Dog Rescued at Sea PLUS Pygmy Goats and Angelfish

Ask a Vet:
How Do I Tell If My Pet is Depressed?

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health? Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help! In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford offers some advice to reader Allie about identifying and treating depression in dogs and cats:

Allie's question: What are some signs of depression in cats and dogs? I've heard stories about dogs being treated with antidepressants. What are your thoughts on animal psychiatry? What other options are available for sad pets?

Heather Oxford, DVM: Veterinarians have the most extensive training in animal behavior of anyone working in the pet industry, and I doubt any one of us has ever prescribed antidepressants as a first-line for animal depression.

The reason is simple: There is a language barrier between us and our patients that does not exist in human medicine. Animals don't come into our offices and tell us that their hearing or vision is failing them, that they've had a chronic headache for weeks now, or that they've been having stomach or intestinal pains that just won't go away. They just look sad. It is our first responsibility to rule out causes of depression that are endocrine/internal, neurologic or orthopedic in origin. A lot of medical causes of depression can be treated, avoiding the unnecessary use of prescription antidepressants.

For the small population of animals whose depression truly can be traced to behavioral origins, I like a natural anti-depressant called S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe). This is a naturally occurring compound found in every cell of the body, made from the amino acid methionine. Although SAMe has many uses, there is evidence for its short-term use in treating major depression by assisting the body in producing neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. For cats, Feliway diffusers are helpful as well. There are also floral essences and homeopathic remedies that are useful for depression disorders. For animals that need stronger antidepressants, there are prescription-strength drugs available at your veterinarian's office; however, I reserve these for last.

Canine Pain Relievers
'Can be Viable Pet Healthcare Option'

The horror stories surrounding pain relievers have meant that too many owners do not consider canine versions of it as a pet healthcare option, a vet has said.

Dr Patty Khuly wrote in her USA Today column that one of the aspects of her work she most struggled with was having opinions that conflicted with ethical insurance shoppers' decisions.

One of these is when she encounters people who have been too influenced by received knowledge to follow her advice.

She told the story of a Labrador retriever with probable joint cancer who would have benefitted from canine pain relievers in the interim.

"Problem was, they'd heard so many horror stories about certain kinds of canine pain relievers they refused to consider the subject at all," Dr Khuly explained, adding: "So much for animal welfare."

Dr Marty Becker wrote in the Sacramento Bee that owners should consider this type of medication as treating pain can also promote healthy healing by improving mobility, respiration and even shortening post-surgical hospitalisation.

Gary Bogue:
Cats are Territorial & That's Why
Adopting a New Cat Upsets an Old Pet
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

Dear Gary:

We have a problem with our white feral female cat.

We adopted her when she was a kitten, about seven years ago, after my mother found her wandering in the store from a nearby field. This cat has only recently become affectionate, following my wife everywhere. However, earlier in her life (the cat, not my wife), she was very skittish and never let us touch her without having a cat fit.

We have always kept Milky in the house. We also have two other house cats and two other cats we keep outside.

Recently, my wife adopted two other kittens from the SPCA. It seems that ever since the new kittens arrived about three months ago, Milky is spraying in certain areas of the house; my office, our guest room, the dining room and probably other places yet to be discovered.

We clean up the sprayed area, but that doesn't do any good. We have two litter boxes, upstairs and downstairs, which are cleaned regularly.

We think Milky may be jealous, but to be honest I don't care about the cause. My sentiments range from making her an outside cat to taking her back to the SPCA. At any event, we await your advice.

Craig LaFargue,


Dear Craig:

You should care about the cause of Milky's spraying because, ahem, it's you and your

Cats are very territorial. Because Milky spent her early, impressionable years running wild, I would expect her to be particularly sensitive to other cats invading her turf.

When your wife brought home those two new kittens, that's exactly what happened. After seven years of living with two other cats in your household, two strangers have been added to this stable equation, profoundly upsetting the mix.

Simply put, Milky is feeling insecure about her position in the household. Your wife has probably (understandably) been lavishing a lot of time on the new kittens and this is really stressing Milky.

The problem is further aggravated by the fact that Milky doesn't have her own litter box. If you were a cat, you would be offended if strange cats suddenly started using your bathroom. (Those things don't flush, you know.)

Milky is instinctively responding to the intrusion by marking her territory. She can't help herself.

Sticking her outside would probably cause her to revert to her feral ways. She might even run away. Finding her another home may also cause her serious emotional problems. Look how long it took her to warm up to your wife.

As you guys have created this situation, however innocently, you have a responsibility to make it work instead of blaming it all on Milky.

Back off on the kittens and start paying more attention to Milky, especially when the kittens are around. Greet Milky first. Feed her first, pet her first, etc. Make her feel secure again. Arrange for her to have her own litter box and provide her with a private place to eat.

If you catch her spraying, tell her "No," and take her to her litter box. That's it. Punishment won't work anyway and only confuses the issue.

Clean sprayed areas with a urine neutralizer (at pet stores). Urine smell stimulates cat to spray and may start up the other cats.

She may get over this and she may not. Give it a month. If you must relocate somebody, I recommend moving the kittens to a friendlier setting.

I'm not sure Milky could handle the change.

Dog Park Etiquette

We are new dog owners and want the best for our new puppy. We want him properly socialized, so we decided to visit the two dog parks in St. Catharines.

What we found was a combination of good and bad behaviour -- from dogs and owners. Our No. 1 concern is overly aggressive dogs who want to dominate the other dogs. We found some owners who were inattentive of the actions of their dogs, others weren't able to control their dogs. These people should keep their dogs away from the parks. They are an accident waiting to happen.

Having said that, we found many good pet owners with lots of good advice. But we still haven't decided if dog parks are the right choice for us. Future visitors should look to see if the scene is safe, sparing your best friend a scuff with the neighbourhood bullies; look to see if the grounds are clean and the dogs are playing well together. If you notice aggressive behaviour or little human supervision, consider another park or come back later.

The dog park is not a time to catch up on phone calls -- it is essential that you supervise your dog at all times. Puppies under four months don't have the necessary strength or vaccination protection they need for safe play with other dogs so keep them away. When a dog starts acting aggressively for any reason, it's time to go. By leaving immediately, you protect all the dogs at the park while teaching yours that bad behaviour won't be tolerated.

D. Hicks

St. Catharines

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PetSmart Survey Reveals
Motives for Pet Adoption
by News Hound - Internet Pet News

In a group of animal lovers or "The Price is Right" hosts, it's easy to see a passion for adopting homeless pets and controlling the pet population. But thanks to a national survey commissioned by PetSmart Charities, we now have an insight to the overall national perceptions and opinions about pets.

Among 1,000 new pet owners (those who acquired a dog or cat in the past year), the study found that only 24 percent were adopted from shelters. This means a whopping 76 percent of pets were received from sources other than shelters, with the primary reason being a desire for a specific purebreed.

Interestingly, when those who purchased pets were asked what might motivate them to choose shelter adoption instead, knowing that "millions of purebred animals end up in shelters" was found to be the least motivating factor.

Despite Bob Barker's tireless encouragement, the study also found that nearly half of people who have acquired unsterilized pets in the last year haven't fixed them. As a result, more unwanted pets are being born into the world. Owners reported that more than half of the litters born to their dogs and cats were unintentional.

Other interesting findings from the study are that people earning $55,000 or more per year are more likely to adopt from shelters, and southerners and the under-35 set are the least likely to sterilize their pets.

"We hope that by providing this data to others who share our passion for saving the lives of homeless pets, we can break down the barriers to pet adoption and spay/neuter that survey respondents identified," said Susana Della Maddalena, executive director of non-profit PetSmart Charities, Inc. "We can all use the data to develop new practices and messages based on what we now know to be key motivators and barriers."

News on Pet Food:
Low-Calorie Food Labels Unreliable

People trying to find the right diet to help their pets lose weight don't have it easy, new research shows.

The calorie information on the back of the bag might not be reliable information, according to a study done on 100 commercially available diets by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. The commercial foods studied had weight management claims.

"There is so much information -- and misinformation -- about pet foods, it's understandable that people are confused abou what to feed their dogs and cats,'' says co-author Lisa Freeman. "To counteract these myths, people are accustomed to turning to the labels on food -- but, as this study shows, packaging might not always be a reliable source of information.''

The study is published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Recommended intakes and caloric density vary greatly for both dry and wet foods.

Nearly 50% of domesticated animals are overweight or obese. The study concluded that pets would not only lose weight but could actually gain weight by following some of the feeding recommendations on the back of the bags or cans.

Pet Talk:
Buddy's Painful Death
Brings a Demand for Justice
By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

In life, Buddy, the shepherd/blue heeler mix, was a beloved pet.

In death, he has become a rallying point for outraged pet lovers around the world who are tired of sickos hurting animals.

Buddy's story has galvanized Grand Junction, Colo., near where Buddy was dragged to death just before New Year's, provoking scores of people to cram into the courtroom and spill into the street when the man accused of killing him appeared at a preliminary hearing.

It has prompted the online petition "Demand Justice for Buddy!" The petition achieved its goal of 100,000 signatures — from people in nearly every state and dozens of countries, including Canada, Denmark and Australia — in just 11 days. (More than 106,000 had signed at by this morning). And it inspired United Kingdom singer/songwriter Maria Daines to write and record Buddy's Song, a moving tribute posted on her website.

"The U.S. assistant attorney (who is prosecuting the case) told me she's never seen anything like it. She's received several thousand e-mails," Paul Shockley, the reporter who has been covering the case for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, tells me.

Buddy allegedly was stolen from his owner's parked truck — with a second dog, a black Lab, later recovered by authorities — and within hours was dead. Steven Clay Romero, 37, was arrested and is being held without bond. He had been out on bond awaiting a March trial for a weapons and drug charge carrying a possible 48-year sentence when Buddy died.

The legal system will have to establish precisely what happened and who was responsible. But one thing is indisputable: Buddy is dead, his body found in the snow at the top of a steep hill with a blue rope fashioned like a choker collar around his neck.

The discovery was made before dawn after a maintenance worker at Colorado National Monument — a massive park of sweeping plateaus and canyons — who followed with growing horror the nearly two miles of tracks in the snow of a dog walking behind a vehicle, then running, and finally being dragged up the steeps and switchbacks, according to court testimony.
Authorities say that video surveillance captured a truck entering the park at 2:18 a.m. with a dog in the truck bed, and the same truck exited at 2:30 without a dog. They have charged Romero's sister with felony theft and false reporting, alleging that hours before Buddy was found dead, she (with her children) had loaded him and the second dog into her vehicle and had driven away. Affidavits state that Buddy later attacked the woman's cat and that the woman told Romero to get rid of him.

Romero's next court date is Wednesday, during which he may enter a plea on charges of aggravated cruelty, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

It's unknown, of course, whether this court appearance will draw as many people as the one earlier this month, when some shopkeepers locked up their businesses to attend the hearing and people with dogs milled about outside the courthouse. "The tension in that courtroom was very high" that day, Shockley told me, the proceedings punctuated by the sound of "dogs barking in the street."

As testimony about Buddy's faltering tracks in the snow was given, spectators were moved to tears, he said, and "the family of the dog had to walk out of the courtroom."

The intensity of outrage does not seem to be diminishing with time.

A case can't be tried or decided based on public sentiment, of course. And some people have wondered especially about the value of online petitions — perhaps they'll never understand the profound release that comes to an outraged animal lover given the forum to write the words "May the killer also be dragged up a long steep hill by a rope slip-knotted around his neck."

But really, it seems that most who are doing whatever they're doing to make their feelings known are hoping lawmakers on state and federal levels will strengthen cruelty laws. For this is by no means the only case of a dog being hideously tortured, or even being dragged behind a vehicle. In just the last couple of months there have been two widely publicized dragging cases elsewhere in the USA.

And there's something else, something that Daines understands and speaks to in her song. What happened to that Colorado dog in the brutal winter predawn hours is every dog owner's worst fear — that in one dark second, something will happen that prevents us from keeping it safe.

I won't be home again, Daines writes in Buddy's Song.

