'My Dogs Are My Life'

Ask Dr. Knowledge:
Is It True Fumes from Nonstick
Frying Pans Can Kill Pet Birds?

Nonstick frying pans are coated with Teflon, the DuPont brand name for polytetrafluoroethylene. It’s made of long molecules formed from a carbon backbone — like a long snake, with fluorine atoms hanging off the sides. It is intrinsically slippery and almost impossible to glue things to.

The actual bonding to the pan is done via a trick that pushes Teflon into nooks and crannies in the metal surface.

The bonds between carbon and fluorine are strong, making Teflon resistant to reacting with other chemicals and, for a plastic, quite resistant to heat — but there are limits. Teflon melts at 621 degrees, but starts to decompose a bit at temperatures as low as 482 degrees. This is a little higher than the temperatures that you would normally fry meat at, and just around where most cooking oils will start to smoke.

If you get Teflon up to a temperature where it starts to decompose, some fluorocarbon gases can be produced, which are indeed toxic.

Birds tend to be sensitive to poison gases — remember, canaries used to be taken into mines to detect gases.

Teflon fumes are also toxic to people, but we’re less sensitive, and it takes a lot before we get the early signs of poisoning, which are flu-like symptoms that go away with time.

If you have a bird, just don’t burn things in your coated pans. Decent ventilation is a good idea. There are accounts of birds being killed by fumes from burning butter in non-Teflon pans, as well.

Ask Dr. Knowledge is written by Northeastern University physicist John Swain. E-mail questions to drknowledge@globe.com or write to Dr. Knowledge, c/o The Boston Globe, PO Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819.

Pets and Divorce

Let's face the facts - divorce is a common occurrence. It's rough for the individuals and children involved, but did you know it could be just as problematic for your pet? Just like children, pets can easily pick up on the stress within a family. The following tips may help minimize the trauma of divorce for your four-legged friends.

Probably the biggest thing humans do is argue in front of their children. We all know that this is not acceptable behavior, so dont do it in front of your pet either.

If you have more than one pet, try to keep them together during and after the divorce. Who is more committed and who has more time for the family pets? This will be a hard decision to make, but put your pet first. If one spouse travels frequently for work or keeps long hours at the office, the pet may be better off with the opposite spouse.

Try to maintain your pet's daily routine. If you take Rover for a walk every day at 6 PM, try to stick to it. Disruptions in your pet's daily activities or feeding times can cause serious stress on the animal.

Exercise or play together! This is a great tension reliever for the both of you. If for some reason this is impossible, try putting your pet in a playgroup.

If you are friendly with your neighbors, get them involved. If you are going to be late getting home from work or you need to go grocery shopping, ask your neighbor to walk your dog or simply keep him company until you get home.

Lastly, if you notice that your pet is suddenly losing weight or stops eating you need to take him to a veterinarian at once. Depression can affect pets as well as humans.

Firefighters Use Saw to Free Dog Trapped in Recliner

Firefighters in Naperville are still talking about one of their strangest rescue missions: a small dog that became wedged in a mechanized recliner chair.

The firefighters who pulled up to the Sunrise of Naperville assisted living center last week used a saw to cut the chair apart.

Firefighter and paramedic Scott Bolda said a nurse's aide was hanging onto the chair to relieve pressure on the dog and allow it to breathe.

Bolda said the chair's electrical controls stopped working when the dog became wedged inside, so the only option was to saw the chair apart.

"It took about five minutes to get him free," Bolda said. "We've never had to rescue a dog like that before."

This Cat Has Nine Lives

(Duluth, MN) -- It's happened more than once -- the inexplicable ability of a cat to escape a house fire unharmed. The latest example was in Duluth last night where a home went up in flames, with hundreds of rounds of exploding ammunition driving firefighters out of the basement at one point. The two owners were not home at the time of the fire but a cat was found -- inside the house, alive and well -- after the fire was put out.

Restaurant Fined for Refusing "Gay" Dog
By Advocate.com Editors

Restaurateurs in Australia who refused to serve a blind man because a waiter thought the man's guide dog was gay have been ordered to pay a $1,500 fine and write the man a written apology.

According to AdelaideNow.com.au, Ian Jolly, 57, was kicked out of the restaurant Thai Spice in a suburb of Adelaide because a server mistakenly thought he heard Jolly's partner, Chris Lawrence, say that she wanted to bring a gay dog into the restaurant.

