Does Your Pet Have 'Special Skills'?

Scottish Deerhound Top Dog at Westminster Show

Hickory, winner of the 2011 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.(CBSNews)

On Tuesday night, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show narrowed down the field of 2,500 competitors to just one.

Hickory, a 5-year-old Scottish deerhound, was named "Best in Show."

Hickory and her handler, Angela Lloyd, appeared on On the "Early Show" Wednesday with David Frei, who has been host of the Westminster show for more than 20 years.

Lloyd said the honor was the biggest in her handling career.

Was she nervous on the night of the competition?

"Amazingly not," Lloyd said.

She said Hickory was confident from the beginning of the show.

Lloyd said, "She went in the ring last night. That was the best she had ever shown for me in the whole two-and-a-half years that I've shown her, and she owned it."

"Early Show" co-anchor Jeff Glor noted, "She's so composed. We've been hanging out with her a little bit this morning behind the scenes here and she hasn't made a peep, she's so well behaved. Especially with everything she's been through here."

But that's not the end of the fun for Hickory.

Frei said her media tour will continue throughout New York City Wednesday.

He explained, "She goes from here to a couple of other stops. Eventually we get to the observation deck at the Empire State Building, where all the great champions go. From there, to Sardi's (restaurant), where they serve her sliced steak on a silver platter. And eventually, we're going to end up at the Ronald McDonald house and visit some pediatric oncology patients."

He added, "She's the world's newest single-name celebrity."

As for Hickory's win, Frei said she stood out because she had all the winning traits.

"Any time you come down to the final lineup, you've got seven great dogs, so to win it, and she did this, you have to own the ground you stand over. Whether you call it charisma or personality or showmanship, she had it all."

Frei said he had his eye on Hickory in competitions for years.

"Well, I raised Afghan hounds, so I have a good eye for sight hounds, as she is," he said. "I knew she was a great dog when I saw her a couple of years ago when she was first starting out. Under Angela's wonderful hand, she's done great things. Won 14 best in shows, now 15. Ready to retire."

Co-anchor Chris Wragge remarked, "Big dog. (Hickory's) like a pony."

Glor noted the dog weighs 85 pounds. He added, "You know what I like about Hickory. She's a country girl."

Lloyd said, "She is a country girl. She likes to go home and run on the farm."

"Pretty soon she'll be able to," Hill said. "But first the world tour. Congrats."

Dog Show Is 'Must See TV' For Redding Canine

REDDING, Calif. -- The Westminster Dog Show has a new top dog. The Giant Scottish Deerhound, named Hickory, won best in show during Tuesday night's competition.

If dogs count as viewers, they might boost the television ratings. Buster, a Boxer from Redding, was glued in front of the television last night. As soon as his owner, KRCR-TV news anchor Mike Mangas turned on the show, Buster couldn't take his eyes away from all the action on the screen.

He sat in rapt attention, checking out the different breeds.

One of his favorites was the very first dog shown, a Brittany named Tucker, who is also from Redding.

Tucker didn’t win the show, but Buster seemed to enjoy the program anyway.

The Cat Burglar Who's Actually a Cat

A klepto kitty named Dusty has stolen hundreds of items from his California neighbors over the last three years

Dusty, or "Klepto" as he is known in the neighborhood, has stolen about 600 items from nearby homes.

The video: A devious house cat in San Mateo, Calif., has committed a string of the cutest robberies imaginable. Dusty, a 6-year-old mixed breed feline, has pilfered about 600 items from neighbors' yards over the past three years, including towels, underwear, shoes (retrieved one at a time), and children's toys. In a local news report, Dusty's owners say that he typically goes on the prowl at night and returns in the morning with a pinched memento or two — in one memorable run, he stole 11 different items. His most common target: bathing suits drying outside.

The reaction: Dusty's burglaries "may seem benign," says The Huffington Post. But what if other neighborhood cats get the same idea? "You would have to call those cats something clever, something like 'cat mimics,' or 'cat copiers' or 'cats committing crimes similar to other cats'...we'll think of something."

Alex Balk at The Awl says that viewers of this news report should "be forewarned that this segment ends with the line, "It's a purr-fect night for a heist." Excepting that, "it is two minutes of pure American local news delight." Click here to watch an exposé on the (literal) cat burglar.

Driver's Dog Turns into Stool Pigeon

MORO, Ore. — An Oregon sheriff's deputy didn't need a drug dog to point out a stash during a recent traffic stop. The driver's dog did it for him.

Sherman County sheriff's Sgt. John Terrel was pulling over a pickup truck Feb. 9 when he saw a sock fly out the window. It turned out to be stuffed with marijuana and hashish.

The driver told Terrel he was trying to hide the sock, but his pit bull mix grabbed it and wouldn't let go, enjoying a tug-of-war game.

Pet Detective Quits Search
By Damian Inwood, The Province

Heartbroken Burnaby couple pay sleuth $1,000 to find Luna

Robin and Lisa Hoare of Burnaby were so heartbroken when their tabby cat Luna went missing they paid Washington State pet detective Harry Oakes more than $1,000 to try to find her.

Oakes and Willow, his border collie tracking dog, followed Luna's scent more than 10 kilometres to New Westminster before giving up last week.

"We got our two cats, Luna and Bear, around the time we got engaged in January 2010," said Hoare Wednesday. "We figure they were born, we always say, on the day I proposed to my wife. They're sister and brother and were found in a Dumpster."

The indoor cats got out on the evening of Feb. 4 from the couple's Berkley Street home, a block from Canada Way and Imperial Street, but only Bear returned.

The couple searched the neighbourhood, put up posters and contacted animal shelters.

Oakes, who runs International K-9 Search and Rescue Services in Longview, Wash., brought Willow up last Thursday and immediately found Luna's trail, which led through a nearby school, up Canada Way to New Westminster Quay and along the railway tracks, said Hoare.

He said the search was called off when it got too expensive.

"Our best guess is that it was a transient who picked her up and put her in his cart," added Hoare.

"For the first week, Bear is not eating much at all, just wandering around the house crying a lot. He'll sniff around the spot where Luna used to sleep, cry a bit and fall asleep right there."

Oakes said that whoever took the cat knew the city and took short cuts around schools and across railway tracks.

Anyone with information on Luna's whereabouts should call 778-996-2959

S.F. Dog Walkers
 Could be Required to Get Permits
Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer

Angela Gardner, from All About Paws, gives treats to her afternoon group of six dogs at Crissy Field. Federal authorities are looking to expand restrictions on dogs on Golden Gate National Recreation Area lands.

Professional dog walkers in San Francisco may soon need a permit to take their four-legged clients to city parks.

The suggestion, unleashed Tuesday by Supervisor Scott Wiener, comes as federal authorities are looking to significantly expand restrictions on dogs on Golden Gate National Recreation Area property, which city officials fear could dramatically increase the number of pooches visiting San Francisco's public parks.

