Gifts for Pet-Lovers

Clooney, an Irish Setter,
Captures Best in Show
at 2010 National Dog Show
Linda Cole -

Best in Show Winner, Clooney. (Steven Donahue / See Spot Run Photography)

In Thursday’s National Dog Show competition, a Boxer named Scarlett had impressive credentials, but it was Clooney, an Irish Setter, who won Best in Show.

Clooney and his handler, Peter Kubacz, summed up the day's events with an interview at the end of the dog show. When Kubacz was asked if Clooney knew he was the top dog, Clooney nodded yes with the enthusiasm of a true winner.

Clooney was one of more than 2,000 dogs representing 179 different breeds that took to the ring on Thanksgiving Day to compete in The National Dog Show presented by Purina. Hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, the show is one of the oldest benched conformation dog shows in the country and has been held annually since 1933. A conformation dog show shows off breeding stock and a benched show allows those attending to mingle with the dogs behind the scenes.

To pick the winning dog, the judge has to know the breed standard of each dog.

Six new dog breeds were among the breeds showcased in this year's National Dog Show. New breeds are recognized by the American Kennel Club when the breed has a good following spread across the country with a parent club to oversee them. The six new breeds introduced this year were the Boykin Spaniel in the sporting group, the Cane Corso and the Leonberger in the working group, the Bluetick Coonhound and Redbone Coonhound in the hound group and the Icelandic Sheepdog in the herding group.

This year's National Dog Show was a wide open field with no particular favorite. The breeds competing in the finals for the coveted title of Best in Show were:

* in the sporting group, Clooney, a 3-year-old male Irish Setter;

* in the working group, Scarlett, a 3-year-old female Boxer with 52 all-breed Best in Show victories under her collar;

* in the herding group, Beyonce, a 3-year-old female Australian Shepherd;

* in the hound group, Hickory, a 4-year-old female Scottish Deerhound;

* in the terrier group, Maddy, a 2-year-old female American Staffordshire Terrier with nine Best in Show wins to her credit;

* in the non-sporting group, a 6-year-old male Schipperke, Johnny Be Good, who was aptly named because, as a puppy, he wasn't good;

* and in the toy group, Joe, a 3-year-old male Affenpinscher.

Interesting facts and bits of trivia learned the National Dog Show:

* The Chinese Crest is a breed that, unlike other dog breeds, has sweat glands on its body.

* Responsible breeders do recognize that some dogs are smaller than their breed standard, but there is no such thing as a teacup dog and they will not breed any dog for a smaller size.

* A conformation dog show is meant to show off breeding stock and a dog is disqualified if they have been altered.

* Redbone Coonhounds can bark 125 times in one minute.

* The Doberman Pincher was named after the man who first bred them for man's protection. He apparently had good reason for wanting protection: His last name was Doberman and he was a tax collector.

* Most of the breeds from the terrier group evolved in Britain.

* Helen Keller brought the first Akitas to the United States in the 1930s.

* The Rottweiler was bred to be a drover dog for butchers. Once the railroads became popular and the butchers no longer needed the Rottweiler as a drover, the dog was used to protect the butcher's coin purse. They hung their purse around the dog's neck.

* The Boxer got its name from standing on back legs and boxing to get attention.

* The Schipperke has no tail.

The Dachshund & Pink the Pig
Thanks to Kathy in BHC, Az

This Dachshund is fostering this little guy for another mom who couldn't take care of him.

He had his eyes closed, but now they are open. He is just a little bigger than her other pups.

She loves this little guy as much as the other puppies and she is nursing him back to health.

He is the cleanest pig-uppy ever because she licks him all the time.

Famous Fat Cat Dies from Heart Disease
By Tom Ayres -

Celebrity cat Prince Chunk has reportedly died after being diagnosed with heart disease.

The pet rose to fame two years ago after being found wandering the streets by an animal shelter at the incredible weight of 44 pounds.

According to the AP, owner Vince Damiani has now confirmed that Prince Chunk died in his sleep on Sunday.

