Ask a Vet

Separation Anxiety In Dogs:
Identifying And Dealing With It

Separation anxiety in dogs is a frequent and concerning phenomenon but one that may be successfully mastered. You might have heard the term but wondered what, just, is separation anxiety and how can we diagnose it in dogs?

Being left on your own is one of the most stressful ordeals a young kid can encounter. Possibly you are able to imagine back to when you were young and were without your family for a short time. The widespread reaction for the child is always to start to cry. It can be a difficult ordeal. This fear of being on your own isn’t specifically felt by people. Pet dogs, particularly, can suffer a similar psychological stress while left alone in the house or back garden.

Dogs are pack animals and, therefore, naturally social. A dog’s very first attachment in life is with its mother who will feed and nurture it as well as, to a lesser extent its father as well as siblings which form its pack. After the dog pack bond is broken, the puppy promptly supplants it’s loyalty and pack mentality on to it’s master.

Similar to a child, whenever a dog is left behind by its “pack” it can become extremely upset. This psychological response may manifest itself in many ways. This affliction is named ‘Separation Anxiety’. A number of signs of separation anxiety in dogs may include the following:

• Excessive woofing as well as whining when on it’s own

• Defecation and urination inside your home.

• Chewing household furniture and physical objects like shoes

• Vomiting or diarrhea

• Over or under eating

• Aggression or unhappiness if about to be left on it’s own

• Unusual behavior – leaping, pacing, panting etc

There are selected dog breeds which will exhibit a noticeable predisposition to separation anxiety. Weimaraners, Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, and Airedales are usually all dog breeds that suffer typically though it ought to be said that any specific type of dog can develop separation anxiety. Vets as well as dog breeders report that its widespread in dogs which were separated from their mothers overly early on. In addition , it is usually frequent in dogs that have had several owners in early life and in dogs that have spent time inside a dog refuge. Elderly dogs also can acquire separation anxiety after a change in their environment. Maybe a divorce has decimated the pack or moving home may also bring on this affliction.

Having identified this issue, exactly what could be done to sort it out? There are two courses of action to take. The actual course that may be the correct one for you along with your dog in fact depends upon the severity of the issue.

An owner can work along with the pet to overcome and basically eliminate these types of anxieties by means of putting into action a professional and carefully planned behavior training course. An owner could visit someone skilled in animal behaviour or, far more conveniently, look for a specialist dog training program on the net to download and learn from.

The other course of action is to visit a veterinary surgeon and have them prescribe anti-anxiety tablets. This really is seriously only a good idea in serious situations or where behaviour training has been ineffective. The vet will probably prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) which will alter the way in which the dog thinks and acts. They’ve got very few, mild side affects.

Whichever option is decided on, its crucial that you reach the root of the trouble and sort it out sooner as opposed to later. Both dog and owner will be happier when the anxiety is effectively beaten.

This article about was written by Edward G Foden and Barry Rodgers. There are superb dog training courses available which cover separation anxiety in dogs at

Catnip Not Hard to Grow with Right Light
Barbara Barger - North Shore Gardener

Q: I have a question about caring for catnip plants so our little kitten will be able to have her treats during the winter. The plants start off well, but they don't seem to last long. Any suggestions?

A: You didn't tell me much about your catnip plants, but I suspect they aren't getting enough light. This is the same reason most herbs don't do well when grown indoors in New England. The light level is decreased in winter, and when you put a pane of glass between the weak sun and the plant, you decrease the sun's rays even more.

Catnip is easy to grow, if it has sufficient light. Try some growing lights. Also, keep the plants damp but not wet and provide good air circulation.

Catnip is susceptible to white flies. Use a pet-safe soap solution or wash infected plants repeatedly with a spray of cold water. White flies repopulate in about seven to 10 days, so you'll have to keep repeating treatment if you miss even one minute fly.

Now, after all your work, don't be insulted if the kitty likes commercial catnip better. I think it's blended with more catnip oil than the homegrown varieties so the scent is stronger.

Vet's Pet Peeve: When Human Physicians Diagnose Animals
By Patty Khuly, Special for USA TODAY

If there's one discrete class of client that gives veterinarians pause more than any other it's the human physician. This may sound profoundly unfair, yet nine out of 10 surveyed vets agree they're among the most difficult pet owners to handle.
As far back as veterinary school, our professors drilled us on issues we should beware should our animal patients come with an on-the-side, at-home clinician in tow. Making medical decisions for their pets in our stead was their specialty, we were told.