"You're going to see increased tension, increased maintenance requirements and increased needs for enforcement," said Wiener, who after just 1 1/2 months on the job is stepping into one of San Francisco's most politically charged issues - dogs. At this stage, Wiener is gathering information to include in possible legislation.

He is not the first supervisor to look into the feasibility of requiring permits for professional dog walkers. Supervisor Amos Brown, irked about the proliferation of dog poop in parks that he said was left by inattentive caretakers, proposed the idea in 1999, but it went nowhere. The city's Animal Control and Welfare Commission later took up the cause, but it, too, was shelved.

Backing of dog people
This time, however, Wiener has the backing of some of the most vocal dog advocates, who realize that if their right to run Rover untethered on federal parkland is banned outright in more areas or further curtailed in others, the battle over dogs will move to city parks, which have been the center of impassioned clashes over canines in the past.

"The GGNRA has been an important safety valve for our city parks," said Sally Stephens, chairwoman of San Francisco Dog Owners Group. If that safety valve is narrowed, she said, "it's going to exacerbate an already difficult situation with people vying for the same limited space."

Regulating commercial dog walkers, she said, would help better assure that they are good stewards of the parks, keep the dogs under control and pick up after them.

Angela Gardner, a representative of the San Francisco Professional Dog Walkers Association, also supports the concept of permits. The reputable ones, she said, already have a city business license, carry insurance and make sure their charges are well-behaved and their waste is disposed of properly.

Barbara Werger puts herself in that category. On Tuesday, she was with eight dogs - big and small - at the city's enclosed dog run area at Walter Haas Park in Diamond Heights.

"Everybody's looking to cooperate and pitch in," she said. "Dogs are not going to go away."

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, which offers off-leash areas in 27 parks, already is considering enacting a permit program for professional dog walkers, in part to bring in extra revenue, said agency spokesman Elton Pon. The park code, he noted, requires permitting for commercial activity.

Matthew Torres, a professional dog walker who was with two dogs in Duboce Park Tuesday afternoon, said getting a permit would be just fine by him - but there's a catch.

"If the city wants us to play by the rules, then they should use the money to improve the dog areas," he said.

Permitting details still need to be worked out, including the cost and whether restrictions would be placed on the number of dogs allowed on each outing. Enforcement could be challenging because park staff is already stretched thin.

"If they're too strict, there are a lot of dog walkers who are going to go out of business," said Gardner. She estimated that there about 300 professional dog walkers in San Francisco. City officials have put the number of dogs living in town at about 100,000 - or about one for every eight human residents.

Wiener said he has yet to craft specific parameters and worries that if GGNRA implements its preferred alternative - a plan he opposes - there would be an even greater impact on city parks.

Limits at GGNRA
The GGNRA, in its preferred alternative plan released last month, recommends permits for anyone - not just professionals - who bring more than three dogs to its lands. In addition, each person would be limited to six dogs at a time. A price has yet to be attached to the proposed permits, said Howard Levitt, spokesman for the GGNRA.

The proposed dog management plan outlines rules for dog walking in 21 areas of the 75,000-acre national park that stretches across coastal areas in San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin counties. The area includes such popular dog-walking destinations as Forth Funston, Crissy Field and Ocean Beach. The GGNRA is still taking public comments on the proposal. The new rules, if adopted, wouldn't go into effect until next year.

Mike Tyson Started Fighting
 To Protect His Pet Birds

Boxing champ Mike Tyson has revealed his first fight was over a pet bird.

The fearsome sportsman and avid pigeon fancier will go public with his love for bird racing in new reality show Taking on Tyson, which premieres in America next month - and he insists he's always been a fan of his feathered friends.

And it was defending his passion as a child that first made him realize he was a fighter.

The Hangover star says, "I was nine or 10 years old, and I have 200 birds (sic). I showed the birds to people who I thought were my friends, and they got a bunch of guys to come and snatch my birds. One guy said, 'You want it?' There was blood on my face, and I tried to fight him. I was scared to death.

"I didn't really beat him up, but I hit him more than he hit me so I thought I won... That was the beginning of my fighting life."

California Gets a New First Dog:
 Pembroke Welsh Corgi Named Sutter
Joins Jerry Brown's Family

California has a new first dog in Sutter, a 7-year-old Pembroke Welsh corgi recently adopted by Gov. Jerry Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown.

The Times' California state politics blog PolitiCal reported in early January that the corgi was being considered for a top spot in the governor's administration. The Browns' previous pet, a dog named Dharma, passed away in 2010.

Sutter had belonged to Gov. Brown's sister Kathleen, a Goldman Sachs executive and former state treasurer who recently moved to Chicago. The governor and first lady had been caring for Sutter since Kathleen Brown's departure.

"He finds all the extra food lying on the floor in the office," Gust Brown told the Sacramento Bee of Sutter's job duties. "He barks at anyone, he gives snuggles, he warms up the Republicans." Beyond Republican-warming, his hobbies include herding and accompanying the Browns on jogs.

The Humane Society of the United States was quick to praise the Browns' decision to adopt Sutter; Wayne Pacelle, the group's president and chief executive, wrote on his blog that "we're excited whenever the cause of companion animal adoption gets a boost."

"At the moment, Sacramento's leaders are making tough decisions about the state's budget, and Sutter's presence in the building is a welcome morale boost for everyone," said Jennifer Fearing, the Humane Society's California state director and the author of a book about dogs in the workplace.

Pembroke Welsh corgis and their cousins, Cardigan Welsh corgis, are small, sturdy herding dogs that specialized in keeping cattle in line in their native Wales. Queen Elizabeth II has a well-publicized love of the Pembroke and bred the dogs for many years; she has reportedly owned about 30 corgis and corgi mixes since she was given her first Pembroke, a female named Susan, as a gift for her 18th birthday.

Kevin Harvick Dishes on Dogs,
 a Roast and a Diamond Ring
By Harold Hinson -

Editor's note: NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick documented the weeks leading up to the Daytona 500 in an exclusive diary for USA TODAY. This is the final entry:

Nobody asked me if I wanted to get roasted Tuesday in Daytona Beach, but I got the last laugh, so that's all that matters. I had a great time at the event, which Speed is showing Saturday at 9 p.m. My wife, DeLana; Tony Stewart; Elliott Sadler; Ron Hornaday Jr., and a trio of comedians took turns giving me a hard time. I held the trump card as the last on stage.

This was a fun event to kick off the season and fun for fans to watch on TV. A lot of people don't get to see this side of us and the goofy things we do.

It's been a busy week for us. One of our three dogs, Endy, had surgery to relieve a bulging disk. He's one of our two German shepherds; the other is named Bebe. We also have a Chihuahua named Lo (short for Little One).