Chunk became a nationwide sensation in the US following his discovery, appearing on a number of popular shows including Live With Regis And Kelly and Good Morning America.

The story of Prince Chunk inspired his owner to set up the Prince Chunk Foundation, which aims to prevent owners leaving their animals on the streets when they become unable to care for them.

Belly Dancing Helping Homeless Cats
By Krystal Allan –

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Dancers at Gulf Coast Belly Dance aren't just dancing to the beat of the music. They're moving to the beat of their hearts.

The studio is organizing an effort to help homeless cats this holiday season.

"With the way the economy is, a lot of people are hurting, that means animals are hurting even more," says Alyssa Springs, Gulf Coast Belly Dance owner.

Springs, says it's an issue very close to her heart after taking in a stray cat.

"We took her in and fixed her up. A few months later we realized she had cancer, and we had to put her down. It really made me sad to think that she could have died outside without a family," says Springs.

Gulf Coast Belly Dance will show off its moves during a Holiday Halfa. Hafla is Arabic for party... a party where all the proceeds go toward the pets.

The dancers hope to help stray and feral cats that end up in places like the Humane Society of South Mississippi. The show will also benefit the Animal Protection and Education Association Incorporated or AEPA out of Vancleave. It's an outdoor shelter in dire need of help right now.

The Hafla is something Humane Society director Jode Braxton-Hignight sees as a unique way to give back.

"When community members' passions tie in with our mission and they're willing to help us raise money for what they love or enjoy doing, it is always appreciated," says Braxton-Hignight.

People can also bring items or pay a dollar for raffle ticket prizes. Some of the prizes include an overnight stay and dinner at the IP and spa certificates.

The Holiday Hafla is next Saturday, December 4th. It kicks off at 2 p.m. at the Mississippi Dance Clubs Ballroom in Gulfport.

Pet-Sitter Hiring Checklist

Heading out of town? Whether you're looking to book Buster a room at the nearest pet hotel or to find a sitter who makes house calls, follow these steps.

2 Months Before Your Vacation

Research boarding options or sitters. Sites such as can help you locate a kennel or pet hotel near you. Find sitters in your area at or through the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters ( .If you plan to board your pet, visit your top two or three choices. Tour the grounds and the sleeping accommodations. Ask: What will my pet’s day be like, hour by hour? How much interaction with other animals will my pet receive? Is there an extra charge for individual playtime? How many people will my pet interact with during the day? What will you do if he gets sick? Do you supply food and treats for my pet? Which local veterinarians refer clients to you?

One Month Before Your Vacation

If hiring a sitter, interview candidates. Ask whether he or she knows pet CPR (offered at many Red Cross branches), has commercial liability insurance (for accident and negligence coverage), and is bonded (to protect against theft). .Discuss a schedule and payment with sitter candidates. Overnight sitting rates generally range from $40 to $80 per night, while daily visits cost about $10 to $20 per visit. If the sitter will also water plants and take in mail, expect to pay extra. .If boarding, drop by the kennel unexpectedly with your pet. You want to make sure the kennel wasn’t putting on a show during your scheduled visit, and you want to see how your pet responds to the caregivers. Call references. Speak with at least two former clients of the sitter and ask about the family’s experience. Ask the kennel for names of a few clients to call. .Make a boarding reservation or hire the sitter. Although some kennels offer short notice—or even same-day—sign-ups, reserving now ensures your pet won’t get turned down. ..

One Week Before Your Vacation

Get a copy of your pet’s vaccination record. Visit your veterinarian and get a copy of documents showing your pet has had shots for rabies and bordetella, as well as a distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and parovirus (DHLPP) shot. .Double-check the arrangements. Confirm with either the kennel or the sitter. .With a sitter, arrange a home visit. Give the sitter a tour of your house. Point out where cleaning supplies are kept, and how to clean the litter box, if necessary. Show the sitter how to work your alarm system and where the circuit breaker is located, in case of emergency. Have a copy of your house key ready to hand over. ..