Fifteen years of experience in this arena has not yet proved my profs wrong. Human docs are far more likely to bring on the stress than any other kind of client. But I'll give them this: Those who don't come with a cloud over their heads tend to join my A-plus crowd of clients. You just never know which it'll be.

So what's up with that, you ask? Here's the biggest issue I see:

Physicians, often feeling themselves capable of treating diarrhea, pain, fevers or simple infections, have a reputation for giving inappropriate drugs or administering human-style treatments to pets based on off-the-mark, presumptive diagnoses.

Most of the time these actions are benign or merely wasteful. But on more than one occasion I've also seen big, bad, human-oriented medical decisions lead directly to an animal's death.

You doubt?

Tragic anecdote No. 1

A cat's lethargy prompted her pediatrician-owner to assume his cat had a fever. Baby Tylenol twice daily for three days led to an irreversible blood disorder called methemoglobinemia. She died less than 24 hours after her owner brought her in for the "fever" he was still trying to treat with acetaminophen. (Her body temperature was actually five degrees too low when she arrived, but who's counting?)

Tragic anecdote No. 2

An ill-informed physician gave her dog Advil for several days before realizing that while her dog's limp was better, diarrhea and a sluggish appetite had taken its place. She then called our hospital to see what could be done for his rapidly devolving gastrointestinal state. When we advised her to bring the dog in for examination immediately, she demurred. ("It's just a little loose stool.")

After the dog collapsed during a short walk, this physician finally brought him in …DOA. After her request for a postmortem examination, it wasn't too hard to conclude he'd died of blood loss after an ulcer ate its way through his stomach — nor to find this physician tearfully confessing to her free hand with the ibuprofen.

Annoying anecdote

This one's not so tragic, but it led to the "firing" of a client — not something I engage in lightly. It happened after a client complained she shouldn't have to pay for my veterinary services since her boyfriend the radiologist had informed her that my diagnosis was incorrect.

Those white spots I'd shown her on the X-ray of her dog's bladder? They couldn't possibly be the bladder stones I'd said they were, he'd argued via telephone from his office half a mile away.

Him to her: "Refuse to pay the bill, honey. You can't see bladder stones on an X-ray."

Me to him: "Well, we called them bladder stones in vet school."

Me to her: "Dump him while you've still got a chance, sweetie. He's an arrogant ass."

Here's where physicians would do well to remember the maxim: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, so beware. Cats are not dogs. And humans are not dogs (though sometimes it might appear otherwise).

On the other side, the veterinarians I know seem far less likely to diagnose and treat themselves. To be sure, some of us do (I've heard old-timer stories that would curl your toes), but I believe vets tend to have a greater appreciation for the byzantine nature of inter-species differences. After all, what constitutes a powerhouse drug for a cat might just as easily kill a dog. Been there, done that.

Overall it's true: Doctors (veterinarians included) can be pains in the backside in almost any environment. Some of us display a sense of entitlement for having achieved a degree, status and title that others haven't.

Still, we should all agree on one thing: Sticking to the species we were assigned to when we received our license is fundamental —— unless we're willing to go back to school and slog it out all over again. And I, for one, am not.

Patty Khuly is a small-animal veterinarian in Miami, Fla. She is author of, an award-winning blog on pet health; she writes weekly for the Miami Herald and monthly for Veterinary Practice News. Her USA TODAY guest column appears each Friday.

Khuly lives in South Miami with her son, Max, dogs Vincent and Slumdog, goats Poppy and Tulip, and a backyard flock of chickens.

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Cat Trainer Answers Readers Questions

Gregory Popovich uses a feather to teach a cat to jump through a hoop.

Cat trainer Gregory Popovich answered several questions readers asked about troublesome cat behaviors ranging from defecating outside the litter box to biting and crying in the middle of the night.

"A key to understanding cats," Gregory Popovich writes in his new book "You Can Train Your Cat (St. Martin's Griffin, $14.99) "is they think they're gods. And the mythologies of many cultures warn us: You better take extra caution if you offend the gods. Its behavior is governed by its personality, but it can range from annoyance to outright hostility."

So know what you're dealing with and then be consistent when trying to correct behaviors, he says. His overall advice: nip things in the bud and use positive reinforcement. You need to know what your cats likes and how he likes to be rewarded. Every cat is different.

Many of the questions for Popovich had to do with litter box issues.

