is the "spotlight" pet video on YouTube right now. Can't imagine how the felines sit still for it? Try wet food.

"This is like cocaine for cats. You have to get them full. It just kind of helps," photographer Jill Johnson tells the Dallas Morning News.

Johnson photographs for Kitty Wigs, the brainchild of Julie Jackson who's now authored Glamourpuss: The Enchanting World of Kitty Wigs.

Ways To Keep
Your Pet Bird Alive

For your pet bird how much did you spend? You probably spent a few hundreds and if you don’t want to throw that money to waste, you have to learn how to keep your pet bird alive.

Its easy to feed your pet bird as you can buy pellets or seeds from the store. If you want to spice up their diet a bit, never give them chocolate, certain fruits and vegetables which have proven to be toxic.

Apart from food, your pet bird will also need water. If your pet bird is not hydrated properly, they will die. This can happen if the water bottle you placed in the cage is not working properly so this has to be checked regularly.

Birds need to have to wings clipped. This allows the bird to gracefully land prevent it from flying erratically.

You have probably heard that birds must never be kept near windows and drafts but have no idea why. Well, one good answer is to prevent the birds from inhaling toxic fumes which can if the bird is placed near the kitchen.

Aside from fumes coming from the kitchen, you can keep your pet bird alive if you do not smoke or use any household cleaning agents near them. Birds that happen to inhale them may soon experience irritation, a host of respiratory problems and death.

The big cages make birds comfortable as they could spread their wings while they are inside. This will also prevent them from bumping their heads on the sides which may cause an internal injury which you are not aware of.

Some bird owners have other pets inside the house. If you are like them, be sure that when they are out of the cage, you are always there. If it should be another bird, make sure that the two are locked up in separate cages since some species of birds cannot coexist together.

Your pet bird needs to take a bath on a regular basis. You can do this by letting them wash themselves using a bowl or with a shower hose. When giving them a bath, never use soap or shampoo as this will damage their natural oil. Let them dry naturally or with a towel and never with a hair dryer as this can burn them.

The pet bird owners who love to take their bird wherever they go must not leave the bird alone in the Car. This is because they could die due to excessive heat especially when the temperature is very humid.

Don’t forget to bring your pet bird to the vet for his or her regular checkup. If you sense that there is something wrong with your bird, bring them immediately over to the clinic for a closer examination because doing nothing just makes matters worse.

Lastly, never let your bird sleep outside the cage. There is no telling what can happen while you are asleep so instead of taking that risk, it is best to put them back inside and just see them again when you wake up in the morning.

Although you cannot always foresee what dangers lie in the future for your pet bird, it will be able to live for a long period of time as long as you know how to do it right. If you need help, consult with your veterinarian.

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Advice On Obedience Training
For The Dog You Love

My husband and I have 2 dogs. They’re Labrador Retrievers which are used for bird and water fowl hunting, in addition to being pets. I enjoy being around the dogs since my partner has done such a solid job with obedience training. It’s so nice to have a dog respond to what ever command you are giving them. When I needed to lose weight, I hired an individual with a personal trainer certification to train me, but my spouse is perfectly capable of training the dogs. rather comfortable taking both dogs for a walk; for the reason that I know that they will listen to me. I don’t have to be concerned that they will go into somebody’s yard or that they will run away from me.

My partner starts the obedience training the day he brings a new puppy home. He does this by first teaching them their name. He does not utilize any physical discipline during the training sessions; instead he uses the tone of his voice. This is the niche philosophy of dog training we feel comfortable with. We researched what strategy of training to use as extensively as we researched what roofing Dublin contractor we wanted to work on our home remodel – so we feel quite knowledgable and comfortable with our determination. Labrador’s are rather sensitive dogs. Their chief goal in life is to please the humans which they live with. Due to this sensitive nature they’re aware when the tone in your voice changes. By using short stern commands the obedience training can be accomplished speedily. It is most important when working with a puppy to keep the training sessions to short lessons and incorporate some fun. We always attempt to incorporate the obedience training around meal time.