And that's partly because dogs are what they are.

I'm everyone's friend

I'm everyone's Buddy.

Pygmy Goats: the New "It" Pet?

In addition to their popularity among enterprising grass-cutting and weed-control operations like City Grazing and Goats R Us, more and more people are choosing to employ goats as family pets.

Are you passionate about Pygmies?

According to the New York Times, some Chicago residents have become particularly fond of Pygmies. Valued for their milk and desirable compact size (they max out at around 17 to 23 inches tall), these bitty billies have trotted into backyards (and hearts) throughout the Windy City and its burbs. Pygmies are also revered for their intelligence and good temper.

"Out in a yard, they easily pass as a dog," one goat enthusiast told the Times.

As in Chicago, keeping a goat is also legal in San Francisco, you just can't sell the animal's milk or cheese. According to San Francisco health codes, donkeys, mules, cows, and goats (basically all "even-toed hooved animals") require a permit, although pot bellied pigs and Pygmy goats are typically defined as pets.

Just be sure you know the local laws before picking up a Pygmy of your own to avoid any "5-4-7"

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Dog Found at Sea, Floating on Piece of Ice
by Jill Rosen -

Talk about amazing rescues....

This lucky pup was found cold and alone, floating on an ice floe 15 miles off the Polish Baltic Sea coast in Gdynia. Adam Buczynski, a sailor from the ship "Baltic" pulled out the dog to safety and carries him here. Rescuers have given the dog the name "Baltic" until it can hopefully be reunited with its owner. (AP Photo/Maciej Czoska)

Trim Costs, but Don't Short-Change Pets
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori -

Let's not kid ourselves: Things are tight, and people are learning to make do with less. That's the bad news.

The good news: You don't have to shortchange your pets to save money. By focusing on prevention, smart buys and sharing, you can slash what you spend on your pets. Some tips:

• Work with your veterinarian to cut costs: Vaccinations are no longer recommended annually for most dogs and cats, but that's not a good reason to skip your pet's yearly vet check (twice-yearly for older pets). These "well-pet" examinations can spot little problems before they become expensive ones. Ask your veterinarian to give you prescriptions for medications to be filled elsewhere, or to match prices. Check for short-term promotions such as for Dental Health Month (which is coming in February) or for ongoing discounts such as for multipet families or senior citizens. Consider pet health insurance as a backup in case of emergency – it can help save your pet's life when money is the issue.

• Keep your pet fit and trim: A majority of dogs and cats are overweight, and those extra pounds increase the likelihood of health problems, such as arthritis, diabetes and cancer. If your pet is overweight, get your veterinarian's help to reduce weight slowly to avoid the health risks of sudden weight loss, especially in cats.

• Learn to do things yourself: Most people can learn to handle basic pet grooming at home, from bathing to nail trims. If nothing else, you can probably stretch out time between professional groomings for high-maintenance pets with some at-home care. Check your library for grooming guides and find breed-specific tips with an Internet search.

Another do-it-yourself strategy is more about health: Brush your pet's teeth – it'll lengthen the time between cleanings at your veterinarian's.

• Minimize risk from accidents: Saving the life of a pet who has been poisoned or hit by a car can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars – and these tragedies can often be prevented. Keeping cats as indoor-only pets will prevent injuries and protect them from communicable diseases; a sturdy fence and the use of a leash will do the same for dogs.

Go through your home with an eye toward possible hazards, especially foods, plants and drugs that can be ingested, as well as cleaning supplies, pesticides and herbicides. The ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center offers information on all toxic risks to your pet at

• Consider purchases and buy in bulk: Shopping for pets can be great fun, but that new designer collar may be something you want to postpone if there's wear left on what your pet has now. When it comes to toys, cut them back, but not out – good chew toys have saved many an expensive pair of shoes.

You can save money buying the largest bags of food or litter, or get case discounts on canned goods. Split your dry food purchases with family or a friend, and store your portion in an airtight container. (Do keep product info from the bag, though, in case there are questions or problems.)

• Look for freebies and secondhand items: Check classifieds, Craigslist and the Freecycle network ( to find bargains. Crates, cages and cat trees can often be had for next to nothing – or nothing at all. And don't forget to return the favor: Don't let unwanted supplies rot in your garage. Sell them at a decent price or give them away to other pet lovers, shelters or rescue groups.

• Share services: Other pet lovers are likely also feeling the squeeze, so look into sharing or trading services such as pet-sitting. Remember that bartered services don't need to be the same: You can save just as much money if you can provide one kind of service (such as tax preparation) for another (such as pet-sitting or dog-grooming).

Dogs Sniffing Abilities Are Truly Amazing
Steve Dale - My Pet World - Tribune Media Service

Q: If you were on a beautiful beach - and one grain of sand smelled different from the rest - could most dogs identify that grain of sand? -- V.D., Cyberspace

A: Yes. Your average dog's proboscis is about 10,000 times more efficient than ours. We can't even conceive what the world's dogs must sense. Imagine, sniffing a fire hydrant and getting the 4-1-1 on everyone in the 'hood.

Of course, the stories of dogs sniffing out bad guys, or finding lost Alzheimer's patients are legendary. Do away with a body in a river; a dog may sniff it out from the boat above. The U.S. military has spent millions on land mine detection equipment but they can't come anywhere near replicating the nose of a dog. Military working dogs and U.S. Department of Agriculture dogs are also irreplaceable. Their ability to sniff out dangerous weapons or drugs is legendary.

So, if somehow you could isolate a specific scent on one grain of sand on a beach, most dogs would find it.

Q: I'd like to have the cat that was left at my door neutered and declawed. However, I want a doctor with reasonable fees for seniors. I took in the cat, but now what? -- M.B., Brockton, MA

A: First, find a veterinarian. You could contact the Massachusetts State Veterinary Medical Association, or simply ask friends or relatives for recommendations. I understand how money is an issue for many people, particularly seniors. However, while special senior discounts might be a good idea, I don't know of any vets who make such offers. Most communities do have an outlet which provides low-cost spay/neuter. In some cities, for those who qualify, there are even free spay/neuter programs.

As for declawing, think twice before you follow through. You could save money here because this procedure isn't necessary, particularly for kittens who can easily be taught to use scratching posts. Also, talk to your vet about keeping your cat's nails trimmed. If you offer moist food as you clip, you can train your kitty to actually enjoy or at least tolerate the procedure. You could also ask a friend to help you clip your cat's nails.

Q: My dog won't stop barking at the mailman. I can't tell the mailman not to come, and since I'm not usually home when he arrives, I can't tell Barney not to bark. Even when I close the blinds, Barney manages to push them aside so he can see outside. Any advice? -- F.C., Richmond, VA

A: Jim Barry, of Reston, VA, a dog behavior consultant and author of "The Ethical Dog Trainer" (DogWise Press, Wenatchee WA, 2008; $19.95), offers three tips:

--Management: Keep Barney in another room away from the walkway the mail carrier uses, and close the door. Turn on the radio (or download versions of my national radio shows from I-tunes) to drown out the sound of the person delivering mail.

--Exercise: If your dog gets plenty of exercise and sleeping when the mailman arrives, he won't be barking. Also, get Barney some enrichment toys, such as Kong toys stuffed with low-fat peanut butter or Busy Buddy toys with kibble inside.

--Training: When Barry alerts you to the "intruder," calmly go to the door and open it. Then, thank Barney for diligently doing his job. There's no longer a reason for him to bark. This method is surprisingly effective but only works when you're home, and only if your dog isn't fearful and/or aggressive about the "intruder" but simply wants to tell you someone is there.

Q: My 13-year-old Siamese cat always had weird eyes. Now, I've noticed that she seems to have two retinas in each eye. Will this affect her vision later in life? Have you ever heard of this? -- E.F., New Port Richey, FL

A: Dr. Amber LaBelle, a resident in veterinary ophthalmology at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Urbana, says, "It's interesting, because it's not likely you can actually see your cat's retina without special equipment." Also, she's never heard of the condition you describe. What seems far more likely is another abnormality. Perhaps your cat has hole in the structure of the eye, a condition known as a colobama (or cat eye syndrome). Cats with this condition can appear to have multiple pupils. While kittens are born with the condition, it can grow worse with age.

A condition called pseudopolycoria also gives the illusion of multiple pupils. A third possibility is iris atrophy, which creates age-related changes in the iris, and in a 13-year-old cat, that is clearly possible.

LaBelle can't be certain of anything without examining your cat. However, in general, none of these problems typically causes blindness, though it's possible your cat will have increased difficulty adjusting her eyes when the sun is shining bright or going from a darkened room to a bright room. Someone should market sunglasses for cats!

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.

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Pet Parrots On Shoulders
- Is It Okay?
by Lisa Desatnik -

I was asked that very question not too long ago by someone whose beautiful companion loves shoulder-eye views of the world. She was warned, as I’ve heard so often, that she shouldn’t be allowing her bird on her shoulder because her pet will think he’s dominant and may likely bite her. I’m not sure where this originated but I thought I’d shed some insight I learned from respected behaviorists and trainers.

So, what is this height dominance theory, really?

Well, Steve Martin, renowned trainer and president of Orlando-based Natural Encounters, wrote about it in a paper actually. “To put it bluntly,” he said, “height dominance does not exist in parrots.”

Yep, if you talk to those in the know – ornithologists, field biologists, and wild bird behaviorists -
there is no such thing as an alpha parrot. Aggression between wild parrots is brief, and a parrot that loses in one confrontation may very well win in the next.

A frustrated bird owner may question that. “Well, of course my bird gets dominant when he’s up high. He bites me every time I try to pick him up from somewhere high,” that person may ask.

My response to that? Let’s do a little behavior analysis and look at a scenario that bird owners frequently use as an example of their pet showing ‘dominance’. Barney – a macaw – is on top of his cage playing with a toy when his owner, Suzy, needs to put him into his cage. She reaches for him and when he steps up, ‘without any warning’ (as is often described) he nails her.

Let’s look at some potential things that could be coming into play here.

• Birds are more comfortable stepping up. However since Barney is up high, unless Suzy gets on a chair, more than likely he is needing to step down to her and may even catch his long tail on the cage. Not very fun for Barney.

• Barney was perfectly happy playing with his toys. His past experience of stepping up for Suzy when he’s playing with his toys is that the consequence of his stepping up means he goes into his cage more often than not. And being inside that cage is just not as fun as being on top of it. (He’s at least taken away from doing something that he was enjoying doing.)

• Before Barney actually bit Suzy, he tried to show her he didn’t want to step up by pinning his eyes or other body language but she ignored or didn’t pay attention to it. Therefore biting her is the only behavior he can do to get the message across that he really does not want to step up at this time.

So, now, is this really a case of height dominance or is the bird simply behaving to escape something negative from the bird’s point of view?

Now back to the original question. Is it okay to wear your bird on your shoulder?

Well, there are a number of factors to take into consideration with regard to that decision. None of them have to do with height dominance.

• What is your relationship with your bird? Does your bird reliably ‘step up’ onto your hand?

• One problem with having your bird on your shoulder is that you can’t see his body language. Therefore you can’t effectively allow your bird to communicate a fear or aggressive response, thus you may be setting both of you up for a possible bite.

• Another consideration is that, while it’s fun companionship to wear shoulder birds it’s healthy to offer a variety of enriching activities for your pet that encourage independent play, foraging, and more. Encouraging your bird to stay perched in one place for long periods of time limits the time he could be learning and playing in different ways.

Right now I only allow Barnaby on my shoulder. Dreyfuss is my hand bird. While both of my birds are fairly fluent in ‘step up’ (Barnaby much more so than Dreyfuss, although she’s getting better), Barnaby has a much more predictable calm behavior than Dreyfuss. It’s not so important for me to keep an eye on Barnaby’s body language. However, Dreyfuss can be a little on the unpredictable side. It’s very important for me to watch her body language as I have her ‘step up’, therefore it is not a good idea for her to perch on my shoulder.