Gregory Popovich has more than 16 cats and 13 dogs, all from animal shelters, in his Comedy Pet Theater in Las Vegas.

Question: I have three neutered male cats (2 Maine coon cats and 1 Russian blue) that we adopted from a shelter. One of our Maine coons insists on urinating and defecating right next to the litter box even though the box is clean. How do we get him to use the litter box instead of the floor? We have tried various things including having another litter box, changing the brand of litter. - Tammy

Question: My cat, who seems very content, well adjusted and affectionate, urinates in the same place on the carpet for no apparent reason. Sometimes, right in front of me. She does this about twice or more a week. She's about 3-5 years old. Her litter box is clean. She is my only pet. She is an outdoor/indoor cat. No amount of verbal scolding seems to help. - David

Answer: Keep an eye on the cats, especially after meals, If you catch them defecating, say ''No'' in a disapproving voice, pick them and the poop up and put both the cat and poop in the litter box. Do this for several weeks. Clean the area thoroughly with a urine odor remover you buy at pet stores that neutralizes the area ...

If this does not work, put the cat in a room with the litter box and do not let the cat out of he room until it goes once in the litter box. Then reward it by letting it out of the room. It might also help to let the cats outside, where they can mark and defecate where they please. Most male cats will stop spraying after the are neutered. When I get a kitty from the shelter, I bring home some of its poop and put it in the litter box right away so it knows where to go. Another trick is to put the pets food near the spot where it is defecating or wetting. A cat will not like to go to the bathroom near its food.

Among tips in his book: The location of the litter box is very important. Cats like quiet places where there is not a lot of vibration. Laundry rooms with washing machines and dryers might not be a good place for your cat box.

Q: Snickers is temperamental and he nips. He'll be happy and purring one minute and then he'll be ready to pounce and attack us the next. What do you think would be the root cause of his mood swings and what can we do to prevent them? - Anne

A: It is very important to find out why they did it. Is the cats being pushed or are they hungry? Maybe they are jealous or are trying to attract attention of the owner. My recommendation is to think what the owner did before or did not do correctly. Some cats are shy and do not want to be touched. Also, cats play by biting so it's important to not encourage your kitty to do this when it is young.

Q: My 2 cats have wrecked havoc on my sofa and chair. I clip their nails frequently and have provided a number of acceptable scratching alternatives. They do use the turbo scratcher and the slanted scratcher, but still persist on my sofa and chair. I have tried the sticky tape (will not stick to the fabric), herbal deterrent sprays and spritzing them with water when I catch them at it, but nothing works! What do you suggest I try next.- Frances

A: You have tried many things I recommend. One thing to try is put catnip on the scratching posts. I like to use positive reinforcement but when nothing else works, you can keep trying to spray a cat with a water pistol.

Q: I have six house cats and a border collie mix. Can she be trained to break up cat fights and other cat behaviors. If the answer is yes, where do I go to find out how to do it?- Samuel

A: Dogs and cats are two different societies. I would not recommend trying this. I keep cats and dogs separated. They can all relax that way. My cats have kennels and my dogs have kennel. Most cats would like to stay alone. Some cats have friends and sleep together in the kennel area, but for the night they stay alone.

Q: How do we get our cat to stop crying in the middle of the night?- Dave

A: Cats have different sleeping cycle. They usually jump on the owner to wake them up. Easiest for human to lock the door. If the cats start meowing and banging on bedroom door, two things you can do: do feed them before you go to bed and give them food far away from the bedroom. Second thing, plugs for the ear and ignore arguments for two to three nights and cats give up.

Why Spay or Neuter a Pet?
MONICA SCHMIDT, Houston Humane Society

HOUSTON - Pet overpopulation is a not just a critical issue in the Houston area, but in every community. Every day 10,000 humans are born in the U.S. and more than 70,000 puppies and kittens are born during the same time period.

How do we find homes for every one? With such birth rates, there will never be enough homes for every homeless cat or dog in the Houston area.

Spaying or neutering a pet not only helps prevent the pet overpopulation problem, but sterilized pets are less likely to roam, mark their territory and get into fights. With less roaming, the chances of being hit by a vehicle are greatly reduced.

Spaying and neutering, in many cases, will help prolong a pet's life, as the rates of cancer are less in altered pets.

Everyone can help stop the pet overpopulation crisis by spaying or neutering their companion animals. Pet owners should consult a veterinarian about spaying and neutering for pets.