The Day You Leave for Vacation

Make an emergency list for the sitter or kennel. Write down your travel itinerary, phone numbers at which you can be reached, and your local veterinarian’s information. It’s also a good idea to leave the number of a neighbor or friend in case of emergency. Include details of your pet’s allergies or medication needs. .Create a detailed schedule for the sitter, if you hired one. Write down feeding instructions (how many times a day, how much food, where food is located), walking instructions (how many times a day and for how long), and grooming expectations. You might want to prepare your pet’s food portions to avoid any overeating. .Pet-proof your home, if necessary. Close doors to rooms you want to keep your pets out of while you’re away, and let the sitter know. .Display supplies for the sitter. Arrange leashes, toys, food, and grooming essentials in easy reach. .If you’re boarding your pet, drop off him or her at the kennel. And then hit the road. ...

Ask the Pet Expert:
Should You Be Giving Your Cat Tuna Fish?
by Scott Craven - The Arizona Republic

Question: My cat loves tuna. I give him 1 tablespoon portion a day, plus his dry cat food. Is this harmful due to the supposedly high content of mercury in tuna? He is healthy and has been on this diet for 2 years. Please advise.

Answer: When it comes to putting stuff in our mouths, we generally go by this rule: If it's not in a Hot Pocket, we don't eat it (which says a lot more about us than our diet). And as tuna Hot Pockets do not yet exist, we've never had to worry about that little mercury problem.

But animals tend to be more free-range when it comes to dining. If it's free and within range, they're eating it.

As far as your cat's tablespoon-a-day tuna habit, there is little to be concerned about, says Judy Karnia, a veterinarian at the Scottsdale Cat Clinic (scottsdalecat

She has seen no incidents of mercury poisoning in cats due to tuna (now if your cat were eating certain thermometers, odds of mercury poisoning go way up).

However, Karnia suggests feeding your cat a good-quality canned food rather than tuna. Cat-food scientists have toiled for years to make sure their products have all the essential vitamins and nutrients felines need for healthy, active lives. By feeding your cat tuna, you are spitting on decades of food science. Sort of.

How To Get Your Pet To Strike The Pose:
Tips For Photographing Your Pet
by Ian White -

If you have ever tried to take a picture of your dog, you will realize how hard it is to capture the pups full personality and beauty in a photograph. Dogs aren’t human, and they don’t understand what we are doing when we try to take their photo. They may think that the camera is a toy and charge at you, instead of striking a pose.

If you accept anytime approved to yield a account of your dog, you will apprehend how harder it is to abduction the pups abounding personality and adorableness in a photograph. Dogs aren’t human, and they don’t accept what we are accomplishing if we try to yield their photo. They may anticipate that the camera is a toy and allegation at you, instead of arresting a pose. If you chase these tips, and yield your cues from your pet, you can be assured of abundant photos of your pet.Pets arise in all colors.

If your dog is dark, you will charge to accomplish abiding that he doesn’t get absent in your photo due to a aphotic background. Aphotic animals photograph best with ablaze atramentous or aloof backgrounds. You can use white, grey, or buttery biscuit backdrops. You should never yield a photo of a Atramentous Lab, or a German Shepherd, adjoin a aphotic background. It conceals the accurate blush of your dog, and the aphotic accomplishments can aswell burrow the accurate size, actualization and accommodation of your pet.

The aforementioned rules administer with pets that accept ablaze coats. If you accept an apricot or white puppy, you would not abode her in foreground of a white bank for a picture. Photographs of animals charge to abduction the blush, pet, and arrangement of their coats. If you accept a white toy poodle, you would wish to abode her on, or in foreground of, a black, dejected or amber backdrop. This will assure that the poodle’s adaptable white curls are the focus of the picture. It is important that you accept a accomplishments that adulation your dog, and doesn’t adumbrate its beauty.

The hardest affair to do is to get your pet to sit still for a photo. The best time to align a photo affair with your pet is if they are tired, or sleepy. One ambush is to lay the actual blush of area or absolute over your couch or chair. Acquiesce your pet to lie there afterwards he has had a acceptable bisected hour of active play. Once your dog appears to alpha comatose off, get its absorption by a low whistle, a cheep from a squeaky toy, or the afterimage of a treat. The beastly will advantage up anon and arise to be advanced awake.