When I had Chester, he and Barnaby were always my ‘shoulder’ birds and Dreyfuss’ place was on my hand. (When you carry three birds around the house, you have to be creative.) So, my hand is where she got used to being and I think I’ll keep it that way.

I do want to just mention that if it is a goal of yours to wear your parrot on your shoulder, a good first goal would be to teach a reliable ‘step up’ behavior.

The Rabbit Didn't Die

The mysterious Christmas Eve bunny has found a home, though it's still unclear who dropped the hopper off.

On Dec. 30, we reported the story of a caged rabbit who showed up on a random Oak Park woman's doorstep the day before Christmas. Homeowner Barbara Kahn had no idea where the bunny came from, so she passed the animal along to an Oak Park friend, Ceal Bacom, before going out of town.

Bacom speculated that someone might have left the critter on the wrong doorstep, and asked Wednesday Journal for help finding the owner. Realistically though, she admitted the rabbit was likely abandoned.

Well, the mystery never was solved, but one of Bacom's co-workers, Marybeth Waldorf of Villa Park, volunteered to adopt the rabbit on Jan. 10.

"Apparently the family had only had fish as pets, so the kids are delighted to finally have a pet mammal," Bacom's husband, Tim Bannon, said in an e-mail Friday. "Nobody ever came forward to claim the rabbit, nor did anybody ever admit to dropping him off. So, mystery remains unsolved."

Waldorf and her three kids are keeping the name Ralph, which Bacom's son came up with, based on the character from the film, A Christmas Story.

"They're very excited, and she doesn't hate me," Bacom said Monday. "It's a happy ending for Ralph and all of us."

Important Tips on Angelfish Care

Angelfish are numbered among of one of the largest families of vertebrates on Earth. The family Cichlidae is made up of over 1,300 classified species in 220 assorted genera. Previously undiscovered species are being added to this family every year. It is estimated that there may be as many as 3,000 species that fall within the scientific classification of this family. The family Cichlidae, referred to in laymen’s terms as cichlids, also includes oscars, discus and tilapias. Many sources will indicate that angelfish are indigenous to the Amazon River in Brazil. While this is true, this species also inhabits both the Orinoco River and Essequibo River systems. The angelfish’s natural habitat extends throughout Guyana, Venezuela, and Columbia in addition to Brazil.

These fish are elegant and graceful creatures. These fish top the popularity charts with freshwater aquarium keepers worldwide. Their unique appearance absolutely added to their massive popularity. Angelfish are sold in a variety of body colors and patterns, from solid silver to striped, marbled, black, golden, or Koi. These fish are one of the most available fish marketed in pet stores. They are cheap to buy. Freshwater angels are easy fish to keep fit and vigorous.

It is easy to underestimate those endearing little fish in the fish store. The specimens available at the pet shops are not fully grown. Angelfish normally grow to six inches in length. They can be housed in a fish tank as little as 10 gallons although 20 gallons and is ideal.

Angelfish are docile fish. They make excellent additions to a multi-species aquarium. Angels will, however, deem smaller varieties of fish as a food source. It is advisable not to house them with species like minnows, glofish and fancy guppies. It is also ill advisable mixing angels with species like barbs and tetras. Both are fin nippers by nature. An angelfish’s full, billowing fins are scrumptious morsel, prime for snacking on.

This is an omnivorous species. Their diet should be comprised of both plant and animal matter. You will want to make sure to choose a fish food developed for omnivores as their main staple. A good quality flake food is all you will need to keep your angelfish fit and full of vigor. Many fish keepers prefer to provide a variety of nutritional choices in addition to the main staple. Although this is not strictly mandatory, it is a good practice. Would you want to have the exact same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of your life? A diverse diet will help to guarantee optimum health. Dried seaweed sheets are an excellent dietary supplement for omnivores. Protein based dietary additives like brine shrimp, tubifex and bloodworms are great alternatives to common fish food. Frozen and freeze dried preparations are readily available and make an excellent substitute for live food.

These fish inhabit South America. They are accustomed to water on the acidic side of the pH scale. A pH factor of 6.8 and temperatures between 72-86 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal environment. In a pristine environment an angelfish may live in excess of 10 years.

In regards to parenting, freshwater fish can be divided into two basic categories. There are those fish that will abandon their unborn eggs or even eat them with no regard to parental obligations. Then there are the fish that express varying amounts of brooding instinct. All cichlids fall in the latter category. Angelfish are most often referred to as open brooders. This simply means that they will prepare a flat surface such as a rock or piece of wood in order to deposit their eggs on. Brooders will exhibit custodial obligations by standing guard over and tending to their eggs until they hatch. Typically the male adopts the role as the protector by standing guard while the female becomes the eggs’ caregiver. After they are hatched, both parents will take an active role in tending their offspring.

Housing any certain species of fish in a volume of water that is not large enough could result in seriously adverse health issues and facilitate its death. You wouldn’t think about trying to raise an angelfish an ultra-thin wall mounted aquarium. To get more information about freshwater aquarium fish visit our online fish guide.

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Smart Dogs and Talented Cats

Not So Stupid Pet Tricks for Cats
By Jennifer Viegas, Studio One Networks -

Dogs often steal the spotlight when it comes to tricks because cats are "misunderstood when it comes to training, enrichment and living a happy and healthy life indoors," says Cary Rentola of the Larimer Humane Society. You may not be able to teach an old dog a new trick, but you can teach your cat tricks commonly associated with dogs.

The Benefits of Trick Training

Teaching new behaviors promotes a healthy lifestyle and helps relieve feline boredom while offering cats mental exercise, says Cheryl Kolus, a Colorado State University veterinary student and a volunteer with the Larimer Humane Society. Training also gives them an outlet for instinctual behaviors. "When you're working on a trick through positive training, it becomes a bonding experience for you and your cat," adds Rentola.

Trick Training How-to

Here are five fun tricks for your cat. Repeat a trick two to five times per session.

1. Sit - Move the treat up above cat's head so your pet sits back. At the same time, say your cat's name along with "sit." Once your cat assumes the position, click and offer treats and praise.

2. Beg - Hold a treat over your cat's head so it has to sit up and reach with its paws to get it. Say "beg" along with your pet's name, and the moment kitty does something resembling the trick, click and hand over the treat. Do this around three to five times, depending on the cat's attention span. Then put the treat away and say "beg" again. If your cat performs the trick without being asked, immediately offer praise and a treat.

3. Fetch - Toss a toy a few feet in front of you and let your cat run after it. As kitty rolls around with it, walk over and offer praise. Take the toy and say thank you, then pet your cat for a short while before throwing the toy again a little further. Retrieve the toy again as your cat plays with it, and this time, return to your original position before throwing. Repeat the procedure a few times, then give your cat a final rubdown and put the toy out of sight until the next session. Conduct these training sessions at the same time each day, and your pet will start anticipating this game. Every time you play, it will carry the toy closer and closer to you.

4. Play dead - Call your cat to a place it enjoys. When it comes, offer a treat and say its name in a soothing tone. Then put your hand on its back and say, "Play dead." Gently press down on your cat until it lies down. Praise and click before giving another treat. With enough practice, your cat will learn to obey this command without your hand on its back.

5. High five - Hold a treat out of your cat's reach, inviting your pet to sit in front of you. Once kitty comes, say, "High five," and lower your hand. If your pet tries to get the treat with its teeth, raise your hand out of its mouth's reach. Kitty will then try to get the treat with its paw. If the paw hits your palm, click, provide a treat and offer praise. If kitty doesn't reach for the treat, close your hand over the treat for five seconds, then try again from the start.

A few more important things to keep in mind as you train:

•Keep sessions short - Cats have short attention spans, so train in a quiet place each time.

•Train before meals This is when your cat is most responsive. Be sure to break up treats into smaller bits so your cat doesn't end up overeating.

•Be patient - Never yell at your cat, or "it will shy away from wanting to participate, no matter how tasty the treat," reminds Rentola.

•Time rewards correctly - In the seconds it takes to reward a good behavior with a treat, kitty may get distracted. "For all she knows, turning her head is what got her the reward," says Rentola. Eventually, your cat will respond to your voice alone.

•Repeat often - Hold one or two five- to 10-minute sessions at scheduled times every day for two to three weeks.

Despite their reputation, cats are very trainable and social. Teaching yours to obey your commands will help debunk the myth that dogs are the only loyal pets. Just remember, as Kolus says, "Patience, kindness and consistency are key."

Darcy Lockman Darcy Lockman is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times and Rolling Stone.

Help Your Pet Snooze Well
by Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori -

For many people, a good night’s sleep is hard to come by, for reasons as varied as stress, caffeinated beverages, and snoring spouses. But one problem took researchers at the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine by surprise: pets.

More than half of the patients at the clinic reported sharing their bedrooms—and often their beds—with their pets. The physicians started recommending tossing the pet out, but pet-lovers don’t usually like doing so.

Whether your dog snoozes in bed beside you or your cat meows incessantly outside your bedroom door, here’s how you can enjoy sleep instead of counting sheep.

To help dogs and cats rest easy, have them checked for external parasites—fleas and ticks—as well as bacterial or yeast infections. All can cause scratching and discomfort, often all night. Allergies can also cause constant itching, so check with your vet for a proper diagnosis, says Dr. Peter Ihrke, a professor of veterinary dermatology at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. For dust-mite allergies (common in pets and their owners), wash dogs’ beds every week or so. If your dog sleeps on your bed, enclose the box springs, mattress, and pillows in barrier covers and wash your linens frequently.

Older dogs and cats often suffer from pain-related problems like arthritis that can make it difficult for them to get comfortable when they try to sleep.

Pain medications and supplements can help ease discomfort. Most important, says Dr. Robin Downing, a veterinary pain-management expert in Windsor, Colo., if your pet is overweight, help him shed the extra pounds. “Without weight-management, everything else we can do will be less effective,” she says.

Finally, when a pet sleeps all day, it’s no surprise he may want to play all night. Get him on the same sleep cycle as you, says Dr. Gary Landsberg, a veterinary behaviorist in Thornhill, Ontario. Toys that keep pets active during the day can help them to settle down when it’s time to sleep at night.

What if none of these strategies work? Then it’s back to the doctors’ advice: Somebody has to sleep on the couch. And we’d hate to bet whether it will end up being your pet—or you.

Dr. Marty Becker is the veterinary contributor for “Good Morning America.” Gina Spadafori is his co-author on best-selling books.

Advice on Keeping a Pet Chihuahua
By Markus J Andrews -

Like most small dogs, the Chihuahua is easily frightened and lacks self-confidence. It therefore barks a lot and can be snappy.

For these reasons, Chihuahuas aren't recommended as pets for households that have small children. Children can be rough with dogs and Chihuahuas, apart from being temperamental, are also fragile creatures.

They are perfect for small houses since an adult Chihuahua is barely a foot high and weighs about 8 pounds. In large houses, the Chihuahua is likely to burrow in a corner and remain hidden a lot of the time.

Since they are small, these dogs are highly portable so if you travel a lot and want to take your pet with you, the Chihuahua is probably your animal.

Moreover, these dogs are clannish and adopt their master (could be more than one person) early during the course of their relationship with humans. This means that they're faithful and will follow their master around. This also means that they find it hard to accept strangers and can become very jealous.

Like most other dogs, Chihuahuas get jealous of other animals getting too much of their master's attention and will usually not tolerate another dog unless it too is a Chihuahua.

Since they are small, however, the Chihuahuas are fairly harmless and can easily be intimidated. They make good watchdogs because they are alert but can provide very little real protection because of their small size.

The Chihuahua is difficult to potty-train since it eats constantly in very small quantities. For this reason, this dog is best suited for young people - not kids but not old people either.

It is a faithful, fun animal to have around and can be a very loving companion.

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Is Your “Natural” Cat Food Truly Natural?
By Elizabeth Wasserman -

The health food craze has caught up with kitty.

Over the years, people have become more concerned about making sure the food they put on the table for their families is "natural" or minimally processed. Now that concern is being extended to what they put in their cat's dish, according to Katy J. Nelson, D.V.M., an emergency veterinarian in Alexandria, Va., who also works on pet nutrition.