Lo is the only one who travels with us. Endy's gotten too old at 12. We got him in 2001 because of everything that happened after Dale Earnhardt died. We had people figuring out where we lived, wandering through our driveway and knocking on the door. So instead of buying a gun, we bought Endy. He was fully trained in obedience and protection. DeLana felt a lot better about staying home because there were a lot of weird things happening.

But he's gotten old, and he can't get up and down in the motor home anymore, so he stays home. The other dog, Bebe, is just hyperactive. She'd be all over the place all the time.

Richard Childress and Dale had protection dogs, too, so we got them from the same breeder in Charlotte. DeLana had shepherds before, but I always had mutts. I about fell over when they told me how much we had to pay for a dog. I always thought dogs were free because we went to the pound and got them.

He's way better than any gun you can buy. He knows when something's wrong. When we moved into our new house, the front doors blew open one night, and the alarm went off. The dog popped up and knew what to do. When we first got him, the breeder would train him by acting like an intruder. The guy wore a special suit, and Endy absolutely would attack it until his teeth would bleed. So he could handle the business. As he's gotten older, he's gotten softer, though. He's a great pet.

Click here to continue reading.

Yo Quiero Bite You!

There were a record number of dog bites in the city last year -- with pint-sized Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus surprisingly among the top five culprits, The Post has learned.

The city's most vicious dog -- measured by the number of bites on humans reported last year -- was the pit bull, with 815 reported chompings. That's nearly a quarter of the 3,609 bites recorded in 2010, the highest annual number in the data provided by the Health Department.

The pit was followed by the Rottweiler, Shih Tzu, Chihuahua and standard poodle.

A Shih Tzu -

The aggression by little dogs can sometimes be blamed on the way fashionable New Yorkers choose to cart them around while going shopping or running errands.

"Small dogs may frequently be put in situations that are more provocative than, say, a Labrador is exposed to," said Dr. E'Lise Christensen, a vet-behaviorist at NYC Veterinary Specialists.

"For example, most people don't take their Labradors to Bloomingdale's," she said.

"We call it the 'poor little rich dog' effect, where people take their small dogs to department stores and all the sales people touch them. Owners get bitten, and stranger aggression is really a problem in dogs."

Anthony Jerone, who runs a dog-training school in Queens, said that in the dogs' minds, size doesn't matter.

"Dogs don't know how big they are," he said. "Whether they are a 5-pound Chihuahua or a 100-pound Lab, they act out of instinct."

Joy Oriol, 38, who was walking her pet pit bull on the Upper West Side, defended it as "playful."

"They're yippy and loud, and they have the Napoleon complex," she said. "It's just a given that when those kinds of dogs walk by, they're going to be aggressive and act like, 'You're big, but I'm going to get you.' "

Staten Island dog trainer Amanda Quattrocchi said she was surprised that Shih Tzus were only five bites behind Rottweilers on the list.

"I know they are nippy but they don't really bite that much. I have never worked with a Shih Tzu that is ferocious."

Is Pet Insurance Worth the Premiums
When Costly Veterinary Bills Arise?
By: Sunny Freeman, The Canadian Press

- Silver tabby, male, neutered, vaccinated, lame leg and tilted head.

Among all the sweet-looking kittens and cats at Toronto Cat Rescue, we chose this one; although perhaps it would be more apt to say — as pet owners often do — that he chose us.
Some caveats to consider when comparing Canadian pet insurance plans The head tilt that inspired our cat's name was caused by an untreated ear infection that ruptured his ear drum and permanently threw off his balance.

When Tilt was in for his preliminary vet visit, an X-ray revealed the cat had also been shot, with two BB gun pellets still lodged in a fleshy part of his stomach.

Tilt's vet said the problems should not lead to higher health-care costs, but with a medical history like this, my boyfriend and I were worried about how to prepare our finances for an emergency.

We were given six weeks of free pet insurance through Petsecure, an option that I had never thought about, but seemed a logical consideration for a cat that came with a head tilt and two bullets.

Only one or two per cent of Canadian pet owners have pet insurance, but it is becoming more popular as veterinary medicine becomes more advanced and expensive.

Many vet offices have brochures that claim the security of insurance can reduce stress when emotional and expensive decisions arise.

However, some pet owners — unhappy with premium increases, rejected claims or reduced coverage — say they'd rather self-insure by tucking away money each month with the guarantee that when the time comes, they'll be covered.

After speaking with vets and pet owners, I'm weighing the benefits and drawbacks of each investment approach given the unique medical history of our Tilt.

There are several pet insurers in Canada from various animal-care societies to PC Financial, each of which offers several intricate plans ranging from accident-only to unlimited plans that include annual check ups (most do not).

Randy Valpy, president and CEO of Petsecure, Canada's largest pet insurer, assured me that the investment is worth the money for every pet — even a cat like Tilt, whose pre-existing conditions exclude him from coverage for the medical issues I'm concerned about.

"Insurance for pets is no different from home or auto or anything else. It's there to protect you and provide you with peace of mind," he says.

Valpy reminds me that there are a host of medical conditions — most of which cost a lot more than treatment for an ear infection — that can arise in seemingly healthy pets. Cancer treatments for example can cost over $10,000.

His assessment of the illnesses that Tilt's plan would not cover is vague, but seems to include any ear or stomach issues that result from the pre-existing conditions — a determination that would be made by the vet treating him.

"We don't get a lot like him," Valpy says.

When I call the hotline to inquire about Tilt's pre-existing conditions, the sympathetic customer service representative is not much more helpful in pin pointing specific exclusions. It's only possible to ascertain once you've signed up and your pet's medical records are submitted, she says.

Lacking specifics makes my choice more difficult, so I call veterinarian David Kerr at North Hill Animal Hospital in Bolton, Ont., who warns me there's probably nothing a vet could say to the insurance company that would convince it to insure Tilt for those areas.

"If you're expecting your kitty to have problems because of the bullet, then the insurance probably isn't any good," he says.

"But having all these other potential things that can happen with cats, insurance would help you allay the costs of those medical expenses."

Kerr says he always recommends coverage because most Canadians are unaware of how much pet health care costs. In Kerr's experience, insurers have been willing to accept claims and he's seen it save owners thousands of dollars.

"You're buying insurance because you're gambling that your pet is going to get sick, and the company is giving you insurance and gambling that your pet is not going to get sick, so really it's who wins the gamble," Kerr says.

But I'm still worried that given Tilt's exclusions, an insurance plan might be risky.

I've heard from pet owners who bought insurance and regret it, and also from those who have gone into debt to pay astronomical bills and wish they had been covered.

When I seek out the advice of a dog owner named Victoria, she tells me that she cancelled her policy in favour of an emergency savings account.

Victoria took out a policy the day she adopted her Dalmatian but became fed up with rising premiums — which started at around $60 per month but increased to around $88 per month in four years — even as her insurer began to reject her claims.