It is important that you are accessible to breeze the shots immediately. For a beyond dog you can array its bed with the actual blush of area or blanket. It is aswell best to yield your pet’s account if they are able-bodied fed. That way they are not absent by absent aliment while they are modelling for you. The treats you authority up will be added a concern account to them, instead of a hopeful dinner.In able beastly pictures, usually the abounding physique of the beastly is shown. This allows the eyewitness to get a accepted abstraction of the admeasurement and accommodation of the animal.

It aswell will acquiesce the eyewitness to get an abstraction of the animal’s accepted bloom and appearance. You wouldn’t wish to accept just a arch attempt of your pet if it had different colorings that fabricated it cute. Some animals arise to be cutting little white socks on their paws, or the ends of their cape may arise to accept been biconcave in a acrylic bucket. Be abiding that your account captures all of the different things about your absolute dog. However, if your dog just has an alluring face, you can yield arch shots.

Some pets will arise to smile if they are actual happy. Nothing says “love me” like an innocent puppy face. You charge to be acquainted of the background. Even if the blush is right, if it’s chaotic it will be confusing and yield abroad from the pet. It is aswell important to accomplish abiding that your pet is in the centermost of the shot, and that it is not circumscribed off just afore the tip of the ears, or tail.When you are demography photos of your pets, it is important that you are at atomic at the animals eye level, or below.

This gives the account the faculty of accepting from the dog’s viewpoint. You can accomplish this by adorning your dog to a college position, like the staircase, or furniture. Or, you can lie on your abdomen to accomplish the aforementioned results. You charge to zoom in as abutting as possible, while still capturing the absolute physique of your dog. You can adapt out any red eye, later.It is best to use a agenda camera if you are photographing animals. With agenda cameras you are not out any added money for the photos that didn’t yield because Spot looked away.

With a agenda camera you are chargeless to yield as abounding pictures of your beastly as you like, so breeze away. You can accept the best ones later, and annul the rest. You accept added abandon with a agenda camera. You are not accountable to just a set amount of pictures, and you do not accept to sit and admiration if they formed while they are accepting developed.If you plan to yield pictures of your pet outside, it is best to do this aboriginal in the morning, or backward in the evening.

The accustomed lighting is bigger for photographs during these periods of the day. You still charge to accumulate in apperception the blush choices of your background. You can yield a account of your atramentous puppy sitting on a white patio, or in foreground of your home if you accept ablaze atramentous siding, or brick. You can yield a account of your white dog in a annual bed that has atramentous mulch, or sitting in foreground of a aphotic brick wall. A lot of animals can obey the command of sitting.

Some animals will even sit if they accept a bridle on, even if it is not accepting held. Outdoor, accustomed lighting works the best if you wish to appearance the arrangement of your animal’s coat.The announcement of your dog is one of the a lot of important things you charge to accumulate in apperception if you are photographing your animal. If your beastly is ill, or accepting a bad day, you may wish to reschedule your photo affair to a after time. A wet and clammy searching adenoids is a accept to in all pet photos.

If your pet is activity unwell, they apparently aren’t up for their photo accepting taken. If your brand of pet should accept active ears, and they are laying down because the pet is not as animated as usual, you should adjourn your account taking, as well. You should never yield a account of your pet if they accept aqueous eyes due to an infection. Wait until your pet is adapted and activity added like their cheery, upbeat self.You can yield activity shots of your pet. Does your pet like to bolt frisbee’s or assemblage sheep?

To abduction your pet in activity you accept to apprentice what photographer’s appellation “panning.” The key to animadversion is to chase forth with your pet as they are moving. You charge to bang abroad capturing them throughout their activity. You can accept a blur that is fabricated for activity shots to get acceptable results.You apperceive your pet and what excites them. Does your pet like to angle on two anxiety and beg for a assertive toy, or treat? If so, again get anyone to abetment you during this photo.