But just what is a "natural" cat food?

Regulation of Cat Food

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates labeling of cat food in the United States so that companies can't make claims about pet food products that are untrue. The FDA also regulates pet food, although the administration doesn't directly state what constitutes a "natural" product.

The AAFCO defines the term "natural" as being "… derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources … not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices."

Most commercial pet foods do contain some synthetic sources of essential vitamins and minerals in order to comply with AAFCO's requirements that the food be "complete and balanced" to meet a pet's nutritional needs, says Amy Dicke, D.V.M., a Dayton, Ohio-based veterinarian who has worked with teams of nutritionists and researchers.

While experts like Dr. Nelson and Dr. Dicke caution that there is no scientific agreement yet that natural foods provide more safety or nutritional value than certified "complete and balanced" cat foods, they add that natural ingredients certainly don't hurt. "I don't want people to expect health miracles from feeding a natural food," says Dr. Dicke. "There is no evidence that supports that a natural product is better or safer than, let's say, a traditional product. But I'm not saying that it's worse. It's a personal choice … another feeding option."

Natural Ingredients to Look For

In deciding on a food, talk to your veterinarian about your cat's individual needs. Some pet food companies also list toll-free phone numbers on their packaging so that you can call and ask questions about the nutritional contents of their foods.

•Protein Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that, due to their genetic makeup, cats need to eat the tissue of other animals to survive. Meat must be the primary source of their nutrition, so one of the first ingredients should identify the protein source: poultry, fish or some other meat.

•Byproducts This term has gotten a bad rap. Meat- or plant-based byproducts fit the definition of "natural" under the AAFCO regulations. "Good, high-quality pet food byproducts don't need to be a four letter word," Dr. Nelson says. Think about a cat's diet in the wild. Feral felines eat mice, and not only the white meat, but also the organs and tissue. These byproducts often give cats essential amino acids, such as taurine.

•Grains Natural sources of carbohydrates, such as corn meal, brewer's rice and whole grain barley, can provide energy for your cat's activities during the day, Dr. Dicke says.

•Fruits and vegetables Spinach, tomatoes and peas are rich in vitamin E and antioxidants that will help your cat build its immunity. Beet pulp and apples are a great source of fiber to keep your cat regular. Some added vitamins and minerals are needed in commercial pet foods to meet the AAFCO standards, but if the food contains high-quality ingredients, there shouldn't be much supplementation.

•No added artificial colors, flavors or preservatives "Natural" cat foods should not have synthetic fillers, artificial colors or flavors or man-made preservatives. Natural flavors and colors are okay. Some preservatives are naturally occurring, such as vitamin E and tocopherols (TCP), which are fine to help preserve food.

Elizabeth Wasserman a Washington, D.C., area-based freelancer, has been writing about pets, among other topics, for more than 15 years. Her love of dogs, in particular, was handed down through the generations from her great-grandfather, Eric Knight, who wrote the book Lassie Come Home in the 1930s.

Do Your Part:
Be a Responsible Pet Owner
By Lisa Moore -

Responsible Pet Owners Month presents an opportunity to take a fresh look at how we are caring for and treating our pets. Beyond our own home boundaries, this is an occasion to set an example, or pass on to others the essential aspects of being a responsible pet owner. Among them:

- Set an example when out in public with your dog. Keep your pet on leash and under control, and don't allow him to interact with others without an invitation; not everybody is a dog lover. Always have a bag to pick up waste.

- Providing your pet a nutritious diet is essential to his health. The market is saturated with various pet foods, but not all of them are wholesome. There is plenty of information available to help you find and provide the best diet for your pet. Talk to the veterinarian or a pet professional, learn to analyze pet food labels, and make smart choices when determining your pet's nutritional needs.

- Early training and socialization is crucial when raising a puppy to become a shining example of how great having dogs as pets can be. Without proper socialization, dogs often grow to be nervous, shy, fearful or aggressive around people. Proper training helps to solidify the dog's status as a true family member; a well-mannered, smart and gentle pet is a pleasure to be around. A primary reason that dogs end up in shelters is because of behavioral problems. This is especially frustrating, as most behavioral issues are a direct result of a lack of early socialization and training, and can easily be avoided.

- A pet cannot be considered healthy unless its coat is in good shape. Many short-coated pets require little grooming care -- an occasional combing or brushing, flea control and a nutritious diet for a glossy, healthy coat. But our long- or heavily coated pets require much more attention. Without frequent brushing and coat maintenance, your pet's fur can become tangled and painfully matted, resulting in skin irritations and secondary infections. Know what your grooming limitations are, and choose a pet with a coat type you can manage, or find a reputable groomer to gently and properly care for your pet's coat.

- It is vital that we all do our part to reduce the number of homeless animals that end up in shelters, which the Humane Society estimates to be 6 million to 8 million per year. There is no logical reason to abstain from spaying or neutering; low-cost surgical options are available, and your pet will live a longer, healthier life.

Owning a pet is as much a responsibility as it is a pleasure. Your pet doesn't have the option of selecting his caretaker, and when you choose to become a pet owner, it's on you to be the best you can be. Your pet is counting on it.

Lisa Moore's pet-behavior column appears once a month on the Weekly Pet Page. Write to her in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.

Do You Have the Smartest Dog?
by Carla Kucinski Seward -

Not all dogs are created equal. According to an article in the new issue of Miller-McCune magazine, evidence shows that some dogs are smarter than others. But even the average dog is as smart as a 2-year-old kid, with the ability to comprehend more than 150 words, count to five and consciously deceive their loving owners.

Which breeds lead the pack in terms of their intelligence? These seven are the smartest of them all:

1. Border collies

2. Poodles

3. German shepherds

4. Golden retrievers

5. Dobermans

6. Shetland sheepdogs

7. Labrador retrievers

-- Courtesy of Miller-McCune magazine

Carla asked me to post a picture of Cassie, my "smartest-dog border collie." So that's her on the left. She and Greta are playing, like they usually do. But she's clearly up to something. I think that's obvious. - Andrea Martin

View Photos of Singles -
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Choosing a Shelter Pet
by Rhiannon C Knight -

Choosing a shelter pet can be an exciting event for your family. However, there are some things you should consider before signing pet adoption papers.

Here are some tips that will help you find the right pet for your family and lifestyle.

Choosing a Shelter Pet Tip #1: Ask About the Pet’s History

Some animals that are up for adoption at animal shelters may be strays that were picked up by animal control or brought in by good Samaritans. However, many pets at animal shelters were released by their former owners. If you are interested in a particular animal, ask an animal shelter employee for the pet’s previous history if applicable.

If an animal was surrendered by their previous owner, it may have been for a number of reasons. Maybe the dog nipped at a child or had medical issues the owner couldn’t afford to get treated. A cat may have attacked another feline resident in the home or started to ignore its litter box when nature called.

Finding out as much information as possible before deciding to adopt a shelter pet ensures you know exactly what you are getting into.

Choosing a Shelter Pet Tip #2: Bring the Whole Family

Having the whole family present when looking for a pet at an animal shelter allows you to see how the pet interacts with each individual. It is particularly important to see if there are any behavioral issues present based on how a prospective pet reacts to young children and adults. You may find the pet is aggressive towards one gender or the other. This often occurs when a pet has been abused and neglected.

Check with the animal shelter before visiting to see if they will allow you to bring in any other furry residents of your household. Some shelters are willing to allow this as long as your current pet is up to date on its vaccinations. Doing this can enable you to see if Fido will get along with that cute little poodle you have your heart set on.

Choosing a Shelter Pet Tip #3: Be Empathetic

Keep in mind that pets at animal shelters are often scared and nervous because they are in an unfamiliar environment and routine. Pets may also be confused if their owner surrendered them. The cowering animal you see in the cage or kennel may react totally differently when they are brought to a quiet private area for a meet and greet.

Choosing a shelter pet is a wonderful way to add a new addition to your family. Keep these three tips in mind and you are bound to find a lifelong friend.

Dog Wedding-Day Afternoon

When wedding guests rise upon hearing the “Bridal Chorus” from Wagner’s Lohengrin opera, they don’t usually expect to see a canine trotting down the aisle.

Though not the norm, betrothed pet owners often want to include their pups in their special day, whether the tail-wagging creature is accompanying the bride on her march to the altar or looking spiffy in wedding day photos.

“People bond with their pets before they have their kids, so they can’t imagine that they won’t be part of their special day,” says Tracy French, owner of The French Connection, a wedding planning firm in San Antonio, Texas.

Of course, the idea is easier said than done. It’s hard to predict an animal’s behavior, and the logistics of managing an animal on one of the most stressful and meaningful days of one’s life is pretty ambitious, say wedding experts.

“You think it’s cute and easy, but like weddings themselves, everything’s much more complicated,” says Michael Willms, owner of Entertainment Design Events in Los Angeles.

French remembers a wedding that was delayed because the ring pillow that the dog was to wear during the ceremony went missing. Another couple, she says, was adamant that their dog be part of the ceremony and reception, but French was unable to find venues that accepted animals indoors. The consolation was a reception at a hotel that allowed the pet to stay in the hotel room.

Some dogs get to live the good life on their masters’ wedding days. Sedona wedding planner Karen Lynn has incorporated dogs into weddings held at upscale locales.

“They didn’t behave 100 percent,” Lynn says. “They stray a bit so the guests coaxed them, ‘C’mon, c’mon.’”

Willms suggests couples think it way over before deciding to include Fido on the big day itself. When couples plan for younger guests at weddings, they often have a special room set aside for the kids with their own baby-sitter, activities and pizza spread. He encourages couples to make the same investment for their furry friends by hiring a dog handler who can bring the pet to the rehearsal and the ceremony then take the pet back home. The pet wrangler also is in charge of canine treats and clean-up after any accidents.

The added expense of another professional is worth it, Willms says. Otherwise, disaster may ensue.

“With a wedding, you get one shot; it’s not a like a TV show that you can reshoot and reshoot,” he says.

3 Tips to Pet-Proof Your Kitchen
by Staff Writer -

Understanding how to properly pet proof a kitchen is essential for sanitary and aesthetic reasons. The items found in most kitchens could create disaster when met with pet slobber, teeth or claws. Be extra diligent in storing food away from pets’ reach and keep trash tightly enclosed. Failure to do so could result in pets getting sick and you dealing with a great deal of mess. See below for tips on how to best share the space with your dog or cat.

1. Consider Proper Food Storage

Both you and your pet can be harmed by improperly placed food in the kitchen. Most pets are willing to dig into anything edible, so don’t temp them by leaving food out anywhere within their reach. You won’t want your pets slobbering and chewing on your newly purchased groceries without your knowledge and you don’t want them consuming anything that can be harmful to them. Be especially conscious of foods known to make pets sick, such as chocolate, which shouldn’t be left out anywhere remotely within a pets’ reach.

Store dry goods in cabinets with reliably closing doors. Many like to keep a fruit and vegetable bowl out on a table or counter, but those with pets may not be able to afford this decorative element. Some produce items can be harmful to pets’ stomachs and digestion when consumed, so they also belong in cabinets or the refrigerator. Be sure to properly store pets’ own food as well. While it’s not poisonous to them, you don’t want them chewing through the bag and consuming excessive quantities of it. The best option is store it in a large tupperware-style container in a cabinet they can’t get to.

2. Conceal Utensils and Containers

Pets are always looking for chew toys and don’t always recognize that not everything within their reach was created to be such. Some animals will chew through anything and even swallow the remaining bits, so be conscious of how you store not just your edible items but also your utensils. Chewing on metal utensils can be seriously harmful to animals, so be sure to keep silverware and pots and pans in drawers and cabinets that close tightly.

For those with cats that climb on counters, you’ll want to be careful about leaving too many of these items out to dry, especially for cats who climb on counters enough to knock things over. Put dishes away as soon as you can, so your feline doesn’t shatter your ceramics to the ground.