"We were paying them thousands and we were paying thousands in vet bills that they wouldn't cover... for $88 a month, you should be able to claim whatever."

When her dog was around three, Victoria decided to invest that money through a payroll savings bond that is deducted from her paycheque automatically.

It was enough to pay off a "colossal" vet bill near the end of the Dalmatian's life — $7,000 for a spinal cord injury.

For Tilt, the average mid-range cat insurance plan that covers 80 per cent of costs and up to about $2,500 per claim works out to about $300 a year, plus a $200 annual deductible.

Vet bills for our young and healthy, if lop-sided cat, aren't likely to cost $500 a year. But if I opt to put the money aside myself I must be diligent enough to commit to monthly payments and dedicated enough to ignore the money if some other household emergency comes up.

Either way, I've learned that investing in Tilt's health now—whether it be through personal savings or a pet insurance policy — acts as protection against a potentially heart-wrenching decision if he ever needs a $5,000 surgery.

Time to Make Rude Pet Owners Feel Like Poop for Fouling Sidewalks and Not Cleaning Up
Michael Daly -

Monaster/News - Jordan Kaplan cleans up after Monte during a walk in this file photo. The melting snow has provided copious evidence of the number of pet-owning New Yorkers who aren't as considerate. The melting snow reveals the accumulated proof of how many lazy creeps don't clean up after their dogs.

Unscooped poops that have been adding up since before Christmas now litter the pavement as the last remnants of the two big storms vanish.

Each unscoop is a violation of Section 1310 of the New York State Health Code and Section 161.03 of the New York City Health Code, the latter carrying a $250 fine.

The lead agency in enforcing the law is the Department of Sanitation, which has a special plainclothes canine task force.

Somehow, its 32 members issued just 508 summonses in all of last year.

That is an average of not even two summonses a month for each member, less than two a day for the whole unit.

Okay, the law is difficult to enforce because the agent must actually see the violator walk off without scooping.

Even so, not even two summonses a day?

At least there is no quota.

I can hear Fran Lee Weiss howling from her grave. She was the "eminence of effluence" who got New York to enact the nation's first pooper scooper law in 1978.

She hoped that "poodle maids" would be deployed like meter maids, but all we have are the Sanit 32.

The mayor of the Israeli town of Petah Tikva experienced similar frustration enforcing its pooper scooper law. He then embarked on building a DNA database of the town's dogs. Unscooped poop was tested and the owner identified. The cost of a test was more than covered by the resulting fine.

Even the City of New York might be able to perpetuate such a program. And not even the ACLU is likely to argue that a doggie DNA database would violate canine civil rights.

At the very least, we should change the punishment for the one or two creeps a week who are caught to include a considerable period of community service cleaning up the poops other creeps failed to scoop.

A violator should have to wear a vest marked POOPER SCOOPER. The verbal abuse he would surely suffer might prove to be an actual deterrent.

In the meantime, let's praise Giovanna Gould of Brooklyn, who goes beyond the obligation to clean up after her own dog, Luna. She also scoops what others fail to scoop, even when it is frozen to the pavement.

"I have to kick it hard," she said.

The prevailing view is one she happened to overhear yesterday.

"I heard people this morning saying, 'I'm never going to pick up other people's poop,'" she said.

Gould deserves to call New York her city because she treats it as her city, as where she raises her kids and walks her dog, not just where you leave a mess because the person who made it failed to clean it up.

"I pick it up because it's so disgusting," she said.

Where unscooped poops testify to the creeps among us, Gould shows there are also decent souls by stooping to scoop it.

And, in doing so, she further proves that beauty can arise in this city even from what is indeed so disgusting.

Debarking and Declawing Pets Under Fire
Rick Boone -

SACRAMENTO — Nearly 60% of pet owners say it’s okay to have a cat declawed, but only 8% approve of having a dog’s vocal chords removed. But PETA wants all the procedures stopped altogether.

The agency is calling for operations to halt immediately. The group says the operations are crippling animals and are just outdated.

PETA believes adjusting a dog's voice for human convenience is downright mutilation and declawing can cause medical problems they will live with for the rest of their lives, since doctors have to cut off parts of their paws for the operation.

While most pet owner aren’t on-board with PETA all of the time, they do believe that animals have certain rights, just like humans.

“Yeah come on, it’s like giving my wife a breast enlargement operation without her consent,” says pet owner Paul Suave, who thinks most pet owners just need to chill and think twice before changing the family pet, even if the barking might be aggravation to neighbors.

Another option to debarking your dog could be fitting them with a special debarking collar which you’ll find at most pet stores.

Sadie's Seizures Point to Epilepsy
By JEFF KAHLER, D.V.M. - McClatchy Newspapers

Witnessing a seizure in a pet, especially for the first time, can be quite dramatic. With no way to assist while the dog convulses, one feels truly helpless.

This scenario was thrust upon Melissa as she watched Sadie, her 3-year-old Shih-tzu, convulsing on the floor.

Melissa could point to nothing that might have set off this episode, which seemed to go on for 11/2 hours, though it probably lasted only a few minutes. After the seizure, and after Sadie had a chance to rest, she appeared to return entirely to normal.

Everything was fine until the next seizure. This time, it lasted longer and Sadie lost control of her bowel and bladder. Melissa has made an appointment for Sadie with her veterinarian. In the meantime, she is looking for possible causes for Sadie's seizures.

Seizures can be scary to witness. They are not painful, but can be exhausting. Trauma can occur if, during a seizure, a dog falls or otherwise injures its body while convulsing. It is important to try to prevent this if your dog is seizuring. However, do not get near the canine's mouth, as it may inadvertently clamp down with its jaws.

In simple terms, think of a seizure as an uncontrolled discharge of signals from a particular focus in the brain. The body then sets about convulsing in response and, depending on how severe the discharge becomes, the seizure can be anywhere from very subtle tremors (petite mal) to massive convulsions, including loss of bowel and urine control (grand mal.) Sadie is now showing grand mal seizures.

The top cause for seizuring in dogs is epilepsy. Other possible causes include certain metabolic diseases, especially ones that affect the liver or kidneys. If either of these organ systems is compromised, certain chemicals can build up in the bloodstream and affect the brain, causing seizures. Blood work can help rule out these possibilities.

A brain tumor can also cause a seizure, but it is unlikely Sadie has a brain mass; she is a young dog. There are many other possible causes, but the overwhelming odds are that Sadie is an epileptic dog.

The key in dealing with seizures is prevention. Once seizures begin, it can become easier and easier for them to occur. That said, there are cases where a dog will seizure once and never again. Still, have your dog examined after a seizure, get blood work done to rule out a metabolic cause and then wait to see if another seizure occurs within a certain time period. This period is arbitrary; I use a month. If a seizure recurs, then it is time to treat.