They can collaborate with the dog while you breeze the pictures. These shots are abundant means of assuming the personality of your dog. Does your dog like to angle its arch if it hears a assertive noise? Again be accessible to abduction their photo while your abettor provides the noise. Does your dog like to adumbrate in the shrubs, or get antic with a ball? You can aswell abduction these types of photos if you are acquainted in and accessible with your camera.Photographs are a abundant way of attention the adorableness and personality of an animal.

Just accumulate in apperception accomplishments color, and try to photograph your pet for still shots if they are able-bodied fed and somewhat sleepy. If you photograph outside, try to align your photo time in the morning or backward atramentous hours, and don’t yield their pictures anon adverse the sun. Accomplish abiding your pet is activity physically able-bodied so that their personality can be captured, and if you use a agenda camera you will not accept to anguish about crumbling film. If you yield activity shots, convenance the animadversion technique.

If your pet performs tricks, admit the aid of a abettor and photograph your beastly performing. Photographs will be about forever, and if you do them accurately they can acknowledge a lot about your pet. Yield your cues from your beastly and you will accept admirable photographs every time.

Author Ian White is architect of specializes in allowance pet sitters and pet owners affix to anniversary other. Your pet will absence you, but their ambiance charcoal intact.

Giving Pets as Gifts:
Tips on Doing the Right Thing

Think twice before giving someone a pet for the holidays, says Los Angeles dog trainer and behaviorist Jonathan Klein. He's a praise/reward-based trainer who runs the dog school I said Sit! Most of us in the Paw Print Post community know to be careful before giving anyone a pet, but sometimes we can get carried away during the holidays. Here's Klein's advice:

1) Make sure the person wants a pet: A pet should never be given as an "unexpected" gift. Also, consider a different time of year: People are generally far too busy to properly introduce a new pet into their home while trying to keep up with all the demands of the season.

2) A pet should not be an impulse purchase: Do not buy a pet from a shopping mall pet store. They may look adorable and in need of a home, but unfortunately, these pets are usually stressed, immune suppressed and often come from puppy mills with questionable breeding practices. Find a responsible breeder, shelter or a rescue group.

3) Consider fostering or getting pets other than dogs and cats: Animal rescues are always looking for responsible people to provide foster pet homes on a short-term or long-term basis until they can find them a "forever home." There are also lots of choices other than dogs and cats, especially if the pet is for a child. Fish, turtles, mice and guinea pigs are all excellent, easy and economical choices that kids can enjoy and love without creating much of an impact to your daily routine.

4) Prepare your home: Lock away all household chemicals, keep any potentially poisonous houseplants or breakables out of reach, tie back any electrical cords and keep doors closed. Many holiday decorations like tinsel, mistletoe, wrapping paper and table decorations can be problematic, while certain foods, including chocolate and raisins can be lethal to your pet. Establish an area in the house where your pet can peacefully relax and sleep.

5) You need more than just food and bowls: Stock up at the pet store before your new addition arrives. Choose a vet, and also locate the nearest emergency veterinary hospital that is open 24/7. All new puppies and kittens need a series of vaccinations. Make sure you get any records containing your pet's history -- this will help a veterinarian determine exactly which vaccinations are needed.

Pet-Lover Outrage Halts
Pet Exhumations in Montana
The Washington Post

HELENA, Mont. -- Officials responsible for a Montana pet cemetery are backing off a proposal to exhume and cremate its occupants after some of the pet owners threatened to chain themselves to the front gates.

The 1.3-acre Arley Burt Pet Cemetery in Helena is the final resting place for some 1,200 dogs, cats, rabbits and hamsters buried between 1972 and 1993.

Gina Wiest of the Lewis and Clark Humane Society says the organization considered exhuming the pets in the cemetery adjacent to its shelter because of a new hotel going up nearby.

But the hotel owner tells the Independent Record that she's OK with the land's current use. And the Helena city attorney says the Humane Society leases the land from the city, and the town has no plans to disturb the grounds.