On the Web: Houston Humane Society --

Microchips 101:
What Every Pet Owner Needs to Know
by Tawny Flechtner -

The study found that animal shelters had major problems reuniting microchipped pets with families due to the lack of registration, registration with different data banks and inaccurate owner information. "Other" includes information from breeders, pet stores and rescue groups.

The major problem in reuniting microchipped animals with their owners is incorrect contact information, according to the JAVMA study. Pet owners can easily address this problem to maximize the chips' effectiveness.

It’s about the size of a grain of rice, but it could mean the difference between never seeing your best friend again, or having him home for his dog chow by suppertime.

The pet microchip, inserted with a hypodermic needle between an animal’s shoulder blades, works something like a bar code and has proven to be a valuable tool in reuniting lost pets with their families.

Just ask Macho, a bull mastiff and American bulldog mix who, earlier this month, won a welcome reunion with his grateful family in Garfield Park because of a microchip implant. Macho went missing from his home just before Thanksgiving, and was found malnourished in an unheated basement during an eviction. Another dog found in the basement had died of starvation. The chip may just have saved Macho’s life as well as his home.

Getting an animal chipped can cost as little as $10 at clinics such as those run through Cook County Animal Control during the summer months.

Yet proponents of the pet microchip have fought an uphill battle in the United States, despite what seems overwhelming evidence of the benefits.

“There’s just really no disadvantage to getting an animal micro-chipped,” said Robyn Barbiers, a veterinarian with the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society.

Barbiers said one concern for pet owners is the pain of the procedure, which she described as no worse than a flu shot. She also added that she had never heard firsthand any reports about biting or scratching at the chip. Sometimes, the chip migrates, she said, but that can easily be remedied by having it checked at regular vet visits.

Also, some people don’t think their animals need chips if they live entirely indoors, she said.

“But it’s very easy for a pet to get out, if workmen come by and leave a door open, or in an emergency,” she said. “Unfortunately, house fires do happen, tornadoes do happen.”

Barbiers’ assessment is supported by the numbers. A July study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine showed that the median return-to-owner rate at shelters was more than twice as high for chipped dogs than non-chipped ones. For chipped cats, the median return-to-owner rate was over 20 times higher than for non-chipped cats, according to the study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University and other institutions.

It’s difficult to pin down a precise catalyst for this increasingly popular procedure, but one event that may have swayed public favor.

“We’ve learned from mistakes that were made during the Katrina disaster,” said Donna Alexander, a veterinarian with Cook County Animal Control. “In that situation, it was not so much that animals weren’t saved, it was a problem of trying to reunite the animals with their owners. After Katrina, there has been more support for permanent identification of animals.”

But has general support translated into regular practice? Not according to John Snyder, United States Humane Society vice president of companion animals.

“I saw my first microchip at a conference in 1986, so they’ve been around for a while, and they have not reached the level that they have in places like the UK or Canada,” Snyder said. “But that is because we have so many different formats.”

Snyder referred to what’s proven to be the biggest headache for pet microchip proponents in the U.S.—the problem of standardization. Until recently, even if you had your animal chipped, it was no guarantee the scanner used on your pet could read the chip or even locate it in the animal.

“In the UK the only chip that’s allowed is the ISO standard,” Snyder said. “In the United States, there are four or five different frequencies. To accommodate those, we pressured the industry to develop, build and distribute a universal, or global, scanner.”

ISO stands for “International Standards Institute.” ISO standards for microchips were implemented in 1996, and dictate both layout of the information on a chip and the protocol for communication between a chip and scanner. These standards are accepted by Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia, and endorsed by the American National Standards Institute.

However, chip manufacturers have historically called the shots in the U.S.—until about six years ago.

In 2004, the Humane Society, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and several other animal welfare groups banded together to form the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families.

The coalition called on microchip manufacturers to “permit the use of a scanner that can read all microchips—and that such a scanner be made readily available to shelters, animal control officers and veterinarians throughout the country,” according to the Web site.

The coalition has met with success in this endeavor, and the chip manufacturers agreed, of their own accord, to work on a universal scanner.

“We now have a scanner that will read all the chips manufactured by all the different companies,” Snyder said. “Six years ago that didn’t exist.”

But the advent of the scanner hasn’t quite undone the whole Gordian microchip knot.

According to the Journal of American Veterinary Association study, “The United States is the only country in which the implantation of a microchip is often treated as a separate process from registration with a microchip registry.”