As the puppy gets older the lessons can be increased to longer periods of time. All the time that you spend with your puppy should be training of some kind. This means being quite consistent. If you do not want your dog to be around the table when you are dining, then this is imperative itsthe rule all the time. If you don’t need your dog to be on the furniture then that needs to be the rule all the time. A dog does not know exceptions to rules. If rules change the dog becomes confused and doesn’t understand what you need. Often with inconsistent training the dog will give up trying to follow direction if you have confused them.

If you want your dog to respond to verbal commands, choose short words or phrases and employ them consistently. You do not have to teach more than a single word for the behavior that you require. In obedience training the simpler you are able to keep things for you and your dog the happier you both will be in your time together. If you put in the effort with obedience training you will not have to spend time yelling at your dog for misbehaving. This makes for a more pleasurable lifetime together.

Pet Talk:
How to Pet a Dog,
a Lesson for Kids and Parents
By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

As pet-obsessed as we've become as a nation, it's stunning to me how many kids (and adults for that matter) have no idea how to approach an animal they've never met.
In the last week, my gentlest-of-gentle-dogs Jasper has endured a rear-end surprise swat from a boy (who wasn't being abusive, he thought it would be funny to shock a dog completely focused on a chattering squirrel), and a top-of-head thrubbing by a little kid who apparently thought dogs like being batted like a mound of bread dough.

And this was in Colorado Springs, always declared the first or second most dog-saturated, dog-loving city in the nation.

Naturally, I intervened instantly and explained gently but directly that dogs really don't like that sort of thing and here's the way you should approach dogs, blah, blah, blah. But I couldn't help but wonder what might've happened if the dog in each circumstance had been more trigger-reactive than Jasper. I also couldn't help but wonder this: Had the parents of these kids never provided any safety-first, common-sense guidance about approaching a dog you've never seen in your life?

Maybe we've been lulled into being lax because so many dogs are willing to endure many things they really don't like. Maybe parents are getting more complacent in this matter.

But injuries from dogs is the fifth biggest reason why kids are rushed to the ER. I think it's time for a little more adult intervention here.

To help us guide this next generation of tykes into humane, safe dog interaction, I contacted veterinarian Amanda Chin, whose recently released Pets' Playground, Playing Safe in a Dog-and-Cat World (American Animal Hospital Association Press, $11.95, available on is a wonderfully comprehensive child-geared guide to understanding dogs' and cats' needs, behaviors, postures and moods (grown-ups would learn a lot from this, too).

Chin's not an alarmist. She speaks with schoolchildren regularly to instruct them on interacting with animals, and she knows there's a fine line between teaching kids how to be respectful and safe, and scaring them into lifelong fear of animals. She also knows that if you fully explain the whys and wherefores, kids do just fine.

So instead of saying, "It's really dangerous to sneak up on a dog because he'll bite you," you say, "You know how when you're really busy doing something and someone sneaks up behind you and yells and scares you and that upsets you? Well, dogs get scared, too, so that's a mean thing to do to them. Also, without thinking, they may turn around ready to bite because they might think you're dangerous, and that's the only way they have to protect themselves."

Chin thinks it's vital to teach very young kids how to pet a dog.

•First: "They must always ask the adult's permission, and if an adult isn't there they should understand it's just not the right time to do it," she says. Sounds like a "yeah, duh" statement, maybe, but while there certainly are children who know that rule and abide by it, I've seen many instances recently in which kids skipped that step.

•Second: "The child should not move forward and grab out toward the dog. They should learn to stop a bit of a distance from the dog and let it approach them." Once the dog moves in for the love, the child shouldn't initiate a direct frontal attack with tiny hands, batting the animal on the head. (Head-batting is NOT perceived as a loving gesture — no people I know enjoy being bopped on the head, and dogs don't either — and for some dogs it's not just unpleasant, but threatening or highly annoying). Instead, the child should approach from the side and pat the shoulder or chest. Many dogs will reposition themselves to be closer and to get a neck rub or even gentle stroking (not batting) on the head. But kids should be taught to let the dog dictate that.