Treatment for epilepsy - because I am assuming Sadie has epilepsy - would include anti-seizure medication. There are several, Phenobarbital being the most common. Sometimes we have to use a combination therapy with more than one drug to suppress the seizure focus. Dogs with brain masses need a far more involved course of therapy.

Each seizure case has its own nuances. I hope Sadie can be treated as an epileptic and, as a result, live a perfectly normal, seizure-free life.

(Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto CA 95352.)

AC Pup:
More Tips to Prevent You
from Losing Your Pets

I’m working so hard to reduce the number of animals that come into Macon Bibb County Animal Control shelter each year.

One of the best ways to do this is to decrease the number of animals that are at the shelter simply because they’re lost and we have no way to find their families.

Obviously they’re not able to tell us where they live, so they must rely on their parents to make sure they’re not lost in the first place.

Losing a beloved pet and not being able to find him can totally shake your life. It’s very upsetting not to know if he’s safe, hungry, hurt or scared because he can’t find his way back home. This emotional trauma is preventable if you take some simple precautions.

In last week’s column, I mentioned having a legible ID tag, microchipping and keeping them confined inside during fireworks and thunderstorms. But there are more things that can be done to keep everyone safe and sound.

First, keep them on a leash when walking outside of a fenced area. There are many people who are heartbroken today because they’re missing a dog they thought would walk with them under voice command. All it takes is for the dog to see a squirrel or bunny to chase, and away they go. So please keep them on a leash.

Now, it’s important to look at what the leash is attached to. Please, please, please when you take them for a walk, attach the leash to either a harness or a non-slip collar. Dogs and cats -- yes there are cats that walk on leashes -- can easily pull out of a collar that is non-slip, and you may end up holding an empty leash if your pet is spooked during your walk.

Let’s talk about when you attach the leash. Don’t laugh at me for stating the obvious, but if I hadn’t spent a lot of time looking for people’s pets because of this I wouldn’t mention it. Attach the leash before you ever open the door.

Yes, attach the leash before you open the door to your house or car, not after the pet is exposed to the open outdoors.

Once that door is open, he may be so excited he may not wait around for you to attach the leash. It’s that simple.

Finally, the biggest way to keep your pet at home is to have him or her neutered or spayed.

This one action will prevent a multitude of problems such as wandering, overpopulation and future health issues. I can’t emphasize enough how important spaying and neutering really is.

See, it’s pretty easy to help me keep more animals out of the shelter.

Send questions for AC Pup to AC Pup is the mascot for Central Georgia CARES and Macon Animal Control. Visit his website at or his Facebook page.

Woman Reunited with Lost Pet Snake

BOSTON (CNN) - Nearly a month after it slithered away on a Massachusetts train, a woman's pet snake has been found in the same place it vanished.

The snake, named Penelope, got lost in January while Melissa Moorhouse was riding the train.

The Transportation Authority took the train out of service, but there was no sign of the reptile until Thursday, when the snake re-surfaced.

The train's conductor, a snake owner herself, managed to catch her.

"It's a little surreal I think. It doesn't, it seems unbelievable," said Moorhouse.

Moorhouse knew the snake could survive for awhile. Her breed can go months without eating, but they do need heat.

"Currently, we keep the trains warm at night. The trains are constantly warm so the snake had a heat source," said Bill McClellan with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. "I'm so glad we found her because it was becoming folklore that there was a snake on our trains."

Moorhouse is happy to have her beloved pet back where she belongs.

"I think she's starting to get into her snake teenage years and getting a little bit more adventurous than she used to be," she joked.

Do Pets Have a Sixth Sense?

Many of the pet owners who visit your veterinary clinic just might think so.

No, we’re not talking about seeing dead people. A new survey reveals that pet owners think their pets have special skills. Two-thirds of pet owners think their pets have a sixth sense about bad weather and 43 percent say their pets have a sixth sense about bad news, according to an Associate poll. Seventy-two percent of dog owners said they’ve gotten weather warnings from their pets, compared with 66 percent of cat owners. For bad news, 47 percent of dog owners and 41 percent of cat owners said their pets have alerted them to urgent situations.

The reasons for pet owners’ views are hard to know. A sixth sense is something we can’t explain but we tend to trust—it’s a matter of belief. Scientists have suggested that animals sense bad weather because of changes in barometric pressure or other factors. Dogs anticipate seizures, low blood sugar, or other medical problems because of hormonal changes. But scientists haven’t figured out what alerts pets to earthquakes, bad news, or other events—or if it’s just in the eyes of their owners.

When honing in on their sixth sense, 64 percent of those polled said their pets tried to hide in a safe place, 56 percent said they whined or cried, 52 percent said they became hyperactive, erratic, or made unpredictable movements, and 36 percent said they barked or meowed persistently. Often, the pets use more than one form of communication.

Gary Bogue: Ailing Pets:
Making Arrangements for a Dying Cat
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

the star -- the rabbit

prefers Chinese dim sum

not Easter eggs!

-- Nona Mock Wyman, Haikuyun, Walnut Creek

Happy Chinese New Year: Year of the Rabbit!

Dear Gary:

When it is "time."

The Wednesday letter from Y.M. about her cat hit home.

On January 2010, my cat, Mr. Spock, was diagnosed with lung disease. I did not know what to expect, but thanks to a great vet, we have had one very good year together.

Three weeks ago, he started dropping weight.

He still eats a little and is mobile, but I knew that it was time for "the discussion."

We met with the vet Tuesday, and I came away with medications to make Mr. Spock comfortable and the telephone numbers of three vets who will come to the house at the "time."

This is not easy, but I keep telling myself it is about Mr. Spock and not me. I hope that it helps Y.M. to know that he/she is not alone.

Connie Chapman,


Dear Connie:

You're right: When you're trying to decide if it's time to put an ailing pet to sleep, it is about the pet.

You need to ask yourself the question: "Am I keeping my pet alive for itself, or for me?"

If you're keeping your pet alive just for you, then maybe it's time to have that talk with your veterinarian.

You have obviously asked that question, contacted your vet, made Mr. Spock comfortable, and have arranged for another veterinarian to be available to come to your house when it's time.

No, it is not easy, but you are doing what needs to be done and have arranged to make it as painless as possible for both of you.

Thanks for letting Y.M. know he/she is not alone at this difficult time.

Neither are you.

Dear Gary:

My wife and I have heard that feeding geese and ducks bread is not recommended. Is there something else that is recommended?

Howard Folkman,


Dear Howard:

You are correct. If waterfowl eat a lot of bread and then drink water, the bread can turn into a hard lump, like plaster of Paris, and it's hard to digest.

Best food is "chicken scratch," a mix of large grains, cracked corn, etc., you can buy at feed stores. Go to and search for Bay Area feed stores. There are lots.

Found cat

Orange and brown cat found two weeks ago near Orinda Country Club. Very friendly and appears to be an indoor cat. Is it yours? Call Laurie, 925-283-7856.