Not surprisingly, this has tarnished the microchips’ track record for bringing lost pets home. In almost 10 percent of cases in the study, lost pets were unable to get back home because they weren’t registered in any
microchip database.

In another 17 percent of these cases, pets were registered to databases separate from those of the various manufacturers, further stymieing efforts to return them to owners.

Recently, the American Animal Hospital Association succeeded in bringing some order to the chaos. In September, it created a universal pet microchip lookup tool that, free of charge, aggregates identification information from participating pet recovery services, chip manufacturers and distributors.

Though the tool is still a work in progress, and would not be useful in cases in which an animal is simply not registered anywhere, it promises to at least speed up and simplify the reference process.

Another registration issue: Pet owners aren’t always good at keeping their information current.

“One of the big problems with the chips is that people don’t keep up with their registry,” Barbiers said. “So if you move, you have to remember to notify, otherwise the chip isn’t going to work.”

Given all the technical glitches, Barbiers and other animal health specialists have one simple recommendation: old fashioned collars and tags.

“Certainly we highly recommend both chipping and collar and tags. Collar and tags are very visual, and should your pet get loose, anyone could find your pet if the collar is still intact,” she said. “We recommend the microchip because the collar can easily be removed and the tag lost, so it’s always good to have a combination but [the collar] is just an easier visual.”

Get a chip, the experts say, but don’t forget to hold up your end for maximum effectiveness.

“People should talk to their veterinarians, get their advice and opinions, and make sure that the veterinarian, or a shelter in the community they live in has a universal scanner. Make sure that your vet, and your shelter and everybody, are in tune,” Barbiers said.

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Move Over Dogs,
Cats are Walking on Leashes, Too
by Margaret Wimmer -

A week or so ago, I vented my guilt about leaving my cats inside while I was outside. I also asked if anyone dares to take their cat ouside with them.

The e-mails poured into the office and from friends to my personal e-mail. And it seems I was in a minority by confining my cats inside. A lot of people walk their cats, either in their backyard or around the block. Most have been doing it for years.

Bob Ketay has been hiking/walking with his cat for nine years. At first, they were walking on a leash, but the cat slowed him down, so now the cat rides in style in a bag Bob carries with him. He sent me this photo:

Rita Dwyer's Maine Coon cat likes to explore their cul-de-sac on a regular basis: "On the advice of my vet I was told to walk him since he is overweight ... Started walking him last summer without a harness or leash since he is quite stubborn and does not like to be confined. I have had great success in walking him. ... Once I open the door he goes out (supervised of course) and starts his walk down the driveway, around our cul-de-sac and back up the driveway."

It seems the key to successfully walking your cat on a leash is starting them early. Most of the letters said they began when their cats were kittens. Anne Marie Taber says, "Late last winter we adopted Charlie and I decided to (try walking him). I did some reading and internet research about the training of cats - both for the leash and in general - and started on the project when Charlie was so small that I had to get a ferret harness for him to wear. ... Now almost fully grown, Charlie has become an independent, indoor-outdoor cat, but still willingly wears his harness and leash to patiently follow me around the cul-de-sac."

If you are considering doing this, like I am once the weather gets better, Ed Miller of Jamestown makes this suggestion: "There is a published book on the market titled "Walk You Cat" that goes into great detail about cat leash training and establishing proper relationships with your cat or cats. The authors are Steven Jacobson and Jean Miller."

And lastly, Mary Ann Johnson offers this good bit of advice: "Just don't expect to walk a cat like a dog."

So once nicer weather moves in, Apple will sport her very own harness and leash, and get to explore my backyard. We'll leave the hiking trails to Bob and his cat for now.

Recognizing Dog Arthritis Symptoms

Signs that Lead to the Diagnosis of Pet Arthritis
Pets cannot speak their pains and aliments. Therefore, it is the pet owners job to be on the lookout for tips that indicate dog joint pain.

Most people consider arthritis in dogs to be strictly a disease of aging animals. However, arthritis can occur at any point in a canine's life. For this reason, it is important to take careful note of any potential arthritic symptoms that appear in puppies and young dogs as well as those in elderly dogs. All canine owners should become aware of the beginning signs that indicate joint pain. As soon as arthritis pain is suspected, it is important to consult a veterinarian for pet medicine and treatment. The sooner pet owners get involved, the easier arthritis is to control.