Dogs are sensitive about keeping their snouts from harm. So kids should learn early that even dogs they know well can get edgy and self-protective if someone reaches out toward a nose from above.

•Other kid rules: "Always be quiet, don't run toward or away from a dog," Chin says. "Always stroke a pet's hair in the direction it grows, not against that, as some animals don't like it. Never corner a pet. Never approach a dog that's tied up or reach through a fence. Don't make prolonged eye contact with a strange dog, as that can be read as a challenge."

It's important to teach young children to read body language in dogs, she says. A relaxed animal is less likely to do something untoward; a tense, scared or angry dog is primed to be reactive. A dog with tucked tail and flattened ears is scared. A dog with a stiff tail, leaning forward with head forward is probably angry.

Many incidents occur because "people have not read the signs" the dog is sending, and/or they're so accustomed to sweet Penny "they've grown complacent" about the realities, which are that dogs can have good and bad days, some dogs don't like children, and there are many variables that can cause a dog to lash out.

"It is good for children not to be scared," says Chin. And it's important that they be instructed "to act appropriately."

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Top 8:
Tips to Keep Your Pets
Warm and Safe This Winter

The colder temps have taken hold and winter is sweeping across the country. Starting tonight, Ann Arbor and other surrounding communities are under the first winter advisory of the season.

While you may be prepared for a winter storm - a full tank of gas and plenty of food in the pantry, etc. - don't forget to make plans to ensure your pet's comfort and well-being too.

The Humane Society of the United States offers these 8 tips to keep your pet safe during the winter months:

1.Don't leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops. Dogs and cats are safer indoors, except when taken out for supervised exercise.

2.Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Use plastic food and water bowls outside rather than metal. When the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.

3.Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

4.The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet's feet and may be harmful if ingested. Wipe their feet with a damp towel before your pet licks them to remove snow packed between your pet's paws. Pet-friendly ice melts are available at many pet supply stores across the nation or online.

5.Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that can attract animals and children. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze out of reach. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol, which is less toxic in small amounts than traditional ethylene glycol antifreeze.

6.No matter what the temperature, wind chill can threaten a pet's life. A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If your dog spends significant time outdoors, however, it must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in body heat.

7.The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

8.If you're feeding homeless cats, be sure to provide an insulated shelter for them. Information about building a shelter, spaying and neutering and more is available at

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What to Do If
a Pitbull Attacks
By Answer Fella -

Expert answers on the best body parts to offer up — and protect — when dog danger is near

What is the best thing to do if a pit bull — or several pit bulls — comes charging at you?

"Look at it as a dynamic event," advises Daniel Estep of the National Animal Control Association's training academy. "If the dog is 50 yards away and starts after you, if you can escape somewhere — inside a building, or on top of your car, or jump a fence — then that's probably the best thing to do. If the dog is closer than that, then that's not a good idea. In a footrace, you're going to lose.

"If the attack is imminent, try to shove something in his mouth, hopefully a nonbody part. If you've got a briefcase or a clipboard or even a coat, shove that at the dog. Most of the time, dogs are going to bite the first thing they get their teeth around. And then you can try to walk your way out of the situation.

"If that's not possible, feed him your nondominant arm. Arm, not hand. And let him grab onto that and try to get yourself out of the situation. The last thing you want to have happen is to be taken off your feet, because then it's much more difficult to protect yourself from serious injuries.

"If you get brought down, the best advice is to curl up into a ball and try to protect your belly and chest area. Cover your neck with your hands and loop your arm around so that it covers your face. When people roll up into this ball and don't move, oftentimes the dogs lose interest."

Women, too.

Dog Training Aids
for Your Dog Training Sessions
By Geraldine Dimarco In Dog Training -

Your voice is the most important of dog traing aids when training your dog. Use of your dog’s name is probably the next most important of the dog training aids at your disposal. Thirdly, a pleasant, persuasive tone of voice is a must.

Speak to your dog all the time while you’re engaged in dog training. Training your dog to retrieve may take some time, and dog training aids can come in useful for this purpose. A very light dumbbell is a good dog training aid to use when training your dog to retrieve. Again, use your voice to effect – immediately your dog takes the dumbbell, praise him repeatedly in a happy voice, and also pet him.