3. Enclose Trash and Recyclables

Many pets aren’t just interested in your scraps before they are consumed, but are willing to go after anything that has the promise of food. This means trash. Keep garbage in cans with tight lids that hinge to the rest of the container. Heavier metal cans make the best options. If you recycle, be sure not to leave empty bottles and cardboard boxes out freely, but seal them up in trash cans or similar containers as well

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So, You Got a Gun Dog Pup. Now What?

Recently I’ve received a few e-mails from newbie gun dog owners who have just picked up their pup. The common theme among the emails is simple: “What next?” Well, that would require that I write a book, and there are plenty of good books on gun dog training.

But I do have a single bit of advice—OBEDIENCE! But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Connie Cleveland, founder of the Dog Trainer’s Workshop in Fountain Inn, S.C., had to say about the topic when I asked her:

Basic obedience is the foundation for all training. A gun dog that is not obedient is of no use. Most of us, in our excitement to encourage our puppies to retrieve, either simply don't spend enough time on basic obedience, or do not have a high enough standard for the correct behaviors. Obviously, a young puppy can't be expected to be perfectly obedient. However, once the instinct to retrieve has been encouraged, the dog’s ability to become a great gun dog is going to be directly related to his obedience skills.

Amen, Connie. It has been just under a year since I picked up Pritch from the breeder (photo above with the Chief Spoiler—my wife), and I’ll admit I was much more concerned with retrieving skills than obedience. And I’m frequently reminded of this as we trod down Gun Dog Road. We’re working out the kinks, but I can promise you it’s a lot easier to correct your pup early than it is when some bad habits have taken hold.

That’s my advice to the new parents of gun dog pups. Anyone else have anything to add?


from Beauregard
I do a lot of traveling between home in South Carolina and school in Mississippi, so training my Boykin to relieve himself on command ("10-100" and "stool") has been helpful with pit stops. I don't have to wonder whether he will need to stop again in 20 minutes. The commands were also helpful in housebreaking and before hitting the dove field.

from pinopolis
obedience is key. the best advice anyone gave me was that everything you do with your pup—not just when you're working on retrieves—should be treated like a lesson. Whether you're on a walk (heel!), at home (master goes through the door first!), or letting her loose on the beach (here!). if you're diligent, they quickly learn you're the Big Dog, and become increasingly eager to please you in the field.

from blackdawgz
I find that there is so much diversity among Labradors that the best thing you can do is bring out the best of what's already inside without doing any damage. With intelligent dawgz from Champion stock, This is as challenging as anything you will encounter in this lifetime. As a triple Professional (including a Master's in Education) I was prepared for this. I know that, if I followed the sage instruction of my two best training manuals, there was ample opportunity and advice to ruin both of my present companions. The marketing of rigid training schedules and goals is beyond bordering on the Irresponsible. You just ain't gonna get it out of one manual. You can turn your dog into a Zombie that does or does not retrieve. Fortunately, Labs are very forgiving when young.

Two things that can and will absolutely destroy your dog beyond repair are force training and the e-collar. Both of these confine your dog to a very narrow range of behaviors. Eventually, he will become paralyzed with fear and refuse to do anything. There have been some near-misses with some now-famous dogs, who could have been much more dimensional.Patience and time always prevail. This has been a topic of controversy among people who teach teachers, but it becomes more evident with every passing day. Not everybody has any business doing it.

Some "professional trainers" are merely scammers who can appear to do nothing else. There's no doubt. Unless you were trained by an Old Master with a successful track record of training Field Champions, or have considerable College education in Psychology or Education, forget it! many times, people see me training and ask what they can do to overcome the effects of an e-collar or inept trainer, and the answer is the same: Be kind to your dawg, and don't take him to the pound!

Pet Bird Room Necessities--
3 Things That Every
Healthy Bird Room Needs
by Debbie Davis -

Making a bird room a happy haven for you and your feathered pets can be fun and exciting. But beyond the basics of fresh food and water, every bird room needs to have the following 3 things to insure a happy, healthy bird.

Proper Housing-Do your research first. Some birds enjoy living together in pairs or groups, some do better living alone. Some get along with other birds, and some not so much. Be sure to find out from a breeder or veterinarian which type of housing is best for your bird and provide a space that fits your birds' needs. Knowing what your bird will require before you purchase it will save heartbreak later.

Oversize the space you provide for your bird so that they have enough room to spread their wings without hitting and possibly damaging their wings. The bigger the enclosure the better it is for your pet.

Toys for Emotional and Physical Health-Just like people, birds can get bored. They need toys to stimulate their interest. Chews, perches, cuttle bone all keep beaks and feet healthy which can greatly increase their life span and will make your pet a happy member of the family. Toys should be rotated regularly to avoid boredom. And old items that become unsafe should immediately be replaced by new ones.

Keep color and texture in mind when purchasing toys. Brightly colored objects will not only stimulate your pets but will create a visually appealing room for you as bird keeper as well.

Clean Air-Every bird room should have a high efficiency particle arresting (or HEPA) air purifier to clean the air. This type of purifier is specifically designed to remove large to minute particles as small as.3 microns from the air. And the really good news about this type of filtration is that the only by-product is fresh, clean air. And there is no down side to supplying you and your bird with a steady flow of fresh air.

Because bird's air passages are extremely small and can easily become clogged with dander, feathers, and dust filtering the air is essential for a healthy bird. Clogged air passages are often the first step towards disease and infection. Unfortunately, because birds instinctively hide symptoms of illness, it is often to late to help once you realize your bird is sick.

Keeping airways clear by continually filtering the air in your bird's room can greatly reduce the chance of disease and infection, increase the life span of your pet, and will surely increase the quality of life from day to day. It will also make breathing easier for those humans in your home whose allergies and asthma are more likely to be triggered by having a bird in the home.

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Family Desperate to Get Back Lost Dog
by LiAna Arenas -

PHOENIX -- If you lose a pet and it winds up at one of the county shelters, you have three days to claim it because if you don't, your pet is no longer yours.

It's just not the same for the Potter family anymore since their dog, or as they put it their family member, disappeared recently.

"Since he has been missing already we can't sleep and can't eat," Dale Potter said.

Potter is talking about the family's 1-year-old mastiff they named Drama, a dog that certainly lives up to his name.

But now photos are all the family has left because Drama turned up missing from their backyard.

By the time they found Drama three days later at the Maricopa County Animal Care & Control facility, they were too late.

"They said he had already been up for adoption that morning and that all they could do was contact the new owners," Potter said.

Potter says he and his family were devastated mainly because they found Drama just one day after the three-day time frame before dogs are legally adopted out.

So, the Potters made an emotional proposition to the new owners, saying, "We would be willing to pay for a new puppy for you."

3 On Your Side tracked down Drama's new owners who accepted that offer. As a result, the Potters immediately bought a puppy and gave it to 3 On Your Side to swap out.

After a short drive the second family took in their new puppy, who they say they instantly loved.

3 On Your Side loaded Drama into our vehicle and returned him to his old family. A family that was overwhelmed to get that "drama" back.

The Potter family says they never would have seen their dog again if 3 On Your Side didn't get involved.

"My 200-pound son has come home," Potter said. "I'm so happy. We couldn't have done it without you. 3 On Your Side was really on my side today and I really appreciate that!"

Remember a couple of things. First, make sure your animal is microchipped and registered with the county. If it is microchipped, the shelter will scan it and let you know they have your pet.

Second, remember that after three days your pet can be adopted to someone else even if you do find it.

And No. 3, be careful about naming your dog Drama because you may get more than you bargained for.

Is Your Dog Digging Up
Your Flowers Again!

There are 2 extremes of opinion when it involves dogs and their digging habits: one, that a dog is a dog, and we tend to should allow him to precise his true canine nature by permitting him free reign over the yard and flowerbeds; and two, that a flowerbed could be a flowerbed, and no dog should even assume about expression his dogginess if such an expression comes at the price of a season’s worth of rosebuds.

My very own viewpoint tends to favor the center ground. Though masses of dogs do like to dig, and it’s healthy for them to be permitted to indulge during this habit sometimes, there’s a distinction between allowing your dog to precise his inner puppy, and permitting him to run rampant in the yard. I don’t see why a dog ought to have to come at the value of a garden, and vice versa: flowers and dogs will coexist peacefully.

If your dog’s developed a taste for digging, it’ll simply take a bit of time (and a few crafty ingenuity) on your half to resolve the difficulty satisfactorily. Initial of all, if you have nonetheless to adopt a dog and your concern for the fate of your flower-beds is purely hypothetical, take into account the breed of dog that you’d like. If you’ve got your eye on a selected mixed-breed dog, what looks to be the most prominent?

The explanation that I ask is simply because breed usually plays a significant role in any given dog’s personal valuation of digging as a rewarding pastime – terriers and Nordic breeds in explicit (Huskies, Malamutes, some members of the Spitz family) appear to notably fancy digging.

In fact, when you get right right down to the add and substance, each dog is first and foremost a private, and there’s no guaranteed way to predict whether or not your chosen familial addition is going to be a burrower or not. However if you’re making an attempt to cut back the chance of an involuntarily-landscaped garden as abundant as possible, I suggest you keep removed from all breeds of terrier (the name means that “move to earth”, after all!) and also the Nordic breeds. Why do dogs dig?

In no particular order, here are some of the more common reasons that a dog will dig:

* Lack of exercise. Digging may be a good manner for a hyped-up, under-exercised dog to burn off a number of that nervous energy.

* Boredom. Bored dogs want a “job” to do, one thing rewarding and interesting, to help the time pass by.

* Digging is typically the best answer for a bored dog: it gives him a way of purpose, and distracts him from an otherwise-empty day.

* The need for broader horizons. Some dogs are simply escape artists by nature – no matter how a lot of exercise and attention they get, it’s nearly impossible to confine them. For a four-legged Houdini, it’s not the digging in itself that’s the reward, it’s the fantastic unknown that exists beyond the fenceline.

* Separation anxiety. To a dog that’s seriously pining for your company, digging below those confining walls represents the foremost direct path to you.

Separation anxiety is an unpleasant psychological issue comparatively common among dogs – however as a result of it’s so complicated, we won’t be addressing it during this newsletter. Instead, you’ll be able to notice excellent resources for each preventing and coping with the condition at Dog obedience training – Separation anxiety

Many of the reasons contributing to your dog’s want to dig recommend their own solutions: if your dog’s not getting enough exercise (usually speaking, a minimum of forty-5 minutes’ worth of vigorous walking per day), take him for a lot of walks. If he’s bored, give him some toys and chews to play with during your absence, and wear him out before you allow thus he spends most of the day snoozing. An escape-artist dog might want to be crated, or at least kept within the house where he’s less possible to be in a position to break free.

For those dogs who simply wish to dig as a pastime in itself, though, here are a few basic tips for controlling inappropriate digging as much as is fairly attainable:

* Limit your dog’s access. This can be the most effective thing you’ll do: if he’s never within the yard without active supervision, there’s no chance for digging.

* Use natural deterrent. 99.nine% of dogs can back back, horrified, from the prospect of digging anywhere that there’s dog poop. Even the ones who prefer to eat poop (a condition referred to as coprophagia) typically won’t dig anywhere close to it – it offends their basic, fastidious dislike of soiling their coat and paws.

* Use nature’s own wiles. If the digging is bothering you because it’s upsetting the additional delicate blooms in your garden, plant hardier blossoms: ideally, those with deep roots and thorny defenses. Roses are ideal.

* A a lot of time-consuming, but super-effective manner of handling the problem: roll up the primary inch or two of turf in your yard, and lay down chicken-wire beneath it. Your dog won’t apprehend it’s there until he’s had some tries at digging, however once he’s convinced himself that it’s pointless (that won’t take long), he’ll never dig in that yard again.

*Settle for your dog’s would like for an outlet: offer him an area to dig

If your dog is ready on tunneling your yard into a grassless, crater-studded lunar landscape, however you’re equally determined to stop this from happening in the slightest degree costs, please take a moment to contemplate before embarking on a grueling and time-consuming preventative strategy.