Arthritis is a common dog disease that can become very serious if left untreated or uncontrolled. In addition to being crippling and creating much dog pain, arthritis can even be a medical factor that leads to death. For this reason any of the following occurrences should cause concern and veterinarian care.

Change in Activity Associated with Dog and Cat Arthritis
In most cases, any arthritic animal, cats or dogs, will begin to move slower than normal. Their daily activity level will decrease. Take any decrease in activity of your canine as a serious issue. Dogs with arthritis often become less active than normal. They may struggle or hesitate when rising from a lying position. The animal may also refuse to jump or climb. Playtime may become a struggle and the pet could opt to rest more often. Colder weather may be especially hard on the animal and cause increasing joint pain.

Change in Demeanor Due to Joint Pain
In addition to the change in movement of the pet, some owners notice that the animal’s attitude also changes. The pet may become more agitated and aggressive, especially when being touched or handled. In severe cases, the dog may even yelp out when touched.

Sickness in Arthritic Canines
Arthritis pain can cause dogs to become sick and refuse to eat. The pet may even have a fever. One may notice that the animal licks at the sore joints in attempt to comfort them and ease the pain. When touching the area, it may feel hot to the touch and even look swollen from inflammation.

Arthritis symptoms are typically easier to notice in young, more active pets. As part of aging, older dogs often normally begin to decrease their daily activities. Once a pet owner suspects arthritis in his dog, a vet will confirm the condition through X-rays and blood tests. At that time a plan will made for pet arthritis control and pet medicine treatment.

Should Kids With Disabilities Have Pets?
by Lynn Moore -

Ten Reasons a Pet is Good for a Child With Special Needs

Owning a pet is a big responsibility for any child. If the child has special needs, it can be even more of a challenge.

Sometimes parents assume that getting a pet is the right thing to do because the child simply wants one. Other parents may worry that much of the pet’s care will fall on their shoulders. Owning a pet is certainly not right for every family, whether or not the child has a special need. However, there are benefits of owning a pet for many children.

Emotional Benefits of Pet Ownership for the Child With Special Needs

Kids with disabilities may enjoy have several emotional benefits if they have a pet to care for.

•Unconditional Love – Pet owners experience unconditional love. No matter how difficult the day, most pets are loyal and loving. They can erase some of the challenges and unfair situations that come up.

•Companionship – Because pets are loyal, they are constant companions. A child with special needs may feel isolated from his friends. Having a pet can ease feelings on loneliness.

•Accomplishment – After the learning benefits that are listed below, the child with special needs can be proud of his accomplishment. It is not easy to raise a pet. It takes perseverance and hard work.

Educational Benefits of Pet Ownership for the Child with Special Needs

Kids with disabilities can also learn many things when they own and take care of pets.

•Exercise – Walking a dog or playing with a cat requires exercise. It can be fun, but it offers the child with special needs another avenue for being active.

•Responsibility – Pets need to eat and exercise. They need a clean place to sleep. Taking care of a pet teaches the child with special needs how to be responsible for another living being.

•Learning – Kids with special needs learn first-hand about animals and their needs when they own a pet. They learn about basic needs and how baby animals grow into adults.

•Communication – The quickest way to get a child with special needs to talk is to give him a pet. Pet stories will pop up in all kinds of situations. The verbal skills will be amazing.

•Organization – Taking care of a pet requires organization. The child with special needs can learn about schedules and keeping supplies in designated places.

•Money Skills – Let the child handle some of the finances associated with the pet. Many kids with special needs are working on money skills. Allow the child to pay for the pet’s food, making sure that he received the correct change.

•Problem Solving – Caring for a pet encourages the development of problem solving skills. Perhaps the child has ADHD and struggles with planning ahead. Will the family be going out to dinner? The child will need to plan for when the dog will be fed.

Naturally, the decision to get a pet should be based on fairness to the pet as well. For example, a large dog would not be the best choice for an apartment. However, a reasonable match between the skills and needs of the child with special needs and the right pet can reap many emotional and educational benefits.

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The Dog Who Hates Me
By JOHN MOE - The New York Times

It was the movie “Hotel for Dogs” that sealed the deal. My kids had been asking for a dog for years, promising to take care of it, arguing how our family wouldn’t be complete until we had one. But after we rented that movie, in which humans can’t really find happiness without a canine pal, our kids became inconsolable in their dogless sorrow. Moaning, wailing — you’d have thought they severed an artery. Fine, we’ll get a dog. Yay, Dad!