The American Christmas Tree Association
Thinks Pets Should Have a Safe
and Merry Christmas, Too

Although beautiful and cheerful in the home, a decorated Christmas tree is a potential hazard for domestic pets both big and small, according to the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA). Items such as sparkly tinsel, dangly garlands, sharp glass ornaments and artificial snow, while lovely to admire, can be dangerous gateways for pet accidents. "Make sure to place larger and less 'tempting' ornaments near your tree base, while the smaller, more fragile items are a safe bet at the top," said Jami Warner, ACTA Executive Director. If ingested, christmas ornaments and holiday decorations can choke cats or dogs, causing air flow blockage and suffocation. It's important to pay special attention to the smallest of pets when around hanging and delicate tree decor.

Lights also pose a threat as well, as they can attract the eye of a curious cat or daring dog, leaving pets with a bad burn. To ensure light safety with animals present, make sure to unplug twinkling lights when not in use in conjunction with the use of pet proof electrical cords. Animals can be injured by cords from chewing, so practice turning lights off and using appropriate wiring to avoid burned mouths and electric shock.

For maximum safety, always make sure pets are not chewing on branches or eating any fallen needles or leaves.

Other safety precautions for keeping pets safe around Christmas trees and Christmas ornaments are simple and effective. Covering the Christmas tree base with a tree skirt, avoiding food based decorations and ensuring the tree is on a stable stand are all excellent measures to take when pets are running about the home. Always make sure pets are supervised when in the same room as the Christmas tree, to ensure that everyone, including the family pets, have a safe and wonderful holiday.

Pet Owners Who are Struggling Financially
Face Difficult Decisions
Clayton A. Culp - Knoxville News Sentinel

Carol Tuft, veterinary assistant at University of Tennessee’s Veterinary Medical Center, applies a thermal treatment to Tanker, a Dalmatian that suffered a neck injury. Photo by Clayton A. Culp

People aren't the only ones affected by the slumping economy. Pets are suffering, too.

People going through a financial hardship, like the loss of a job, may feel a range of emotions - anger, sadness or even shame. But many pet owners, especially those with sick pets, are burdened with an additional choice: make big financial sacrifices or lose their beloved pet.

Elizabeth Strand, director of veterinary social work services at the University of Tennessee's Veterinary Medical Center, operates a help line for people who need counsel about their pets and says she's been getting more calls from people who can't afford their pets.

"We get calls from people who don't identify their name, and they say things like 'I just lost my job; my husband just lost his job,' " says Strand, who earned her Ph.D. from UT. " 'The kids are completely attached to the dog, and the dog has been hit by a car, and there's no possible way that we can pay for this treatment, and you're a social work service, what can you do for me?' "

Unlike in human medicine, there are very few subsidized pet-care options, and that leaves pet owners especially vulnerable, Strand says.

"I think people are really at risk when they have to not provide for that animal because of financial constraints," says Strand. "They're at risk for feeling doubly wounded."

The unconditional love of a pet provides a sense of self-esteem in difficult times, and the inability to return that love in the form of medical care is a profound blow for pet owners, Strand says.

"It also makes sense why people would go to extraordinary amounts to maintain that relationship because it's one of the relationships where they feel 100 (percent) accepted," she says.

While Strand says she does love animals, she says her client is always the person, not the pet. To help her clients, Strand refers eligible people to organizations committed to helping humans struggling to make ends meet, like the Community Action Committee in Knoxville.

At Young-Williams Animal Shelter, where the pets are the primary concern, executive director Tim Adams says animal surrenders have begun to level off but are still "up a little bit" after peaking last year. Specific numbers were not available.

"Most common is that they can't afford the animal right now and that could be anything from vet care to food, just a variety of things, vaccinations, that kind of stuff," Adams says.

"We hear a lot from people who are moving or lost their homes or moving into apartment homes and can't keep their pets because they're not allowed. That type of thing we do hear more frequently than we did in the past."