"The staff genuinely believed that Nudge was an ordinary pet dog which had been desexed to become a gay dog," restaurant owners Hong Hoa Thi To and Anh Hoang Le said in a statement.

The restaurant displays a "guide dogs welcome" sign, but Jolly and Lawrence were denied entry even after providing staff with a guide dogs fact card.

The Equal Opportunity Tribunal of Australia ordered Friday that the restaurant provide Jolly with a written apology and that its staff attend an equal qpportunity education course, in addition to paying him $1500.

Wedding Pets
By Rebecca Phillips - ZooToo.com

Zootoo’s tips for celebrating your big day with your furry family members

As couples busily plan wedding receptions this summer, an increasing number are planning to include their pets. After all, a wedding celebrates the day when two distinctly different lives join forces to make one new family. And what’s a family without your loyal, beloved pets?

Now, we’re not suggesting that you have your talking parrot ordained over the internet and train him to perform the ceremony, or that you teach your partner’s cat to play “Pachelbel’s Canon” on a synthesizer as you walk down the aisle. But there are lots of creative ways to make your pets a part of your special day and turn them into “wedding pets.”

One of the most common ways to add “woof” to a wedding ceremony is to include your pup as a ring bearer or part of the wedding party. Depending on how well trained your dog is, this plan can be a no-brainer—or a source of anxiety. It’s probably a good idea to rehearse with your dog before the ceremony, and you can have a member of the wedding party walk him down the aisle on a leash if necessary, with a pillow tied on his back. If your dog has a favorite bed or perch, you can keep it right up at the front near the altar. That way, he’ll know right away where his “spot” is, and will probably stay put throughout the ceremony.

At the reception, you might consider a pet-safe wedding cake for your dogs to munch on, or even matching keepsake water bowls for your and your partner’s dogs and cats. If you have a lot of pets, or plan on inviting any guests with especially sociable furry friends, think about having an animal zone at the reception—making space for everything from birdcages, to cat trees, to a small fenced-in dog run (if the reception is outside). And if you do decide to welcome a large number of animal guests at your party, it’s probably a good idea to hire a dog sitter or animal wrangler to keep an eye on them. That way, you spend no time worrying, and all your time celebrating.

Another fun idea is including personalized pet gifts in your guests’ goody bags—and there is no shortage of specialty animal swag available across the country, and on the web. Such treats as personalized puppy shirts, cat toys, delicious treats, or small bags of high-quality birdseed will make your guests and their pets feel special.

Of course, you can always ride in on a horse, wear a snake around your neck, or use your several hamster wheels as centerpieces. But whether you go for something romantic, whimsical, weird, subtle, or totally over-the-top, your wedding planning should be a reflection of you, your partner, and the life you’re building together with the people and pets you love. Plan whatever arrangements will make you the happiest.

Above all, remember this: just like that dreaded seating chart, a little careful preparation goes a long way to making your special day relaxed and memorable.

Tell us what you think about “Wedding Pets” below. Send us your story ideas by e-mailing us at news@zootoo.com.

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Traveling By Car With Your Dog
by Paris and John - DogTipper.com

Does the late summer weather have you ready to hit the road for a little vacation time? For many of us, that means loading up the car and vacationing with our dog. Like traveling with a very young child, though, bringing your dog along for a car trip means a little extra preparation and planning. Today we’ve got some great tips on car travel with your dog from Diane Pomerance, PhD, author of Our Rescue Dog Family Album as well as the Animal Companions book series. Here are top tips from Dr. Pomerance for traveling with your dog this spring:

1. Prepare your pet for car travel by taking him with you on a series of short local trips that he will find pleasant and not intimidating.

2. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian 7-10 days prior to your intended trip to make sure your pet is in good health and that he is current with all of his vaccines.

3. Plan to bring your pet’s vaccination record and health certification with you.

4. Bring a pet crate or carrier made of strong wire mesh that allows adequate ventilation for your pet and that is large enough for your animal to stand, turn around and comfortably lie down in.

5. Make sure that your pet has easily recognizable identification tags and is microchipped. The identification tag should provide your name, address and telephone number. Your pet should ALWAYS wear id, and should never let out of the car without wearing a collar and being attached to a leash.

6. Bring some color photographs of your pet along with you to identify him in case he somehow gets lost.

7. To keep your pet healthy as you travel, bring along a supply of his regular food and water he is accustomed to drinking.