Setting yourself the goal of eradicating all digging behavior, amount, is pretty unrealistic: it’s not fair on you (since, extremely, you’re setting yourself up for failure), and it’s not extremely truthful on your poor dog either – if he’s a real-blue digger, it’s simply part of his personality, and he desires a minimum of some chance to specific that. However a lawn and a dog don’t have to be mutually exclusive: the foremost humane and understanding factor for you to try to to during this case is merely to redirect his digging energy.

You do this by allocating him an area where he’s allowed to dig as abundant as he pleases. Once this zone’s been established, you’ll be able to build it crystal-clear that there’s to be fully no digging in the rest of the yard – and you’ll be able to enforce your rules with a clear conscience, since you know your dog currently has his own very little corner of the globe to flip upside down and within out as he chooses.

However what if you don’t have a “spare corner” of the yard? What if the entire thing, grass, flowerbeds, and gravel path, is just too pricey to your heart? That’s OK too – invest in a very sandbox, that you can place anywhere in the garden. You’ll even make one yourself (the deeper, the higher, clearly). Fill it with a combination of sand and earth, and put some leaves or grass on top if you like – get your dog curious about it by having a scratch around yourself, till he gets the idea. Make positive the boundaries are clear.

To create it clear to him that the sandbox is OK but that everywhere else may be a no-dig zone, pay a very little time supervising him. When he starts to dig within the box (you’ll be able to encourage this by shallowly burying some choice marrowbones in there), praise him energetically – and if he starts digging anywhere else, correct him straight away with an “Ah-ah-aaaah!” or “No!”. Then, redirect him immediately to the sandbox, and carried out vociferous praise when digging recommences.

To essentially clarify the lesson, offer him a treat when digging gets underway in the sandbox – the shut proximity between the correction (for digging out of the sandbox) and praise/reward (for digging in the sandbox) can guarantee that your purpose strikes home.

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Pet Health Care and Your Budget

Ask Dr. H:
Why Cats Make You Sneeze
By Mitchell Hecht - Medical Columnist/

Question: Why is it that I'm so allergic to cats, but not to dogs?

Answer: The answer, in a word, is dander. It's like dandruff. The trigger for pet allergies is not their hair. In fact, cats that are short-haired traditionally give off more allergen (allergy-causing substance). Proteins found in the skin of pets trigger allergies in susceptible people. It flakes off, gets in their fur as dandruff, and spreads when the pet grooms itself with its tongue.

Veterinary research has shown that twice as many folks have cat allergies as dog allergies. It may be that the protein in a cat's skin is more allergy-provoking than a dog's, or simply that cats give off a greater quantity of dander.

Since dander collects in carpeting, the fabric of furniture, and bedding, it's better for pet-allergy sufferers to have hardwood or tile floors and leather furniture. If you have carpeting, steam cleaning it every three months will help reduce dander. Vacuum cleaner bags must have an ultrafine-particle HEPA filter, or else vacuuming will just put more dust and dander into the air. Allergic folks need to keep the dog or cat out of the bedroom. Washing the floors and walls every so often is a good idea, too.

Bathing dogs and cats every four to six weeks with a mild moisturizing shampoo will greatly cut down on the dander volume and the severity of pet-allergy symptoms.

For allergy medications, long-acting antihistamines like Claritin, Clarinex, Allegra, or Zyrtec help a lot. If asthma is triggered by the pet allergy, avoidance of pets is probably best. But if you're a pet lover and willing to suffer for your feline, I'd suggest talking with your doctor about treatment options like inhaled albuterol, inhaled steroids, and Singulair (a nonsteroid, anti-inflammatory pill). A long-term approach to overcoming pet allergies is allergy desensitization shots. It will take a couple of years with regular injections, but it will help in the long term.

Dog Doesn't Chase After Bike,
He Rides the Bike
Janice Lloyd -

Mike Schelin rides a motocross bike with his dog Opee, a 8-years-old blue merle Australian Shepherd in Perris, Calif.

When I spotted this story this morning on Twitter, I decided to drop it into the blog as an example of an extreme endeavor for a dog. Very extreme. Sue Manning of the Associated Press writes about Obee, the off road racing Australian Shepherd in Perris, Calif.:

He can pull 6 Gs. He's been the centerfold for Cycle News and poses regularly for fan photos. He's a survivor of the grueling Baja 500 and has racked up more than 10,000 hours on a dirt bike.

Sometimes, you can barely see the 70-pound pooch - a blue merle Australian shepherd through the dust on his goggles and his custom helmet, complete with cam.

"I am his biggest fan," said Mike Schelin, Opee's owner, race partner and a purveyor of used motorcycle parts from a shop next to his mobile home.

Schelin got the dog in 2001 shortly after his divorce. He raises him with other dogs and two horses at a spread he calls Miracle Flats. Known as "The Dogfather" to some in the sport, Schelin always takes a back seat to Opee.

"He was my instant best friend," Schelin said. "He slept in my tool bag. There was something about him. He's had charisma since Day One. I knew I had a dog who could make a difference."

Schelin, 41, realized he had a four-legged motocross fan as a pet when he started riding in the desert with Opee on the chase.

"I felt bad for him, he would run so long." So Schelin bought a four-wheeler and they went desert riding together. The dog didn't like the dust in his eyes, so Schelin got him goggles. One day, Opee ditched the four-wheeler and hopped on the motorcycle tank, where he's been ever since, Schelin said.

Even the most skilled motocross racer has a plaster cast past and Opee is no exception. His worst crash came in the 2006 Baja 500.

"We took a spill at 75 mph in the dirt and went into a 40-foot skid," Schelin said.

The dog isn't attached to the bike or Schelin in any way. He skinned his nose and scraped his paw. Schelin sliced his leg. The injuries weren't enough to put them out of the race though.

"I would never do anything to hurt my dog," Schelin said. "Opee keeps me in check at all times. If he doesn't jump up on the bike, we don't go."

Schelin is not only racing partner but stage dad for his dog, with a few goals for the future: Do a back flip with Opee into a foam pit ("he would hold on the same way I do - gravity"); see Opee recognized as the fastest dog on the planet (he's written to Guinness); take a tandem skydive; and go to the movies to see Opee in a major motion picture.

Feeding the Ferals
By Sarah Bultema - Loveland Reporter-Herald

Couple’s compassion for cats drove them to care for, spay and neuter local colony

A colony of feral cats sits around a water bowl at the old sugar factory on Thursday. Melodee and Mark Warter have been feeding the cats and recently were instrumental in having all but two of them spayed or neutered.

Loveland’s Melodee Warter never questioned whether she’d feed the feral cats living near her husband Mark’s shop.

“I won’t let anything go hungry,” she said.

So Melodee and Mark began feeding the cat colony twice a day.

Like many feral cats — felines that have not been socialized with humans and cannot be tamed — these cats won’t let the couple touch or pet them.

However, they offer the Warters plenty of joy and entertainment, starting when Mark pulls up in his truck to feed them.

“You wouldn’t believe the welcome committee when you pull in,” Melodee said, noting that all 13 cats scurry to Mark as fast as they can.

Yet as much as the Warters love the cats, they worried about the colony as it kept growing with each new litter born.

Hoping to stop the overpopulation, Melodee trapped two females and took them to her vet to be spayed. It cost $200, and she simply couldn’t afford the operation for the rest.

That’s when she learned about the Northern Colorado Friends of Ferals, a local nonprofit that helps trap and sterilize cats for free.

Now, with the help of the nonprofit and its volunteers, the Warters have spayed or neutered 11 of the 13 cats in the colony, stopping most of that group’s population growth in its tracks.

Currently, there are an estimated 30,000 feral cats living in Larimer County — animals that might not survive without the help of dedicated community members who feed them.

However, many of these caretakers aren’t aware of proper procedures and available resources in place to give the cats a good life while also controlling the population.

“If you feed them, you’ve got to be responsible and put forth the effort to get them spayed or neutered,” said Sarah Swanty, director of the Fort Collins Cat Rescue.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We will help you. We care about these animals like you do.”

To provide each cat with the care it needs, a caretaker must first determine whether the animal is feral, or instead a lost or stray cat.

Try asking neighbors if they know where the cat belongs. Also, contact the Larimer Humane Society and file a found report, Swanty said. That way, anyone who might be searching for the cat can easily find it.

If no owner is found, get in touch with a local feline agency to make a plan of action for the animal.

Before a feral kitten reaches about 16 weeks old, it can be socialized with humans and someday adopted out. Therefore, caretakers are encouraged to trap kittens and take them to a foster home or shelter where they can get used to people.

“Kittens are a big issue. They need to be socialized ... and be adopted out to start getting this population under control,” said Leslie Vott, founder of Friends of Ferals.

Besides, “Kittens would much rather be sitting in front of a fireplace than crawling under a trailer.”

While agencies like Friends of Ferals have successfully adopted out many of these kittens, adult feral cats usually can’t be tamed.

Instead, they need to be spayed or neutered to prevent the feral population from growing.

“It’s important in terms of quality of life for cats,” Vott said, noting that an overpopulation can spread disease between cats, lead to fights and injuries and deplete food resources. “They need to be altered.”

Caretakers can borrow a trap from one of the local agencies and take the animal to be spayed or neutered. The Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Friends of Ferals will perform the procedure at a very low cost or even free of charge.

After a night in observation with these organizations, the cat usually can be released back to its home. The top of its left ear will be snipped, symbolizing to future caretakers that the cat has been altered and doesn’t need to be trapped again.

Once the animal is sterile, the caretaker can choose to continue feeding the cat. Many agencies offer free food to help alleviate the caretakers’ own costs.

However, feeding a feline (or any animal) in Loveland for more than five days makes the provider the official owner of the animal, said Cary Rentola of the Larimer Humane Society. That means a caretaker is responsible for the cat’s care, as well as its licensing fees and any damage it may cause.

“If you choose to take responsibility, you need to be aware of what that means,” Rentola said, adding that community members should call any of the local cat organizations for more information and advice.

Warter, who looks after a Loveland feline colony, plans to continue caring for her cat companions for as long as they need her.

“I make their life better,” she said.

“They have it hard enough. They need a friend.”

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Dog Gives Birth To 17 Puppies

An Ohio family knew its pet dog was pregnant. And owner Jen Potts told WCMH-TV in Columbus that a few puppies would be nice.

But the dog, Kibosh, gave birth to 17 puppies.

Potts said that she was out when the dog started delivering, and her husband told her on the phone that they kept coming and coming.

Potts went online to see if her dog, a South African boerboel, had set a world record. But she found that another dog once had a litter of 24.

All the puppies survived, but "she's done having babies," Potts said.

She said the family plans to sell the dogs for $1,000 each.

Good Dog (Bad Bill):
Area Vets Talk About
the Upper Limits of Pet Costs

Kristin Howard is pictured with her dogs. She has spent about $1,000 a year on each of them in veterinary care.

Kristin Howard has had a few pets in her time.

Two dogs, four cats, three rats, umpteen hamsters and guinea pigs, a slew of fish and mice, a turtle and a raccoon. Yes, a raccoon. Named Popeye.

“I’ve always had pets around and couldn’t imagine my life without them,” Howard says. “For me, animals are a part of my family — most of the time I actually like them more than my family!” she laughs.

Really? You count rats as family?

“Rats are wonderful pets. They really are like little dogs. They have great personalities, and mine even learned their names,” Howard says.

It’s little wonder that she’s never been one to cut corners when it comes to the vet — even for her rats.

“I had a rat (Izzy) who had a tumor that grew to be the same size as she was. I ended up having it removed, and she lived for another year,” she says. “People thought I was crazy for paying for surgery on a rat that I paid $3 for, but she was my pet, and I wanted to do everything I could for her.”

At $200, that one surgery put Howard on the high end of average annual U.S. expenditures for a single pet. Now that she has a couple dogs, she’s spending a lot more — around $1,000 each of the two years she’s had them.

“I spend more on my dogs than I do on myself,” Howard says of Gus and Sydney, her French bulldog/Lhasa Apso mixes. “I follow the vet’s advice, and luckily I have found a vet who cares about what is best for my pet and is cost-effective rather than just trying to make as much money as they could.”