Dear Gary:

Most interesting spectacle in our backyard the other day ... 14 robins all at once. I figure the "pack" came by on their way north to greener pastures.

Jim Dickie, Livermore

Dear Jim:

Probably looking for ripe pyracantha berries.

A final note

Gary: Re Y.M. letter and struggle with old kitty. Oh my, it's one of the hardest decisions a pet owner has to make. We just had to say goodbye to Clancy. He would have been 19 the next week. Poor old guy looked pretty awful, too, and he was so tired.

They trust you to decide. Cry, cherish the memories. She had a wonderful life with you and your kindness shows.

Aside note: We had the doggies "sniff and kiss" Clancy goodbye. When we returned from the vet with an empty blanket they went nuts. One cried all day and the other just kept her head on my husband's lap the whole day. Animals do "know," and feel your sorrow, too. (Brenda P., cyberspace)

Cats and Counter Tops

February is Pet Dental Health Month
By Signal Staff -

Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Health Month? Brad Kriser, founder of Kriser’s all-natural pet food and supplies stores, offers pet dental hygiene tips.

Brush daily: While it may seem difficult to get your pet to cooperate, slowly try to incorporate a brushing routine into your pet’s life. You can start by massaging around their teeth until you can get your finger or a pet toothbrush into their mouth.

Know the symptoms: If you can spot symptoms of gum disease in your pet, you will be able to get them treated before symptoms worsen. Watch out for brown or yellow tartar build up, inflammation and persistent bad breath.

Family Time:
Beware of Bad Dog Breath
By Anonymous - GateHouse News Service

Tip of the Week
Many pet parents believe that bad dog breath is a package deal and comes along with having a dog. While a common misconception, this is not true - bad dog breath is a symptom of poor oral hygiene. Therefore, it's important that pet owners recognize this and take steps to improve their dog's oral health.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, up to 80 percent of dogs over three have some form of tooth and gum disease. If left untreated, tooth and gum disease can cause bad breath, swollen and bleeding gums, difficulty eating, and tooth loss. Longer term it can lead to even more serious health problems like liver, heart or kidney disease since bacteria can travel from the mouth to other parts of the animal's body.

"Some dogs are predisposed to having dental problems, but a majority of the dogs that I treat have bad teeth because their owners didn't take any preventative measures. As a result, these dogs are forced to undergo expensive cleanings that must be done under anesthesia," says Dr. Elizabette Cohen, practicing veterinarian and author. "Brushing your dog's teeth shouldn't be a big chore, and certainly nothing to fear. Your dog depends on you to make the proper health choices for him, and dental care is one of them."


No-Eared Cat Looks
Too Much Like Voldemort
David Moye -

A cat in Southampton, England, is in a hairy situation because he looks too much like Harry Potter's foe, Lord Voldemort.

The cat, a 14-year-old domestic short-hair known as "Charlie," is in an animal rescue center hoping to get adopted, but, sadly, he could be there for quite a spell.

Seems Charlie lost his ears and part of his nose to skin cancer and, as a result, is the spitting image of Voldemort, the evil character played by actor Ralph Fiennes in the "Harry Potter" films.

Charlie (left), an abandoned 14-year-old cat is said to look a bit like Lord Voldemort from the "Harry Potter" film saga, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes. Rex USA / Warner Bros.

According to The Daily Mail, workers at the charity say visitors have been spooked by the white cat's resemblance to Fiennes but hope that a family of "Potter" fans will magically appear to adopt him.

The rejection adds insult to injury since Charlie was a stray before a woman adopted him, fed him and took him to the vet for surgery.

Doctors removed the cat's ears and nose, but say he is still at risk of further problems.

Now Charlie is at the animal shelter waiting for adoption alone in a cage because he apparently gave an earful to the other animals.

Despite his villainous appearance, Charlie loves cuddling and would do best in a home with no other pets, according to Marie Loveridge, the center's animal welfare assistant.

Charity workers are trying to find a new home for the British kitty, who lost his nose and ears to skin cancer.He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? No, it's Charlie -- an unlucky cat who happens to look just like the evil Lord Voldemort from the "Harry Potter" films.

"At first glance, people may be put off by Charlie because he does look like Voldemort, the baddie from the 'Harry Potter' films," she said. "But although some people might think he's a bit quirky-looking after having his ears and nose removed, he is a lovely, playful cat who adores attention.

"We are desperately trying to rehome him with somebody that knows beauty is more than skin deep."

Although Charlie's looks can strike fear into the heart of timid "Harry Potter" fans, the fact is, earless cats are more common than you might think, according to San Diego vet Dr. Monika Kaelble.

"We see a lot of these cats that get skin cancer and have to have their ears amputated," she said. "It's usually because of sun exposure."

Kaelble says white animals with pinker skin are most prone to skin cancer and says cats are more likely than dogs to get it, "unless the dog likes to roll over and lay on the ground and expose its pinker side."

She admits the earless, noseless look takes some time to get used to but says that the cat itself is fine.

"The outer part of ears are usually cosmetic, so removing [them] doesn't affect their hearing much, unless the ear canals are affected," she said. "The nose is a little different. It can be a little snottier. But it can still live a normal life."

Dead Dog's Sperm Frozen for 21 Years
Produces Litter of Puppies

An Australian vet has used dog sperm, frozen for more than 20 years, to produce a litter of 10 Great Dane puppies, the Geelong Advertiser reported Tuesday.

Dr. David Hopkins from Bellarine Veterinary Practice in Geelong, about 50 miles southwest of Melbourne, was delighted at the outcome of the IVF procedure.

He said his client Deidre McRae had chosen to store sperm from one of her prized Great Danes, Liebendane Armstrong, in 1989.

Twenty-one years later, long after that dog's death, its sperm has led to a new generation of happy, healthy pups, which are now eight weeks old.

Hopkins said while breeding dogs using frozen sperm was not new technology, it was remarkable that semen frozen for so long could produce such a large, healthy litter.

McRae said she was "over the moon" with the results. She plans to keep some of the pups as show dogs and sell others.

Tips for Getting Your Dog on the Trail

Walking the dog, can be a great motivator to get you out on the trail.
And with spring around the corner, Orange County hills, canyons and trails offer a palette of colors, an array of scents and beautiful vistas.

Danielle Wang of Irvine with Wrinkles on Josephine Peak.COURTESY OF THE OC HIKING CLUB

If you take your dog along, keep in mind that they require conditioning just as people do; so start small and build up gradually. Some benefits for you as well as your pet can include better sleep, socialization and fitness. To get your dog in shape for hiking you need to be aware of your dogs needs.

Just as you will need to wear comfortable hiking boots, a dog needs to have the pads of their paws toughened up gradually to be comfortable on the trail. Without proper conditioning, walking on dirt, asphalt, rocky terrain and even snow can leave a dog's footpads raw and painful. Once a raw spot has developed, it can take weeks or even months to heal.