8. Bring any regular medications he may be taking.

9. If your pet gets car sick or frightened by thunderstorms, make certain you bring medications prescribed by your vet for these conditions along with you as well.

10. If your trip is requires you to spend several nights at a motel or hotel, make certain you have contacted and made certain these places accept pets. Make reservations for accommodations to ensure you and your pet will be welcome.

11. Pack up your pet’s favorite toys, blanket and treats so that he will feel “at home” even while away.

12. Make certain your car is checked out by a mechanic and is in perfect working order – heat, air conditioning, windows and tires included.

13. Plan your trip in detail – have your GPS and/or maps handy.

14. Do not feed your pet immediately before embarking on your trip.

15. Make certain your pet has been well exercised before you leave.

16. Put your pet in the back seat of the car either buckled in or in his travel crate.

And…you’re ready to go. Once you’re on your way, don’t forget to stop at least every couple of hours to walk your pet on a leash and to make a potty stop.

Have a great trip! Diane Pomerance, Ph.D.

Things to Consider When Adopting or Buying a Pet

Pets are often treated as family members, and studies have shown that people who have pets live a happier, healthier and longer life than those without pets. Here are some tips if you're considering adding to your family:


Are you active or semi-active, or are you a couch potato? If most of your time is spent at home watching TV, then an active, high-energy dog is not for you. Consider fish, birds, reptiles or even a cuddly cat or rabbit that does not require regular exercise. Active individuals that run, bicycle or hike would enjoy a dog that will go along and be a good trail buddy.


Make sure that any other pet in your home is ready and able to adjust to new pets. Small puppies and kittens with older animals can be a disaster. New animals may be injured or scared by an adult dog or cat that resents the intruder in their territory. A pet that is used to having all of your attention may resent another animal. On the other hand, a dog that loves to be with others may welcome another animal that likes to play.


Always consider the size and energy level of the new pet when bringing one into a household with kids or Grandma. Small and younger animals can be stepped on, tripped over or mishandled, and injuries can occur. Large, noisy, rambunctious dogs can accidentally knock over small children or elderly persons and will need training and exercise to keep them happy.


How much time do you really have to give to training, cleaning up after and exercising a high-energy dog? Are you gone much of the day, night or month? Be honest with yourself. If you are not willing to spend time with your pet, are you really ready for one? Many pets, especially dogs and cats, can live 10, 15 or 20 years or more. Birds and some other pets live even longer. You must be committed to taking care of them for the rest of their lives.


If you are a neatnik or a stickler about your yard, then that lively dog that likes to dig and pull up your flowers is not a good choice. Animal fur, muddy feet and potty accidents are all a part of owning a pet. If you don't like fur on your furniture or clothes, then a bird or a fish would be a better choice.


Although one never knows what lies in the future for your pet, you can count on something happening when you least expect it, and frequently, when you don't have the money to fix it. It costs money to groom, train, vaccinate, spay/neuter, treat medical problems/issues, pay for licenses and feed a pet. If you are unable to pay for this care, then perhaps now is not the best time to get a pet. There is no such thing as a "free" pet.


Sure, you saw that darling little dog at the animal shelter and you really, really want it but you know that you're going on vacation soon, moving or just too busy right now to take care of it. Animals need consistency and security in order to adjust to a new home. Waiting until you can devote time to that new puppy (and they take a lot of time and training) or helping that new kitty get used to the household is only going to make the adjustment better for everyone. Never chose a pet when you are feeling emotional or just because you like the way it looks. Acquiring a pet is a lifetime commitment, or at least it should be for the pet. Pets should never be treated as disposable objects that you just get rid of when you don't want them around any more.


Do your neighbors like animals? Perhaps they like dogs but may not be happy that you let your cat use their flower beds for a potty box. There are also neighbors that don't like animals at all and they may be the first to complain to Animal Control if yours barks, gets loose from a leash and runs to their house, or if your cat decides it likes their front porch better than yours. Check with your neighbors and make sure that they have no objection to that 200-pound Mastiff that you have your eye on. After all, your pet needs to be a good neighbor as well.


Make sure you know what they are where you live. Some landlords will not allow a certain breed, size or species of pet. Neighborhood associations often have rules and policies about numbers of pets and species. Make sure you know the rules before you buy or adopt a pet.


Read, watch and listen to experts about the particular species or breed of pet that you want to have in your home. There is an enormous amount of material on the internet, the library, bookstores and through various breed rescue and animal welfare organizations that will help educate you about the needs of various animals. Learn as much as you can so that you are prepared to work with and manage your new pet properly.