Truth be told, I was almost as excited as they were. Dogs are a lot of work, but they can be delightful little balls of joy and fun as well, and who wouldn’t want more of that in the house? After some not very careful screening, we came across a dog online that needed a home: a little Yorkshire terrier that had bounced around a bit. We met with the latest owners at a Petco in the Minneapolis suburbs. Officially, we were there just to meet the dog and see if he was a good fit, but once the kids saw the thing, there was little doubt he was getting in our minivan.

As we drove, I successfully lobbied to name the dog Dave, since I’ve gotten along really well with every human I’ve known by that name. We brought him home, and the kids were over the moon with joy. Dave put up with all the handling, even the ham-fisted affections of the 1-year-old. He slept on my 8-year-old-son’s bed, just the way my boy had always dreamed. All was right.

Until the next day, when I came home from work, at which point the dog started barking his head off. He cowered; he growled. Same thing happened when I wrestled with the kids or chased them or even danced with them. (He may have had a point with my dancing.) I tried yelling at him to hush. I tried slipping him some bacon as I came in, and he barely accepted it, even though it’s bacon, and he’s a dog. He ate it, and then he barked at me some more.

On the one hand, it was kind of funny. But the dog’s hate/fear actually did kind of hurt my feelings. The one thing you expect from your dog is unconditional love and tail wags at the end of the day. There’s something kind of heartbreaking about coming home from work, from providing the income to make the house function, and being hated and feared when you walk in the door.

So I thought maybe he was beaten up by a man at some point, right? But male friends would come over, friends who look like me, and Dave would be fine. It was just me. My dog hated me.

Fortunately, I had one last card to play. There were health and safety reasons, concerns about the dog population, and I didn’t want to have to do it. And yet, there was one move that I could use on him that I didn’t think he could use on me: removal of testicles. Dave was not neutered when we adopted him, and I was confident that if this behavior was an alpha-male thing, well, a little scalpel work ought to take care of that nicely. The procedure took place on a Friday morning, and he was already home by the time I returned from work that afternoon. I parked out front and warily approached the front door. Holding my breath a bit, I turned the key.

I expected a certain amount of calmness to have set in after Dave’s procedure. I thought he’d be docile, a sort of cat-dog. Once inside the door, I paused to allow the realization of my arrival to spread through the house. Then the barking started. Loud, shrill, frightened, it came in the same familiar staccato bursts, even though Dave was still somewhat sedated and disoriented. It was like being verbally assaulted by some sort of sleepy incoherent hippie eunuch.

It has been a few weeks now since that procedure, and Dave has become a tad nicer to me in moments of calm, even seeking me out for belly rubs. But my dream of having a dog happy to see me at the end of the day — which is perhaps the single biggest responsibility in a dog’s job description — is destined to be unfulfilled. I think dog ownership, or cohabitation, really, teaches you a lesson no matter what. For most people that lesson is about the way love and simplicity and togetherness can provide respite from the slings and arrows of our human days. For me, it’s about accepting Dave for who he is. I’m sure he’d rather not fly into a dizzying rage whenever he sees me. Can’t be any fun for him. But he is who he is, just like all of us. I picked Dave’s name because it sounded human. I had no idea how prescient I was.

It’s a loving relationship, Dave’s and mine, but one in which one partner, without testicles, will always scream at the other, who has them, for no apparent reason.

John Moe, a radio host in St. Paul, is the author of “Conservatize Me: How I Tried to Become a Righty With the Help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith and Beef Jerky.”

Man Charged With Laundering Kitty

Police: Video Shows Roommate's Cat In Spin Cycle

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A Lincoln man has been charged with animal cruelty after police said he put his roommate's cat in a washing machine.

Investigators said Richard Lynne Andersen, 22, put a video of the incident on his cell phone.

On the video, investigators said you can see the machine spinning and hear Andersen laughing that the cat was "in the spin cycle."

Andersen was charged with a misdemeanor.

(Not Quite) Out to Pasture:
All Creatures Great and Small

I’ve had pets since I was a small child. And, if it wasn’t already clear to my parents that they were dealing with a pint-sized homosexual, the names I gave these animals probably said it all.