Start on short walks and gradually increase with longer ones, and be sure to trim their nails before starting your exercise routine. Another way to help keep your dog's paws conditioned, is to put on booties for half the walk and then take them off for half the walk until their paws get tough enough to go without them.

Take a look at your dog's feet before, during, and after hikes to check the condition of the pads. A solid callous is what you want. If the pads are pink or worn in any way, stop and let them heal. Be patient, it takes time to toughen the pads. Imagine how your feet would feel and look, if you had to walk 5 miles barefoot.

Hydration is also critical for dogs, so give your dog plenty of water before, during and after the hike. Larger dogs can even carry their own water supply in a well-fitted pack, but be on the lookout for straps that rub, especially on short haired breeds. If you are interested in outfitting your dog with doggy saddlebags consider sewing or buying fleece covers to keep the strap from abrading the skin. The constant friction of an unprotected nylon strap can quickly rub into a serious wound.

The cool spring weather is a perfect time to start conditioning for you and your dog, but as hot weather approaches, be aware that dogs are far more sensitive to heat than you are. Heat that is an uncomfortable inconvenience for you can spell death for your dog. In warmer weather, the best time to hike is early in the morning or later in the evening when the ground is cool.

Here are some "tail trail tips" from the OC Hiking Club:

1) Signs of heat stress: Profuse panting and salivation, weakness, staring or anxious expression, warm dry skin, rapid heartbeat. If any of these signs are apparent: find shade, place water-soaked bandana and/or towel on dog's head and abdomen. Then, seek veterinary care. From Jeannie Tarlton, Garden Grove, OC Hiking Club Hike Organizer.

2) Carry more than enough water for you and your dog. Collapsible containers are available in pet stores for convenience. Cooling bandanas for your dog can also be purchased at your local pet store. From Jeannie Tarlton, Garden Grove, OC Hiking Club hike organizer.

3) Even a warm day can be dangerous for heat stress. A lot of people think they only have to avoid walking their dogs when it is "hot." But even a warm day can be hot for a dog. From Danielle Wang, Irvine, OC Hiking Club member.

4) Let your larger dog carry his own bag with water and food. It will give him exercise and purpose. Anthony Thompson, Laguna Niguel, OC Hiking Club member.

What to take?
Items for your dog: Dog collar, ID tag with your cell number on it, a six-foot leash.

Items to carry in your backpack: Cellphone for emergencies, extra water, plastic water dish or container, doggy-poo bags, first-aid kit, dog snacks, bandanna (for emergencies and to soak in hot weather).

After hike tips: Check for and remove ticks, look for wear on the pads of paws, make sure your dog has plenty of water, and feed extra food as needed.

If you and your dog would like to get out on the trail with others, join the OC Hiking Club at; membership is free.

Suki Reed is president of the OC Hiking Club.

Ask Martha:
Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe
By Times-Dispatch Staff

Dogs and cats are curious creatures. Although that quality often makes us laugh, it can have disastrous consequences. Certain household items are dangerous — or even fatal — to animals. Be prepared with contact information for your veterinarian, the nearest animal emergency room and, in the U.S., the 24-hour ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435). Here are several common hazards.

Pets love the sweet taste of antifreeze (ethylene glycol), which they may encounter if it leaks in the garage or driveway. A teaspoon is all it takes to kill a 10-pound cat; 1 to 2 tablespoons are lethal to a 10-pound dog. If your pet ingests any, it might seem wobbly and unsteady, as well as nauseated and unusually thirsty. Get it to the vet immediately — an antidote must be given within 12 hours, but sooner is better. You can use a less toxic form of antifreeze, propylene glycol. But even this is poisonous in large quantities.

People food, that is. "Some foods cause problems ranging from gastrointestinal issues to death," said Diane Levitan, a veterinarian in Commack, N.Y. Chocolate, for example, contains a substance called theobromine, along with caffeine, which makes it toxic to dogs and cats. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity and seizures. Pets also shouldn't eat macadamia nuts, raw or undercooked meat, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chives or rising bread dough.

Pets that dig into the trash might find objects, such as bones, corn cobs and broken glass, that can obstruct and tear the intestines. Moldy foods contain toxins that can cause muscle tremors and convulsions.

Household cleaners
Toilet-bowl cleaner has caustic chemicals that burn the mouth and esophageal lining, Levitan said. Flush the toilet multiple times after cleaning, and close the lid. Exposure to bleach and other harsh products can cause gastrointestinal distress, skin irritation and respiratory problems.

Cats in particular like nibbling on plants, but some are toxic. Ingesting even small amounts of Easter lilies, for instance, can cause kidney failure in cats. Other dangerous plants include mistletoe, oleander, English ivy and tulip and narcissus bulbs. You can apply a deterrent to the plants, such as a bitter apple spray, but it's safer to remove them from the house. For a list of safe and unsafe plants, visit

Over-the-counter and prescription medications for people top the list of pet poisons. According to the ASPCA, the most dangerous ones are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen), antidepressants, acetaminophen, methylphenidate, fluorouracil, isoniazid, pseudoephedrine (a decongestant), antidiabetics, vitamin D derivatives and baclofen.

Bar soap
Soap appeals to some pets, but the fats it contains could cause pancreatitis. Eating soap also can trigger vomiting and diarrhea. And scented versions might irritate the esophagus and mouth.

Small parts in children's playthings can pose choking hazards and cause intestinal blockage in dogs and cats. But "pet toys can also be hazardous," said Adam Goldfarb, director of the Pets at Risk program for the Humane Society of the United States. Be aware of how your pet plays — for instance, some dogs baby their stuffed animals, while others tear them apart and eat them. When you give your dog a new toy, supervise the first play sessions.

Found in candies, gum, baked goods and toothpaste, this sweetener can cause an insulin surge, lowering blood sugar enough to cause weakness, vomiting and loss of coordination. It could even lead to liver failure.

Any exposure can cause problems, but the more your pet consumes, the more severe the issues will be.

Trendy Pet Diet Sparks
Online Demand for Wild Game
By Jim Waymer, Florida Today

MELBOURNE, Fla. — Feeding Fido or Fluffy a raw, all-natural cuisine could land you in the slammer for up to six months if you're not careful where you buy the deer, duck or other meat.

The trendy pet diet, called "prey model," in which owners try to feed their pets critters similar to what they'd hunt in the wild, has resulted in a surge in illegal sales of raw wild game online, Florida wildlife investigators say.

No Floridian has gone to jail so far for trying to buy illegally obtained raw game online, but investigators in a year-old wildlife cyber crimes unit say they're seeing more people both soliciting it — a misdemeanor — and selling it — a felony.