Dee Fugit is the adoptions services manager for the Idaho Humane Society.

A Life of Owning Pets

I have owned many pets. Some would argue too many, myself included. I grew up with cats, dogs, birds, fish, hermit crabs, hamsters — you name it. I’ve fed them and cleaned up after them.

Pet ownership makes a household complete. An unconditional cuddle-love to warm you from the outside in. Pets don’t judge. A cat could care less and certainly doesn’t mind if you have a bad hair day or bad breath.

My current pet, a Boston terrier named Cowboy, actually smiles. At his last birthday party he clearly smiled and enjoyed the big day as his cake’s candles flickered.

I have a picture to prove it and, yes, we celebrate his birthday with cake and gifts.

Cowboy is the perfect pet. This dog has brought love, playfulness and a goofy personality to make our family complete.

My first pet memory is as a young girl and grandpa’s “Cheesie” the wiener dog. I loved that dog, despite his dirty-dog smell.

I would lie on the kitchen floor beside him, nose-to-nose. Grandpa would feed him table scraps after Cheesie waddled over as fast as his stubby little legs could carry him.

“Pedro,” an apricot poodle, lived at the same time as Cheesie. I never knew why my Swedish grandma named him Pedro.

He had soft, curly fur and skinny little legs that carried him faster and higher than Cheesie.

Through grade school there was a series of birds, cats, fish and other small pets, and then we found “Missy,” a tortoise shell stray.

Missy had a problem with staying out late and coming home pregnant — three different times.

I loved kittens. Watching Missy give birth was educational.

After college I moved to Seattle to be with my fiancee. Since he was often away on business I was lonely and needed some shopping therapy.

I met a woman on the street with a box of 3-week-old kittens, rescued from a dumpster.

Fate. Destiny. To sooth my loneliness the runt, “Tiny,” became mine, including the fleas jumping across her back as I drove to the pet store for shampoo.

Two days later my fiancee (now husband) came home. As he opened the door Tiny came wheeling’ around the corner.

His response is not printable. Nonetheless, Tiny became our first child. She was sweet, cuddly and softened the hardest of hearts.

Moving back to Bismarck meant the tough decision of giving Tiny away. We cried in the rainy parking lot after leaving her with the Humane Society.

Then along came “Psyche” a solid black cat with a personality to match. He was aggressive; He chased me up the stairs, biting the back of my legs.

When he missed it was funny. I ran like a kid trying to get away from the “boogie man.” His bites sometimes made me cry, but the tears in my husband’s eyes came as a result of his laughter.

Life later brought us two children, which were enough work and I didn’t need or want another pet thrown into the mix.

But when my second child was getting older, I found myself yearning for my “dream” pet — a German shepherd.

It didn’t matter that we lived in a small home with an even smaller yard. I really wanted this dog. The breed was large, dominant, strong, a protector, smart and beautiful. My whining paid off and my husband surprising me with a puppy.

“Sade” was handed to me and I kissed her on the mouth, holding her up in the air like in the scene from “The Lion King.”

Sade was perfect. Beautiful fur. Sweet little nose. She licking my face and we bonded; she was all mine.

She grew into a toddler and she and my toddler son became rivals, engaged in a war of wills.

I couldn’t stand the fighting and as her attitude and size grew it became a disaster. When Sade knocked my son down and stood on his chest it was time to say “good-bye dear dog.”

Sade now lives on a farm where she can run. She has a loving family to protect. She found her dream.

Petless for a few years, one evening I read an ad for a Boston terrier needing a loving home. The owners had a hectic life and although not wanting to give “Cowboy” away, felt they had no other choice.

I knew the owners. This was fate, again intervening, to give me the perfect pet.

While my husband didn’t know, I arranged for Cowboy to arrival on a Sunday afternoon.

My husband left the house for the rest of the afternoon; I was in so much trouble.

But, the boys were happy and we took the googly-eyed animal into our home with much love. Cowboy had to overcome a few habits, like barfing when he got upset or after quickly drinking too much water.

Our lives have never been quite the same, although my husband would say we were just fine without Cowboy.

My two boys fight to sleep with the dog, even though he snores louder than a man, toots something awful, gets into crazy moods and tears around the house like a maniac. And he barks at the dishwasher noise, begs for food 24 hours a day, follows someone around the house until they sit down so he can sit in their lap, and occasionally has accidents (unknown to my husband).