Doing what it takes

More than 42 million U.S. households owned a dog in 2007, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. More than 32 million owned a cat. Many of those households are doing whatever it takes to keep their pets.

Carrie Reed, a graduate student in school counseling at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., says she has spent an estimated $2,000 in medical costs in the first year of her dog's life, a black lab, golden retriever mix she calls Joe Frazier.

At six months, he was undersized at just 20 pounds. After many failed diagnoses, vets finally detected megaesophagus, a birth defect that created a large pouch in the dog's esophagus. The condition makes it hard for the dog to keep anything down.

Young-Williams Animal Center employees say owner surrenders have been up slightly. Photo by Clayton A. Culp

In order to feed him, Reed and her boyfriend, A.J. Dugger, sit Frazier upright in a stroller, giving him a little food at a time. The entire procedure takes as long as an hour and 15 minutes.

"We've made sacrifices because both the money and the time constraints," Reed says of her and her boyfriend, who is a journalist. "We've given up trips that we wanted to take because we spent the money on him instead of being able to spend it on the trip."

Giving up on their pet wasn't an option, despite knowing he'll live a normal lifespan that includes visits to the vet at least every month ($30-$40) and frequent pneumonia treatments ($150 each).

"Our vet told us that having him put to sleep was an option, but it wasn't one that we were going to make because other than having megaesophagus and having to take the time to feed him that way, he's a perfectly normal, happy, healthy puppy," Reed says.

"He is very much a part of our family. I consider him my child right now because I don't have children of my own."

Their story is representative of the sentiment many pet owners feel toward their animals.

Through her work at UT, Strand says she's seen clients with high levels of disposable income spend as much as $18,000 on a pet. She says a second category of people, with less money, may spend as much as $6,000 and use Care Credit, a payment plan system.

Still, a third group of people can't pay.

"Then there are clients that come in and they're deeply saddened, I mean horribly saddened, and they make a decision to let an animal go," Strand says. "The guilt is horrible."

Love your pet, love yourself

Four times a year, the Pet Loss Support Group meets at UT Veterinary Medical Center, part of a free system to help people through their loss.

Strand counsels pet owners from a multi-purpose "family room" at the medical center. There she serves as a sounding board for distressed owners.

For example, Strand says, "If somebody says to me, 'I just can't bear to be without Barney, I would rather eat cat food then have Barney not get his care that he needs,'what I say is, 'OK, so what you're saying is you're willing to eat cat food so that you can pay for Barney's care?' "

"A lot of times when people hear that, they're like 'Oh, am I really willing to eat cat food?' "

Ultimately though, as a social worker, Strand says she must recognize the self-determination of the owner.

The job oath of the vet is to protect animal life and reduce animal suffering, but Strand notes that vets are extremely compassionate and people often wind up in her office because a vet is concerned about their well-being.

Strand has a clear message for pet owners. Love your pet, but love yourself, too.

"Your pet loves you unconditionally," Strand says. "What you owe to that pet is to learn how to love yourself unconditionally. And so if you cannot care for the medical needs of your animal then you have to deal with your life as it is.

"If you do deal with your life as it is and you respond to yourself by being harmful to yourself, by being guilty, by talking trash about yourself, then you're not honoring what your animal has given to you because your animal has loved you unconditionally and you should do the same."

There are a few things owners in a financial bind can do to help their pets.

Strand recommends the Brown Dog Foundation, a nonprofit charity that offers temporary financial support as an alternative to euthanasia.

The American Animal Hospital Association also has a Helping Pets fund. Veterinarians can apply for grants to help pets that meet eligibility requirements.

In addition, Tennessee's Social Work Help Line operates 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and can be reached at 865-755-8839.

Clayton A. Culp is a freelance contributor to the News Sentinel.