I had a fish I named Brigitte, after the actress Brigitte Bardot; a horse that I named Ginger, after the character Ginger Grant from Gilligan’s Island and a spider monkey that I named Jackie, after Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

Yes, I said a spider monkey and yes I grew up in south-eastern Kansas, far, far away from any rain forests. Suffice it to say that the monkey arrived courtesy of my drunken father one argument filled night. In the end, my poor mom lost the argument since the pet store was already closed for the night and her eventual capitulation at least spared her from having to listen to me whine another second about wanting to keep the animal.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t always so clever when it came to naming my pets, particularly the males. My first dog, for instance, was a little tan dachshund who I simply named Mister. This laziness on my part wouldn’t pay off until years later, when our buddy, Seth, explained the rules of determining your imaginary porn name. (Take the name of your first pet and then the name of the first road or street you lived on and that’s your porn name.) My result was the (I think) enviable "Mister Blackjack." My partner, Tim, however, didn’t fare as well. The next time you see him, feel free to address him as "Lady Sawmill."

I’ve been through quite a few pets in my forty-four years; horses, rabbits, canaries, tropical fish, dogs, cats…the list goes on and on. But what is it in a human that compels us to seek out the companionship of animals? As children, we are "given" pets to teach us to care for other creatures but also to teach us responsibility. It is a well-documented fact that animals are good stress-relievers and that the presence of an animal can help facilitate healing in cases of illness.
For many of us, particularly those of us in the gay community, pets become the children that we would not have otherwise. And, whether gay or straight and whether we have no children because of circumstance or because of choice, our pets are often treated better than most human children. We celebrate their birthdays, hang stockings for them at Christmas and provide them with health care, usually far superior to that of our own.

Right now Tim and I are parents to a lovebird and a Balinese cat. The Lovebird, Raoul Gomez, was given by me to Tim for our tenth anniversary along with a mate, Carmen Gomez. Unfortunately, the name Lovebird doesn’t quite match up with Raoul’s character; not only did he kill Carmen, but he also tries to kill us every time we try to feed or water him and throws seeds out of his cage just to watch us clean them up. Despite all of this, Raoul has his own stocking at Christmas and we do everything that we can to make our bitter little bird happy. Our cat, Magda, is another case. She is affectionate to the point of being irritating, constantly follows me around the house and wants nothing more than to sit on my lap, whether I’m trying to read or not. In fact, she’s so talkative that we’ve nicknamed her "Lady Blah-Blah." Tim, of course, accuses me of "spoiling" her.

"How many treats do you give her a day, anyway?" is a common question.

"I don’t know," I reply, trying my best not to make eye contact at the risk of betraying myself. "Two?"

"More like two hundred. Do you want her to get fat?"

"The doctor says she’s the perfect body weight," I parry. It’s a weak defense, but it’s all I have.

I’m fine with being the "good" dad. Besides, I know that Tim’s mostly amused.


Nearly all of my friends own at least one pet and it’s funny how we share stories of our companions as if they were our children. My friend, Kris, for instance, whose beautiful face turns into a scowl at the mere mention of children, has become quite the cat collector, naming her little charges after characters from The Wire and A Streetcar Named Desire.

I think that the most difficult part of having a pet companion is when we have to cope with their deaths. Sickness is always difficult but, if we’re lucky and get them the correct care, there’s always the possibility that their health will improve. When our best efforts are not enough, however, the results are quite traumatic. The loss of a beloved companion pet can be like losing a child or, at the very least, a member of the family. My friend, Larry, recently had to euthanize his ailing cat, Crooks, and I know from personal experience what he’s going through.

A few years ago, Tim and I were forced to euthanize our sweet little, seventeen year old Dachshund, Willi. Although there was some comfort in being with him until the end, the pain of losing him is still with me seven years later. In fact, Willi is the reason Tim and I have never gotten another dog, not because of the pain but because, early on, "replacing" him felt like too much of a betrayal.

Mark Twain wrote to a friend in 1899, "The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's."

These days, aside from caring for Magda and Raoul, Tim and I care for the wild creatures who wander into our yard. Kitchen scraps are put out for the squirrels, possums and rabbits and bird seed is given to the various birds and field mice. We have been known to rescue the occasional nestling, when necessary.

I recently completed work on an (as of yet) unpublished novel, set in the Berlin zoo during the Second World War. In the course of doing research for the book I was appalled by what I found, namely that zoo animals in war zones continue to suffer to this day. Not only are zoos bombed but animals are shot in their cages and slowly starved to death. As a result, I have started an online petition in the hope of changing the way zoo animals are treated in time of war. (If interested in signing, please visit

Mohandas Gandhi wrote "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

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