Never become angry with your dog when dog training. Becoming angry will not help, and is likely to make your dog anxious. To make matters worse, your dog won’t understand why you’re angry with him.

Dogs want to please their owners. It is their prime motivation. So if your dog does not understand your commands immediately, it’s not because he’s being naughty or disobedient. He just doesn’t grasp what you’re asking him.

As soon as your dog understands what you want him to do, he will take great delight in, e.g. taking the dumbbell from you. In fact, you’ll probably find that your dog will be happy to retrieve the dumbbell from you again and again.

For example, if your dog does not understand what you want him to do with the dumbbell that you have selected as your dog training aid, try gently placing the dumbbell in your dog’s mouth and holding his jaws closed around it. Be careful not to graze your dog’s teeth on the dumbbell.

Dog training sessions should be fund. They are a good opportunity to spend quality time – just you and your dog. Dog training certainly takes time and effort. Depending on your dog, you may need to be very patient with your dog training efforts.

Once your dog has become used to taking the dumbbell from your hand, he will probably want to perform this “trick” over and over, because he knows he is pleasing you.

Once your dog understands the taking of the dumbbell, you need to extend the reach of the item. Place the dumbbell on the ground in front of your dog and ask him to “Retrieve” or “Fetch”. Then start moving the dumbell further and further away from him. Your dog will soon get the idea.

Ask the Vet's Pets:
Toilet Training Cat
is Time Consuming
Dr. Deborah Lee Pickett -

Berks County, PA - Dear Christopher Cat: Can I train my cats to use the toilet?

Christopher Responds: You can, but the real question is: Should you?

Years ago, a cat in my extended family learned to use the toilet. Her humans were impressed until they discovered that she sometimes left the seat wet, a shock at night in their dimly lit bathroom.

Toilet training also presents problems for us cats. As part of our elimination behavior, we instinctively paw at the litter and then cover our excrement.

Depriving us of our natural habit is stressful, and some cats denied their litter boxes react by soiling a soft bathroom rug or pile of clothes instead.

Furthermore, as we get older, many of us develop arthritis. I am too stiff to hop up and balance on an open toilet seat, and I'm afraid I'd slip into the bowl.

Nevertheless, if you're intent on toilet training your cat, you'll find dozens of Web sites with instructions. Just be patient, and recognize the process requires time.

On the other hand, if you're simply tired of cleaning the litter box, investigate a self-scooping litter box, such as Litter Robot (, or a self-cleaning system you connect to your home plumbing, such as CatGenie (

In short, toilet training your cats may make life easier for you, but it's no gift to your cats.

Dear Daisy Dog: My dog has intervertebral disc disease and needs an anti-inflammatory. For the first few weeks, my veterinarian prescribed an affordable medication, but now the vet wants my dog to take an expensive anti-inflammatory. Is there something more affordable I can give him?

Daisy Responds: When a dog develops intervertebral disc disease, most veterinarians initiate therapy using a steroid anti-inflammatory, such as prednisone or prednisolone. These drugs are powerful and inexpensive, but they're generally not used long-term because of side effects.

If the dog needs medication after the steroid is discontinued, veterinarians often prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as Deramaxx, Metacam, Previcox or Rimadyl.

These medications not only reduce inflammation, but they relieve pain and can be given for years. Unfortunately, most are pricier than steroids.

However, some NSAIDs are available as less-expensive generics. Rimadyl's generic name is carprofen. Metacam is available generically as meloxicam, but the dosage is appropriate only for very large dogs.

Piroxicam, a human NSAID, is sometimes prescribed for large dogs, although it's much harder on our stomachs than the veterinary NSAIDs.

My advice is to talk with your veterinarian. I'm sure you can work together to find a product that will be effective and safe for your dog, and reasonably gentle on your pocketbook.

Ask the Vet's Pets appears Friday in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with veterinarian Lee Pickett, V.M.D. Write to them at P.O. Box 302, Bernville, PA 19506-0302, or visit

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