Five Fantastic Gift Ideas For Pet Lovers

With the holidays simply around the corner, it is time to start thinking of gifts to give your friends and loved ones. Finding unique gifts can indicate a challenge, and the majority of people never think about giving pet-related presents. Since the chances are good that a lot more than one person on your holiday gift list includes a pet that he or she adores, why don’t you give a distinctive gift that your recipient will cherish? Listed here are five fantastic gift ideas to get you started:

1. Fine Art Animal Prints

Dogs may come in many shapes and sizes, but each has a personality all its own. One of the most delightful presents you can give to a pet lover is a fine art print of his or her breed. One of the most notable artists offering fine art animal prints is Lorena Pugh. Her print, “Princess,” for example, depicts a white toy poodle laying atop a stack of 12 colorful pillows, whereas “Angel Face” displays a beautiful pug who has just snagged a cluster of grapes off of a dining room table. In “Chocolate Craving,” she realistically captures the yearning of a chocolate lab as he reaches for a tennis ball against a stunning background of blue sky. These limited edition animal prints are sure to be treasured, as each includes a consecutively numbered dog tag to match the tag in the print.

2. Crystal Animal Statues

Regardless of whether your gift recipient has a dog, cat, horse, or rabbit, she or he is certain to delight in an elegant crystal animal statue. Usually made from 24 percent lead crystal, hand-finished animal statues are beautiful yet whimsical. Crystal animal statues can depict a wide variety of pets, from a sitting cat to a dog with a bone; from a turtle to a frog; from a horse to a mouse; and from a duck to a dove.

3. Stone Animal Statues

Who wouldn’t enjoy a playful stone animal statue showing their beloved pet? Animal garden statues are excellent presents, much like stone animal statues for the home and office. While a few statues – like a sleeping spaniel puppy or an eager dachshund – make you feel warm inside, others – like a cat holding a pair of binoculars up to his eyes, ever watchful for a bird – make you have a good laugh. Stone animal statues are available for virtually any kind of pet, and are sure to be cherished.

4. Animal Posters

If you have ever owned a pet, you know how funny they can be. Animal posters depict pets in a variety of extravagant situations (remember the cat in “Hang in There”?), and are eminently affordable. An animal poster is sure to bring a smile to your recipient’s face.

5. Entertainment

When it comes to gifts for pet lovers, there’s nothing more unique that pet-related entertainment. There is actually a music company that creates music for animals, so consider giving a gift of music about and for cats, dogs, or birds. One more great gift idea is to buy a DVD or video that’s created to amuse your recipient’s dog or cat. Your friend or loved one can play the DVD or video while he or she is at work or out running errands – guilt free!

It’s both original and thoughtful to give a present that acknowledges your recipient’s pet as a fundamental part of his or her life. Pet lovers will value and treasure your gift, regardless of whether it’s a fine art animal print or an entertaining DVD.

Oxford Says Dogs Are Smarter Than Cats
Ben Muessig -

AOL News -- Who would have thought that years of growling and sniffing rear ends would make you smarter?

Researchers say that over many generations, dogs' brains have grown at a faster rate than cats' brains because canines are more social than felines.

Oxford University scientists tracked the evolution of the size of animal brains over millions of years and determined that social species, like monkeys, dolphins and dogs, developed larger brains relative to the size of their bodies than more solitary animals, like deer and cats, The Telegraph reports.

The findings buck earlier theories that brain size developed uniformly among species.

A bulldog and a cat are face to face in a standoff. Getty Images

"This study overturns the long-held belief that brain size has increased across all mammals," Dr. Susanne Shultz, who led the research, told the paper. "Instead, groups of highly social species have undergone much more rapid increases than more solitary species."

Having descended from pack animals like wolves, dogs needed to develop larger brains to handle the challenges of constant social interaction, according to the researchers.

"Dogs have always been regarded as the more social animals, while cats like to get on with their own thing alone. But it appears that interaction is good for the brain and extends to other species, like ourselves," Shultz said. "We are even more social than monkeys and apes, and it is this ability to get on with each other that has helped us dominate the planet."

But cat lovers shouldn't get hissing mad about the study -- a pet writer at the same publication that broke the story says the truth about cats and dogs is that each is smart in its own way.

Instead, he argues, "perhaps the folk who issue press releases on behalf of researchers are the ones who are lacking in intelligence."

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