But watching Cowboy lick my youngest son’s face brings back those sweet memories of a stinky dog named Cheesie licking mine — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(Michelle Farnsworth is a mother of two boys and stays and works from home to enjoy the fruits of her labor.)

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Poll: A Third Say Pets Listen Better Than Husbands
By SUE MANNING - abcnews.go.com

Husbands, if you end up in the doghouse, consider it a promotion

A third of pet-owning married women said their pets are better listeners than their husbands, according to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll released Wednesday. Eighteen percent of pet-owning married men said their pets are better listeners than their wives.

Christina Holmdahl, 40, talks all the time to her cat, two dogs or three horses — about her husband, naturally.

"Whoever happens to be with me when I'm rambling," said Holmdahl, who's stationed with her husband at Fort Stewart in Georgia. "A lot of times, I'm just venting about work or complaining about the husband."

She thinks everyone should have a pet to talk to like her horse, Whistle, who's been with her since she was 19.

"We all say things we don't mean when we are upset about stuff," she said. "When we have time to talk it out and rationalize it, we can think about it better and we can calm down and see both sides better."

It would be a toss-up whether Bill Rothschild would take a problem to his wife of 19 years or the animal he considers a pet — a palm-sized crayfish named Cray Aiken. His daughter brought it home four years ago at the end of a second grade science project.

Rothschild, 44, of Granite Springs, N.Y., considers Cray a better listener than his wife, "absolutely. She doesn't listen worth anything." He doesn't get much feedback from the crustacean, but it's been a different story over the years with family dogs and cats.

"You definitely feel much more comfortable sharing your problems with them," he said. "A little lick from a big dog can go a long way."

Overall, about one in 10 pet owners said they would talk their troubles over with their pets.

The AP-Petside.com poll also found that most people believe their pets are stable and seldom struggle with depression. Just 5 percent of all pet owners said they had taken an animal to a veterinarian or pet psychologist because it seemed down in the dumps. Even fewer said they'd ever given antidepressants to a pet.

But they weren't opposed to the idea: 18 percent of those polled said they were at least somewhat likely to take a pet to a vet or pet psychologist if it was dejected.

When pets become the therapists, the dogs have it. Twenty-five percent of dog owners said their canines listened better than a spouse, while only 14 percent of cat owners chose the feline.

Ron Farber, 55, of Hoxie, Kan., said it's easier to talk to his dog Buddy than his wife because "the dog doesn't have an opinion."

"I think better out loud. He doesn't care what you say or do. He looks at you, pays attention, you walk through the problem in your mind and eventually, the answer comes. It's not as easy when other people are offering opinions," he said.

Farber would take Buddy to a vet if he needed help, but "I doubt there's a dog psychologist within 300 miles."

A pet psychologist is also called a veterinary behaviorist. Veterinarian Karen Sueda, whose office is at the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital is one of 50 certified by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Most of her canine patients have problems with aggression and anxiety, while her cats' biggest problem is failure to use a litter box, she said.

Karen Manderbachs, 38, has tried drugs for her dog Kensey, a Shiba Inu who is afraid of thunder. "She sits and full body-shakes. She tries to climb the walls, will hide behind the couch. She gets frantic."

But the first time, the pill didn't take effect in time. The next, "she was so out of it, I couldn't do it again."

Without thunder, Kensey is fine and listens with the other pets — three dogs and a cat — as Manderbachs talks.

The dogs seldom react, "but if I'm upset, if I cry, they will hover around and try, in their own way, to make it better," said the 38-year-old from Rocky Mount, N.C.

Sueda, the veterinary behaviorist, said she thinks everyone talks to their animals.

"Pets are great because they provide us with unconditional support. They never talk back, never give us the wrong opinion and they are always there for us," she said. "As much as we love our spouses or significant others, sometimes they are not there, sometimes they have their own thoughts about how we should deal with situations. And sometimes, especially when it's a husband or male significant other, they want to solve the problem rather than just listening to the problem."

The AP-Petside.com Poll involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,112 pet owners nationwide. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Is Your Goldfish Right or Left-Finned?

To the surprise of pet owners scientists have discovered that cats, dogs, parrots and even fish are right or left-handed

Psychologists from Queen's University played with 42 pet cats for several weeks as part of the research, according to a report in the New Scientist.

The researchers said: "Male and female cats differ in their behavioural patterns, for example hunting styles and parental care, and it is possible that these place different demands on motor functioning."