Pet owners in general are spending more and more at the vet these days — average U.S. household vet expenditures are up 10 percent from 2001, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In Lawrence, Dr. Herschel Lewis says the amount each client has been spending at his clinic has been noticeably on the rise ever since he opened it in 1965.

He attributes that to a number of things — better diagnostics that uncover more treatable conditions, more and better vaccines, the advent of more costly specialists, and so on.

“But it’s as much a reflection of the general economy. People are spending more money, but there’s more money to spend,” Lewis says.

He says, too, that people are taking better care of their pets than they used to.

“When I first came to Lawrence, I’d routinely have a car accident case when there was a home KU football game. People would just let their dogs run wild,” Lewis says. “Now I seldom see that Saturday afternoons, and I’m sure that’s the case with my colleagues, too. People are taking better care of their animals — their attitudes have changed.”

Option A or option B
For the first six years, Erica Eden’s golden retriever Mabel was fit as a fiddle. As her mom puts it, “she’s a lover, a cuddler and a serious protector.”

But then Mabel seemed to have chronic health problems. First she tore her ACL. Then she got some sort of infection that made her breath smell foul and kept her from walking. Later, she reinjured her ACL. And then came the big blow.

“Her face swelled up, and she’d had bee stings before, so I gave her some Benadryl,” Eden says. “The swelling went down, but there was still something hard there. ...

“I usually go the 24 or 48 hours before calling the vet with something like that. But I just knew there was something really distinct about it, something wrong. I know it sounds weird, but I just knew it.”

Turns out, it was cancer.

“Because I’ve had such health problems, I guess I’m more aware, or maybe I’m just more crazy,” says Eden, who has been diagnosed with cancer herself.

Her Lawrence vet felt the tumor was serious enough to require immediate surgery, even though it would be on a weekend. Getting the cancer out cost her nearly $1,000.

“At the time, all I could think about was whether she’d make it out of the surgery. I didn’t think about how much it would cost or how I’d pay for it until reality sunk in when I went to pick Mabel up,” Eden says.

Pet care by the numbers
Number (and percent) of households owning:

Dogs: 43 million (37 percent)
Cats: 37.4 million (32 percent)
Birds: 4.4 million (4 percent)
Horses: 2.1 million (2 percent)
Veterinary visits per household per year:

Dogs: 2.6
Cats: 1.7
Birds: 0.3
Horses: 2.2
Veterinary expenditure per animal (mean):

Dogs: $200
Cats: $81
Birds: $9
Horses: $92
— Source: U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, 2007,

Many pet owners must weigh a treatment’s cost upfront, though, especially when it comes to non-life-threatening problems — which makes for tough decisions, says Dr. Lewis.

“It’s not unlike in human medicine,” Lewis says. “Example — like it or not, dentistry is a luxury. If you don’t have the money, you don’t have the root canal, even though it’s in your best interest. Same goes for the pet population.”

Indeed, pets’ teeth — along with cancer — are among the most frequently untreated maladies, he says. Eye care, joint problems, torn ligaments, diabetes, allergies and urinary stones are others.

A good vet will be sympathetic to a pet owner’s difficult choice between a tight budget and an expensive procedure, says Dr. Jon Haggard at Eudora Animal Hospital.

“It’s our job to let people know what all is available. It’s not our job to say, ‘This is what I’d do,’” Haggard says.

“If you want to go with option A, the Cadillac option, (we refer you to) the specialist and you might spend $3,000 on doing biopsies and ultrasounds and as much diagnostics as possible,” he says. “Some clients want to go as far as possible to cure the animal.

“Option B is we can do things here and come up with the best solution that we can,” Haggard says. “We understand some options can be out of reach.”

Pet owners can buy pet health insurance, which is available in varieties comparable to human health insurance — everything from bare minimum catastrophe coverage to Cadillac coverage. But only a few pet owners have even the minimal coverage at both Lewis and Haggard’s clinics. They say paying insurance premiums doesn’t yet make financial sense given the relatively low cost of even major procedures.

“On the coasts, where costs are much higher, it probably makes more sense,” Lewis says. “But in the Midwest, it’s going to be a while before pet insurance is more common.”

Haggard says one of the most common decisions pitting price against a pet’s well-being is a torn knee ligament, which is especially common in larger dogs. To really fix such injuries usually costs several thousand dollars at an orthopedic specialist, he says. In-house surgery at a non-specialist like the Eudora Animal Hospital can often achieve comparable results for $600 or so.

For those who can’t afford either option — or for older, less active pets — some anti-inflammatory medication and immobilization can be effective for less than $100, Haggard says.

Most animals will heal fine, even with the cheaper option, Haggard says. “It may be fine for a couple months and they may take a bad step and they’ll carry it again for a while. But they do heal and do fairly well.

“We all grew up farm kids — Dr. Shiner, Dr. Shane, myself — we all grew up farming. So our philosophy is a little bit different than somebody who has never lived on a farm and has never seen things in that light.”

On the street
What’s the most money you could spend if your pet were really sick?

The last cat I had I spent close to $8,000 over two years…when you’re in the moment, you can’t really say no (to the cost).

— Sydney Silverstein

“I bet monthly we get a squirrel, a rabbit, a raccoon,” Haggard says, adding that nondomestic pets are sent to Operation Wildlife. “There are people who have pet skunks. At least annually we’re asked to de-scent a skunk — people take in all kinds of pets.”

Do U See What I See?
By Stephanie Rutz -

The old saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees” applies to most of us.

Then there are those who can see what’s wrong with your house, but fails to see their own.

In grooming dogs, I see some things that the owners miss because they see their pets on an everyday basis.

When you are used to grooming the same dog every six to eight weeks, when there is a change in the animal, sometimes I may be the first to see it.

On more than one occasion I have brought it to a customer that there was a problem with their pet that required medical attention.

Some stories have a happy ending and sometimes they don’t.

I sometimes think twice before I mention things to a pet owner – not all welcome hearing my comments.

This story is different – the owners welcomed my advice willingly.

Last year, I was asked to dog sit for a couple in Sun City.

Their family consisted of two adult dogs and one cat.

Both the dogs, varying in age, were well mannered and adjusted.

They were a pleasure to sit.

I enjoyed the view from their patio as much as the dogs did.

I would sit on the patio and rub down these two heavy shedders, as their loose fur would become airborne.

The one dog, much older than the other, wanted to sit outside as long as I would.

His aged legs and his hips wouldn’t allow him to sit on the cold concrete any length of time, not to mention the difficulty he experienced trying to get up.

I though if he had a pillow bed outside he would enjoy his sun bathing more easily.

I also noticed that the cat, who seemed to perch herself on the tall kitchen table, made that area her whole world.

I had decided to open the shade just enough for her to have a view.

When I left that day I looked back to the kitchen window; not only was the cat enjoying her view, so was the younger dog, peering out the newly opened shade.

After the week was over I had plenty of time to study all the pets habits and personalities.

I wrote up my report to the owners, making certain suggestions that would make their pets lives more enriched.

One of the things I suggested what the changing of their feeding time, which was at night.

I had left one on my articles on “Mommy you turned my stomach”, an eye-opening story of bloating.

Bloating is a serious medical problem with larger dogs that eat at night and drink too much water or exercise after their meal.

Unless the animal receives surgery within hours of the event, it is usually terminal.

In my notes I mentioned other things to be addressed.

Not knowing this couple, I wasn’t sure how it may be taken.

I hoped the advice would be received in the fashion I gave it.

Apparently, they did.

They hired me to come and sit the pets again.

I was happy to see that the small suggestions I made – they changed.

The cat has a room with a view and the dogs have a comfort zone in their own back yard.

The best thing was to see the ol’ boy could lie outside on his new over-stuffed bed from the patio, while her younger buddy cruised the fence line.

So all in all, everyone was a happy camper!

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Traveling With Your Dog –
5 Tips To Ensure A Great Trip
Amy P -

Preparing for a trip can be a very stressful time. Especially when you have decided to take the family dog along. Here are just some of the things to consider before taking that road trip - How long is the trip? What dog items should you bring? What hotels accepts pets? What if your dog has a medical emergency?

So you are planning a vacation and you have decided to take your dog with you. Great idea! However, you have a small problem. You have never taken your dog on a road trip with you before. So, now what? Luckily other people have done this and are willing to share some great tips on how to travel with your dog. I have traveled numerous times with my dog Jake. He's a pro now! Every dog is different. Some dogs can make a trip pleasurable while some can make it a very bad experience. There are a couple of things that you should consider before you take your dog on a road trip with you.

How long is the trip?

Is this the first time your pet will be traveling with you on a road trip? Even if you have traveled before with other dogs, all dogs are different. Some can tolerate being in the car for a long time. And others can not.

Here are some things to help your dog get acclimated to car travel and to avoid motion sickness. Start by taking your dog for short rides, perhaps to the store, then gradually start taking them for longer rides. Usually after a few short trips they should have overcome their motion sickness. If this doesn't work, I would consider kenneling your dog. It's not fun traveling with a sick or unhappy dog.

Are you going to be traveling on windy roads? Some dogs may get car sick. I remember traveling with my dog, Jake, for the first time to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. After about 10 minutes into the windy roads he started to get sick. We had to pull over and let him get some fresh air. With time he got used to the windy roads. We still travel there often with him and he loves it!

Is your pet in good condition to travel?

Just like when you are traveling, if you don't feel well enough for it, neither will your dog. I recommend taking your dog to the vet for a check up. This also gives you the chance to make sure that your dog is current on all of his shots. It's highly recommended to bring along a copy of their records on your trip. Some states may require you to have them with you. Your veterinarian may know which states require health certificates and proof of rabies vaccination. If not, check with the humane society.

Depending upon where your travels are, other vaccines that you may want to consider are the Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccination and Lyme disease vaccination. If you think that there is a slight chance that your dog may be around other canines, your vet might suggest the Bordetella vaccine. Kennel cough is highly contagious. I would also consider the Lyme vaccination if you are traveling to the northeast where Lyme disease is prominent. Lyme disease is usually transmitted through a tick bite. In areas where Lyme disease is prevalent, I would check your dog for ticks when he comes in from outdoors.

Even though your dog may not have fleas or ticks now, where you travel they might pick some up. Before you leave for your trip, I highly recommend using Frontline on your dogs to help prevent a flea or tick infestation.

Dog accessories you should take with you

Dogs have luggage too. Your dog may be anxious and excited about going on a trip. To help ease some of their stress, pack some of their favorite toys and favorite blanket to snuggle up in.

Bring their dog carrier or crate if they have one. This will make dog travel safe for them and for you. If you were to have to come to a screeching stop, your dog can become an projectile which can result in serious injury or death.

Make sure to bring plenty of food and water for them. Not all convenience stores are convenient for your pet and they may not carry dog food. Don't forget your dog's food and water dish. As Jake would be sure to remind you, dog treats are a must!

And for the just in cases; You never know when your dog might just get away from you. He will be in a strange place not familiar to him and he might not be able to find his way back to you. Make sure that your dog has his tags on him. One of the tags should have your dog's name, your name, address, and a phone number. Jake has our cell phone number on it so we are always able to be contacted. You can always have your dog micro-chipped. This is a great option, however, the average person does not have the device to scan it. I would also have their rabies and license tag on your dog as well.

Also, don't forget to pack a first aid kit. This brings us to the next tip...

What if your dog has a medical emergency?

There is always the slight chance that your dog will need some medical attention. Make a list of the animal hospitals for the areas where you will be traveling. I recommend locating the ones that have after-hours. On your list I would either print out directions or even better, a small map. Google Maps is a popular map engine to use for directions.

What if you have to stay over night in a hotel?

Research the area you will visit or travel through before you leave - even if you are not planning on stopping. Plans can change, forcing you to stay overnight somewhere in a hotel. Not all hotels allow pets in their rooms.

Make sure to read your hotel's pet policy. Some may have a size limit. While some hotels do not charge for your pet, others do. Sometimes it's a one time fee and sometimes they charge per night. DO YOUR RESEARCH!