Apparently, female cats are more likely to be "right-handed" while toms favour their left paw.

The same preferences occur in dogs.

Parrots have a dominant foot to pick up food and other objects with while toads are mostly right-handed.

When fish dodge a predator they tend to veer to one side more consistently to the other.

Ask Dog Lady: Gift of Dog to Parents Backfires
By Monica Collins - GateHouse News Service

Dear Dog Lady,

My parents are in their late 70s – they’re very healthy, retired and nuts where their dog Jack is concerned.

I am 55 years old and the eldest of three. A couple of years ago, I purchased a Jack Russell terrier for them as they are on a fixed income. Now, they will not go anywhere without the dog. When I visit, Jack barks nonstop and is carried around by one or both of them. The dog eats at the dining room table with all of us.

I find this disgusting and revolting, so I have not visited them in a while and they have not come to my house in almost two years. Because of this animal, our relationship has deteriorated to zero. Any words of wisdom?

-- Bruce

Dear Bruce,

As a baby boomer with aging parents, you tried to do the right thing by giving them a dog. And, unwittingly, you succeeded brilliantly.

Their dog is their fixation, much better than aching joints. But you should have done your homework before giving this breed. The Jack Russell (now called Parson Russell) terrier needs much stimulation and is a ridiculous choice for elderly people no matter how healthy they are.

Jacks thrive with constant exercise. The mandatory aerobics help these terriers work through all their issues. No wonder your parents’ dog -- cooped up and coddled -- barks all the time. The animal wants to jump out of their arms and run like the wind.

Please understand that your parents treat your canine step-sibling with indulgence. Jack’s bossy bad behavior is OK with them. And you? Hey, you got them into this crazy relationship. Lighten up. Be happy your retired parents have a kooky critter in their lives to delight and distract them.

Go visit. Offer to take their dog out for an extended romp. Challenge yourself to exhaust the dog so it sleeps under the dining room table instead of barking at the head of the table. Recover your sense of humor.

Dear Dog Lady,

We recently adopted a Phalene Papillon who is about a year old. She is very aggressive and full of energy, bites and digs into everything. She does not respond well to commands and almost never comes when called. We have sent her through obedience training and she has shown only minor improvements. Will she grow out of this? It seems to me she acts very puppy-like.

-- Lou

Dear Lou,

You do have a youngster. Puppyhood usually lasts about two years. Your Papillon is full of piss, vinegar, antics and enough energy to light up a small city. She certainly will calm down eventually. Until then, you must train her and let her know what is appropriate and what is not.

Don’t expect by sending your dog off to training that the dog will return instantly well-trained. The best lessons come out of the bond between a dog and its keeper. You are the key to good behavior -- your demeanor, walking with your pup, and your lessons to sit, stay, lie down and on and on to a good dog life.

Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Her Web site is www.askdoglady.com. Contact her at askdoglady@gmail.com.

Hints From Heloise

Pet Insurance

Dear Readers: PET INSURANCE is a smart move to protect your furry friends and your pocketbook. Our go-to source, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, has some great information about pet insurance.

Some types of insurance cover "maintenance," or wellness care. This includes vaccinations and annual checkups. Accidents and illnesses are more of a financial burden, and also generally are covered by pet insurance.

So, how does pet insurance work? The insurance costs between $300 and $400 per year, which breaks down to $25 to $30 a month. At your visit to the veterinarian, you'll be asked to pay the bill in full, then submit a claim form with your receipts.

The pet-insurance plan then reimburses you for 80 percent of the total after you pay a once-a-year $100 deductible per pet. There is a $10.50 issuance fee, but it is waived if you pay the premium all at once. There also is, in most states, a 30-day waiting period after you purchase a policy before coverage goes into effect.

There are some circumstances that pet insurance may not cover. These include some elective procedures, pre-existing conditions and procedures that may not be medically proven or are experimental in nature, such as acupuncture and chiropractic treatments. If something keeps happening to the animal, like your pet continually insists on swallowing foreign objects, this may not be covered. Breeding and pregnancy care and genetic disorders such as birth defects usually aren't covered either.

Teeth cleanings usually are covered as maintenance, but treatment for gum disease may not be covered.

These are very general guidelines for pet insurance. Consider the benefits of insuring your pet and keeping it healthy. Ask your veterinarian for more information, or check out the ASPCA's Web site at www.aspcapetinsurance.com. -- Heloise

P.S.: Having just paid a lot of money to treat our Cabbie for pancreatitis, I wish we'd had health insurance for her!


Dear Readers: Cindy Geyer of Botkins, Ohio, sent a photo of her white whippet named Coolwhip dressed in a leopard-print sweater (with red trim!).

Cindy says: "I am a veterinary technician and always interested in unusual pet names. Coolwhip is a wonderful family dog." To see Coolwhip, visit www.Heloise.com. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I don't like cat litter for my two cats, and they don't like it either! So, I shredded scrap paper and old newspapers, and used that as cat litter.

Absolutely no smell and dust or cleanup for me. -- D. Smith, via e-mail

And here is another litter-box hint, from Sue in Montana. She says: "Spring planting is around the corner. When my two cats thought my garden was their private potty, I put a litter box outside for them. They prefer it to my garden, and it quickly solved the problem for me. I use a covered one to keep the clumping litter dry." -- Heloise

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Fair for ‘Cats with Feathers'

Christiana Roenne, a student at Grace Bible College, dreams of having a bird of her own. She and a friend checked out this blue and gold macaw Saturday at the Greater Omaha Cage Bird Society's spring fair at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs. NANCY GAARDER/THE WORLD-HERALD

The easiest way to explain pet birds to a nonbird person is to compare them to dogs and cats. Or fish.

“A dog can love a thousand people, a bird can love only one,” said Joe Setran of Omaha, who Sunday settled on his first bird, an African gray, while at the Greater Omaha Cage Bird Society's spring fair.

College student Christiana Roenne, who grew up with birds, spent Sunday afternoon at the fair at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs daydreaming of when she will have a bird in her family.

“They're not like a fish. You can see their personality,” Roenne said. “They're more like a cat.”

A passer-by at the fair agreed. “They're cats with feathers,” he chimed in.

Exotic pet birds, which come in many species, are intelligent, playful, relatively self-sufficient and loyal, Roenne said.

They can be taught tricks, just like a dog. And some develop enough of a vocabulary to “talk” to you.

“You can even cuddle with a bird,” she said.

Before purchasing his African gray parrot Sunday, Setran had shopped for several months. The young female won him over with her laid-back and affectionate manner.

This species of bird can live 65 years, so the two could grow old together or the bird could outlive the 23-year-old Setran.

“This is a lifetime commitment,” Setran said.

While each bird has its own personality, each species has its own general characteristics, said Ron Blades, the Wichita, Kan., breeder who sold Setran the African gray.

-- African grays bond more deeply and are a little smarter than other types.

-- Cockatoos are cuddly.

-- Macaws are talkers.

“Cuddly” is what Anne Bremer had in mind when she purchased a cockatoo Sunday from Fremont-based Nebraska Exotic Birds.

A chaplain at Uta Halee Girls Village and Cooper Village in Omaha, Bremer will use the snowy-white cockatoo as a therapy bird in her work with troubled youths.

“Some kids are afraid of big dogs,” she said. “This cockatoo is cute and cuddly.”

Contact the writer: 444-1102, nancy.gaarder@owh.com

Taming a Dog's Tendency to Destroy Toys
By Lisa Moore - McClatchy Newspapers

Mary is frustrated with her dog Digger and his tendency to destroy every toy she gave him

She has stopped giving him toys, and is also wondering whether there are any indestructible toys available for dogs.

Yes, Mary, there are some nearly indestructible toys for dogs on the market, but I'd suggest that you look at your situation in another light. Isn't the whole purpose of giving your dog a toy supposed to be to provide him with some fun? I submit that if Digger is destroying his toys, you are on target with what he likes, and he's having a great time with them!

Toys should play a huge role in the raising, training and bonding process with your dog. Aside from the dog's perspective of toy equals fun, they can provide oral activity for the mouthy adolescent, relieve boredom, be a reward for good deeds, provide activity and exercise, and make you more relevant.

Edible items, like rawhides, raw bones, pig ears, etc., are great choices for chewing and relieving boredom. Some of the hard rubber items with ports to stuff goodies inside are also good choices, especially for the power chewers. A simple tennis ball, soccer ball or a Chase It (a toy on the end of a line) can provide lots of activity. Virtually any item your dog likes should go into your toy chest. But it's how you offer these items that really makes the difference.