Planning ahead is the key to a successful road trip with your dog. By planning ahead, you eliminate some of the stresses of traveling. Be prepared, do your research, and make a checklist of things to do before your trip. Happy traveling!

Author: Amy P
Article Source:

Ask a Vet:
How Can I Help My Dog to Control
His Bladder When He's Excited or Nervous?

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health? Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help! In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford has some tips for reader Steph on helping her dog to overcome bladder-control problems.

Steph's question: I have a 2-year-old male (neutered) golden retriever. He wets on the floor every time he gets excited or if he does anything wrong. It is awful! I can't have company over without worrying about my dog wetting on the floor. Will he ever outgrow this, or is there any medication that I can give him to help him control his bladder?

Heather Oxford, DVM: Your dog may be experiencing urinary dribbling due to overly submissive behavior, which is not easily corrected with medication. He will likely not outgrow this, and it may worsen if not addressed appropriately. The problem is that you cannot correct this by verbal reprimands because this will actually trigger more fear and anxiety, making the problem worse. The key is prevention.

First, maintain a calm, soft vocal tone when addressing the dog in any way to avoid hyper-excitation for good behaviors or overly submissive, fear-based reactions to bad behaviors. Second, ignore the dog when you first come home while he is overly excited and pay him attention only when he has calmed down. This should help to discourage him from becoming overly excited in the first place, since he gets the reward of your attention only when he displays the desired behavior.

Finally, if you catch him in the act of an undesired behavior do not punish him; simply redirect his attention to a more constructive activity. For example, if you catch him chewing on a shoe instead of yelling "No!" or "Bad dog," remove the shoe and replace it with a chew toy. After following these guidelines, if your dog shows no improvement, consult with a veterinary behaviorist. Good luck!

The Healing Power of Pets
By Riley Polumbus -

Dori, a schnauzer, comforts patients at Yampa Valley Medical Center with her owner, Terry Hinde. The pet partners, members of Heeling Friends, make regular visits to the hospital.

For ages, pets were thought to have healing power. And now the results from clinical studies prove this point — pets are good for humans.

From Australia to Japan, in the United Kingdom, and across the United States, findings demonstrated that pets reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, thus lowering risk of heart disease. Dog owners benefit from the exercise of daily walks. Pet owners are less prone to loneliness, depression, anxiety and fear.

Dogs have been recruited into health care settings for their healing power. Trained therapy dogs helped cardiac patients lower their stress and anxiety and improve heart and lung health. Joint replacement patients who worked with therapy dogs needed less pain medication than patients without dogs.

Pets have helped to stimulate seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. In another study, children with autism became calmer around service dogs and had fewer outbursts.

Although Steamboat Springs does not have any therapy pets working with health care professionals where treatment goals are set and measured, we do have a popular pet visitation program. Lynette Weaver, executive director of Heeling Friends, said local pet partner teams can help patients relax and make them feel better.

“Patients welcome them with open arms,” Weaver said. “By the time the team leaves, the patients are smiling and in better shape than when they got there.”

Heeling Friends has been operating for more than 10 years, using the Delta Society’s Pet Partners program standards as its guide. Delta Society is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to improving human health through therapy and service animals.” Pet/owner teams first must undergo evaluation and training and then must make a minimum of two visits per month.

Currently, Heeling Friends has 28 active teams who participate in one of three visitation programs. Teams go to see patients at Yampa Valley Medical Center and/or residents at Doak Walker Care Center. They also participate in the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program with Steamboat Springs’ elementary students.

I had the opportunity to follow pet partners Dori, a schnauzer, and Terry Hinde during a recent visit to YVMC and the Doak Walker Care Center. One patient expressed that visits from Heeling Friends always are comforting and can be especially nice for patients who have pets at home who they cannot see while in the hospital.

Patients are not the only benefactors of the visits. Dori brought smiles to several employees. In an environment that often can be challenging, taking a moment to, as Weaver puts it, “paws to make you smile,” can heal the healers. The pets also bring comfort to families and friends who are visiting their loved ones.

At the Doak Walker Care Center, pets reside alongside residents. This helps the skilled nursing center feel more like a home and less like a medical facility.

“The neat thing about the animals, it gives you that homey feeling,” said Kathy Ulmer, recreation assistant at the Doak.

The Doak is home to two cats, Lola and Alex, along with several birds and a large fish aquarium. Ulmer said the birds and fish stimulate the residents. And Lola makes her way around nearly every resident room during the day.

Additionally, employees are encouraged to go through the Very Important Pets screening program to allow their pets to accompany them at work. Five employee-owned dogs currently are permitted to visit.

Everyone, not just the sick, can benefit from the healing power of pets. What you spend on pet care, you could save on health care. Giving your time to another is fulfilling in itself and can improve not only your health, but also your quality of life.

Riley Polumbus is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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How To Get Your Horse To Stand Still
Posted by: Pet Blogger -

Standing still does not come natural to horses. Just watch horses grazing out in the field, they are constantly moving about.

Nevertheless, teaching a horse to stand still is one of the most elemental foundations train a horse under the saddle, first, you must teach them to stand quietly for grooming, the vet, and the farrier.

In order to teach a horse to obediently stand still when requested, they are going to need to learn the move cue to teaching them just about anything. One of the easiest approaches to get a horse to stop doing something you don’t want them to do, is to make it your idea. If they won’t stand still, fine, then make them move. Make it your idea! Keep him moving until they want to stop. Then when they do stop, praise them for it. Whenever they decide to move, direct them in a circle around you, continually giving voice commands and body language that encourages them to keep moving, make him work!

When you cease commanding them to move, they should then decide on their own they want to stop and stand still. If they become inclined to move again, continue to ask them to move, not roughly or in a way that will incite fear in him. When you sense that he is willing to stop moving, cease giving the move commands and allow them to stop and stand still, then praise them for it. Fundamentally, you will be giving them what they asked for, but technically you are in charge because won’t allow him to stop until you are ready. After a while, they will clue in that just stopping and standing still is a really nice thing to do.

When you have successfully accomplished this with your groundwork training and it’s time to mount the horse and they won’t stand still to be mounted, apply the same process by keeping them moving until they want to stop. Try again to mount, if he stands still to let you mount, then climb aboard, but if he begins to move again, continue to repeat the process until he stands still for you to mount. If you have done this enough during the groundwork stages of training, it shouldn’t take too long for them to clue in when mounting.

This training method will help your horse learn the difference between the move and halt commands, and what it means to work. Since horses are principally lazy creatures, if given the chance, they would rather stand quietly than work, so utilizing this can be a great way to teach them to do what you want.

If you found this article helpful you can find more horse articles and tips like this at the Hitching Post, a site for Equestrian Singles and Country Folks in general.

Find out practical advice in the sphere of house train a dog – please go through the web site. The times have come when proper info is truly only one click of your mouse, use this opportunity.

Ever Been Called 'Sly as a Fox?'
If So, Good for You

It is during that short period of time, between sunlight and darkness, when many a creature begins stirring. Crepusclar animals, (from the Latin word, crepusculum, meaning twilight) have chosen this secretive time of day as their active time. Many of these animals, such as deer, mice and rabbits, have chosen twilight for obvious safety reasons. It is harder for predators to see them. Unfortunately, some of the predators adapted to this defensive time shift. One of those predators is the red fox.

Native to North America, Eurasia, Africa and introduced into Australia, the red fox is alive and doing well. There is a healthy and fluctuating population of red foxes across Niagara. However, due to their habit of hunting and travelling generally during twilight and dark, they offer few viewing opportunities. When they are seen, it is easy to identify them. An adult red fox has a distinctive rusty red coat with a white underbelly. The tips of his ears and his feet look like they have been dipped in black paint. A large fluffy red tail with a white tip finishes the picture. As it is with most species, there are some colouring variations. About 10% of the wild red fox population is not red. There are silver and black coated individuals along with some that have stripes and dark patterns across their shoulders and backs.

Their eyes are gold or yellow in colour and resemble a cat's eyes with distinctive vertical-slit pupils. Being the largest of the true foxes, an adult red fox can weigh between 3.5 to 7.6 kg. They grow to between 45 and 90 cm with a tail that ranges between 30 to 55 cm in length. These are fast, agile animals that can reach speeds of 70 km/h for short bursts. They have excellent eyesight, hearing and sense of smell. They are a mouse's worst enemy.

They are opportunistic hunters and will eat a variety of foods. Insects, earthworms, crayfish, rabbits, mice, fruits and darn near anything else they can catch they will eat. They have an unusually small stomach. Relative to their size, and compared to wolves and coyotes they can eat only half as much. To compensate for this shortcoming they cache excess food throughout their territory in small shallow holes. This serves two purposes. It means they have numerous food stations in times of shortage and even if another predator finds one cache they have others as backups.

The red fox often co-exists in the same general area as other predators such as the coyote. In the case of the coyote the fox will usually avoid contact or confrontation. A fox is a solitary hunter and relies on its keen senses for success. It is not too proud to scavenge from human refuse. Many a pet with an outdoor feeding bowl has found it mysteriously empty. The only trace of the thief is a slight skunk-like odour.

The skunk-like odour comes from a scent gland just under the fox's tail.

Although similar in odour to a skunk the fox possess no ability to use this scent as a defensive weapon. It does use this scent and urine to mark its territory and cache locations.

The red fox forms both monogamous and polygamous relationships. It is assumed that the availability of suitable mates dictates which form the relationships will take. Males will fight for the right to mate with a female. While a female may mate with several males during the breeding season she will eventually select one to be her mate. Five is the average number in a litter.

A main den is either dug or claimed from other ground digging animals. The young, called kits or pups, are raised in the main den and stay with the parents for eight to 10 months. There may be smaller satellite dens dug close by that are often connected by tunnels to the main den. A fox will also have several other small dens throughout its territory that can be used for food storage or emergency shelter.

Foxes communicate using body language and vocalizations. They use yips, screeches and growls to convey different messages or warnings.

During the early settlement years the human habit of having free-ranging chickens and livestock proved too temping a food source for many a fox. The human desire for fox pelts and the need to protect livestock placed the foxes squarely in the crosshairs. Considered a pest and a carrier of disease the relationship between humans and foxes was not good. Often vilified as a sneaky and sly they were aggressively hunted. The changing nature of human agricultural methods and reduction in demand for fur products has made life a little easier for them.

How Do You Say Goodbye to a Great Cat?
Jill Rosen -

Mookie, a wonderful cat featured in Collared last year. died this weekend. Believe it or not, he was a few weeks shy of 23. A vet tech said today that the cat age equivalent charts only go to 22, and that a 22-year-old kitty is like a 104-year-old human. That means Mookie, at essentially 108, was literally off the charts.

Arthur, a writer here at The Sun, was Mookie's person. He called Mook his miniature lion, a tiny beast, regal, feisty and sweet. Mook roamed Arthur's house and kept it warm. The ever-hungry kitty insisted on Fancy Feast food, gobbled as many salmon treats as Arthur would hand over, and leaned into who knows how many decadent head rubs. The kitty, in turn, would allow as many hugs as Arthur asked for, and, as a serious lap cat, would hop into position for long movies and work at the computer, purr-o-meter cranked to 11. They gave one another untold happiness.

In Collared last year, this is what Arthur said of Mookie's coming into the world: "On an afternoon in early May, 1987, an orange and white long-haired puff ball eight weeks old was selected from a caged kitten threesome at the New Bedford, Massachusetts animal shelter, as he showed a promise of greatness. He could bathe in a coffee mug, but what spirit."

Seeing the bond between these two was what inspired me two years ago to adopt my first pet, Leo. I had thought I didn't like cats. Mookie, Arthur said, had that way with non-believers.

Anyway, there's a man out there now who's really, really missing his kitty. I'd like to open this space for people not only to say goodbye to a little lion, but also I'm hoping all of you who've loved and lost pets might offer some advice and stories. How did you get through it? How did you honor their memory? What made your furry one so special?

In fact, I'm thinking about introducing a running feature for Unleashed, like Collared, that we could call Endings. Just as a way for people who reach the end with their pets could have a place to go.

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