In my house with three dogs, I have more than 30 toys. Chewable items, plush squeaky toys that can easily be destroyed, toys that crinkle, toys that jingle, tug toys, retrievable toys, hard rubber toys, etc. I have every possible texture and material variation available. They are all my toys, but I generously let my dogs borrow them.

Like everything else, time with toys must be earned. The toys are not down at the dogs' level, where they can get to them anytime they please; I keep them up and out of sight. Time with toys can be earned by simply complying with a simple cue, like "Sit" or "Down," "Shake," "Rollover," etc.

If the dog chooses not to comply with my request, that's OK; I just don't offer the toy, and we try again later.

My dogs love to destroy plush squeaky toys, and I let them — under my supervision. When they have pulled all of the stuffing out, I collect the remains and either restuff the item and sew it up to be offered at another time, or toss it.

If I want to give my dogs some toy time while I'm reading, I offer them toys that will keep them settled rather than active, like a rawhide or rubber stuffed chewy. If I'm out exercising the dogs, I always have a small tug toy and a ball tucked away, to use as rewards for coming when called, or responding correctly to a variety of cues. Having these items with me increases my value from the dogs' perspective. Of course they will come when called; there's a chance they will get to play tug with me!

So keep a variety of toys on hand for Digger, Mary. Just control the play sessions a bit, and offer those plush toys as a reward for interacting with you, and tougher toys when he needs a good, long chewing project.

How My Dogs Trained Me
by Sue Day - Pet-Peeves.org

My profession is to train dogs and for the most part it’s a one way process. I train them to sit, drop or stay, for example. I train them to run a dog agility course and I can even train them out of unwanted behaviours such as biting or digging. I train my own dogs and get paid to train other people’s dogs.

And they do their part; they are obedient, trustworthy and calm. They are rewarded with treats, pats and play time and have for the most part accepted this system and are happy to go along with it.

I am a cool, calm, confident pack leader who is in control. I spend a lot of time with my dogs and I expect them to be well mannered, well behaved and relaxed for the most part. However, in certain circumstances I have noticed that the tables are turning.

Picture our house set on a hill and surrounded by paddocks. The shed is at the other end of the yard – about half an acre away. The clothes line is also on the other side of the yard. Our dogs have run of this area and are encouraged to play and exercise in it.

This is what I have observed. I make two cups of coffee and begin to deliver them to the shed. They are full to the brim with hot liquid. Or on another occasion, I pick up a heavy basket of wet washing begin to walk over to the clothes line. The basket of washing is heavy and awkward. As well, the ground is not flat because it has various holes and dips that can twist an ankle in seconds.

So while I am traversing this course why do I stop and try and kick a ball for the dogs? With both hands full, I try to balance on one foot while attempting to flick a ball into the air with my other foot. Why?

Because they drop it in front of me and I can’t help myself! I will try and launch the ball into the air while balancing on one foot with any thought of safety or common sense. And more infuriating is the fact that I do each time without a second thought. I know what I’m doing is dangerous and I look really silly, but I always fall for this trick.

Just like I have conditioned their behaviour to automatically respond to my commands or a click from the training clicker, they have conditioned me to kick the ball for them when it is impractical to do so.

Both species, humans and dogs, are ball obsessed. We just love them. Try and prise a tennis ball out of the mouth of my border collie and you’ll find he has a tight and moveable hold on this object. He will simply not let go. I can take bones and food away from him, but not a cheap furry ball. And most dogs are like this to some degree.

But we’re no better. We had to move the day of our Agility Training from Saturday afternoons to Sunday mornings. Why? Because it interfered with sports training for most families and they couldn’t come. Australian Rules football, Soccer, Rugby, Cricket and Netball – most children in Australia has played these games at one time or another. Try to find an old movie to watch on television on the weekend. Nope, you’ll find the tennis, football, baseball or cricket with grown adults chasing balls!

So is this the answer? Am I as ball obsessed as Little Digger or Rocky? Is it a similar situation to when I was in the school yard and someone ran up behind me, slapped my shoulder and cried, “You’re IT!!” Not many people could resist the temptation not to run after the other child, I certainly couldn’t.

It seems we are hard wired to play and dogs have caught on to this and use it to their advantage. And let’s face it. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you won’t be able to refuse the invitation to play, to kick the ball, to participate in a bit of sport with the dog.

But maybe there’s something more sinister going on. On reflection I have realised that they never drop the ball at my feet while I am returning to the house empty handed. Doesn’t this make you wonder? Is there a plot about to undo me?

I think I’m on to you sneaky doggies.

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