People caught selling raw meat without a permit face up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Those buying the illegally obtained game face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

In 2010, its first year, Florida Fish and Wildlife's Internet Crimes Unit logged 177 arrests and 92 warnings for cases involving illegally buying or selling wildlife or raw game meat online, some of it for pets.

Pet owners go on Craigslist and eBay, asking where they can score a squirrel, pheasant, rabbit, goose, duck, chicken, just about any game to feed their cats and dogs. Some seek raw fish, meaty bones and organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys — everything a growing carnivore needs.

"It's happening nationwide," said Lt. George Wilson, head of the Internet Crimes Unit. "The philosophy behind it is feeding your pet a hormone-free, naturally grazed diet.

"We're seeing solicitations for wild ducks, anything wild."

The Internet provides a way around having to pay taxes or pay for licenses to sell wild game, investigators say.

But these Internet outlaws skirt regulations that ensure meat is sanitary and comes from game hunted in-season. They threaten to create black markets for wildlife similar to what existed for alligators 50 years ago, Wilson said.

Going raw may also have gotten a boost from the toxic melamine scare in 2007, when pet food imported from China killed thousands of cats and dogs nationwide, resulting in widespread recalls.

"Those that are unknowledgeable, we're trying to educate them," Wilson said.

Illegal sales of deer have been going on in Florida for decades. Now, some of the meat goes to the dogs, and the Internet makes an old crime high-tech.

Fish and Wildlife started its Internet Crimes Unit in late 2009, in response to an upswing in wildlife cyber crimes, said Katie Purcell, a spokeswoman with the department. "Basically, our law enforcement efforts were trying to stay up to speed with the methods violators are using," she said via e-mail.

Because it's still a relatively small market, raw wild game for pets can be tough to come by legally.

"It's the unlicensed people that would be trafficking them," said Jim Deason, owner of Sweetwater Plantation, a farm in Bristol, Fla., that sells live deer for breeding. "Any of the people that I know, they're pretty above board on things like that. If there's anybody selling game, it's probably going to be backwoodsy folks."

So how's a pet owner to get Muffy to go organic, legally. And where might one find raw wild deer meat for their pooch?

"I don't know of anybody that sells that," Deason said. "You can get it from New Zealand."

"It's a big process to get certified by the USDA," he added.

An Internet search shows some who adhere to the prey model tap ethnic markets, looking for organs, or small, independent grocery stores, seeking turkey necks and chicken backs.

Price may be one reason driving pet owners online.

"It's more expensive. It's not quite double the price, but it really depends on what you're buying," said Pete Bandre, owner of Incredible Pets in Melbourne. He doesn't sell raw game meats but does carry established brands of all-natural pet foods.

So far, all incidents in which people were buying illegally obtained raw game for their pets in Florida have only been given warnings, Wilson said. That won't last forever.

"They're very well meaning," he said of pet owners who aspire to the prey model diet.

"Our interest here is to protect our natural resources. If this is allowed to go unchecked, it could create a black market that would impact the populations of wildlife in Florida."

What to Do When Your Pets Become Parents
By Erika Enigk - GateHouse News Service

Puppies and kittens are wonderful additions to the family, but pet owners who find out their animal is expecting a litter may go into panic mode without a plan.

Barb Peterson of Duluth, Minn., breeder of soft-coated wheaten terriers and cardigan welsh corgis, offers these tips for when you find out you’ll soon have grandpuppies or grandkitties.

1. Go to the vet. When you find your dog or cat is pregnant, the best first step is to make sure she’s healthy. Check with the vet on how to best handle the pregnancy; the birth will generally take care of itself.

Once the puppies or kittens are born, take proper care of them until they can be placed in good homes. The mother will care for them for a period of time, but they will need shots, and human contact will help them as they make the transition into permanent homes. Check with your vet to find out how long you should keep the babies before placing them.

2. Talk to friends and family members. Placing an ad in the newspaper or on a community bulletin board will reach more people, but Peterson recommends using that method with caution. Shelters, rescue groups and breeders routinely ask questions about a potential owner’s family and home to ensure they’re placing an animal in good hands. Contact your local animal shelter if you need help coming up with the right questions.

Charging a fee may help weed out bad owners, Peterson said. It will help offset your costs and show that the person taking the animal home is willing and able to raise it.

3. Find a rescue group in your area. Rescue groups use foster families, so the puppies or kittens will live in a home environment rather than a cage, helping them become accustomed to people and other animals and thus giving them a better chance at becoming a good family pet in the future.

Some shelters use foster families as well and may even have families waiting to adopt a pet like the ones you’ll soon have.

“If you have beagle-like puppies, someone wanting a beagle-like dog just might be waiting on the shelter’s list,” Peterson said.

4. Spay or neuter your pet to avoid a repeat incident. There are very few good reasons not to have your animal spayed or neutered, Peterson said. And if you’ve had one “oops” incident, you may have another. As soon as your pet is old enough and healthy enough for the surgery, have it done.

If you don’t think you can afford it, do a little research to find discount programs. Many states have spay and neuter clinics that will do the surgery for a nominal fee, and some animal shelters have partnerships with local veterinarians that give pet owners discounts on services.

Gary Bogue:
Cats & Kitchen Counters:
Ways to Keep Them Off
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

a fourth-grader

with a daisy in her hair

spring musical

-- haiku by Jerry Ball, Walnut Creek

Cats vs. Counters

On Friday I wrote about how to keep cats off the kitchen counters. Today, some of you have responded with your own ideas:

Here is a trick to make cats think twice about jumping on counter tops or furniture. Carefully set mousetraps upside-down on the forbidden surface. When the cat jumps up, the trap is harmlessly sprung. It leaves an impression on the flustered feline. (Zac in Alameda) (Once you set the upside-down traps on top of the counter, lay sheets of paper over the tops of the traps. It makes a lot more noise and also makes sure nobody's toes get caught in the bouncing traps. /Gary)

I kept a spray bottle full of water handy and spritzed our kitten with it whenever he got up on the counters. He had gotten to the point where he'd jump off as soon as he saw the bottle, and eventually gave up (at least when I was home), but now he is returning to his old ways, so the bottle is out again. (Joyce, San Ramon)

My method to stop my precious Siamese from jumping on my counter, newly refinished ebony piano and suede chair, and scratching on my office chair was to cover the surface with plastic bags. I put a plastic bag over the back of the office chair and used plastic wrap to cover the area on the piano and counter where she jumped up and on the back of the suede chair where she scratched. She tried the area out once and never tried again. I don't know why it worked and I don't know where I got the idea but it worked for me. It looks pretty stupid but I only had to keep the plastic up for a short time. Worth a try. Good luck. (Paula L., cyberspace)

Dear Gary:

My mixed calico cat, Pumpkin, of 11 years has all of a sudden developed "bad breath." Is there a solution to this? Taking her to the vet is a no-no. I would be clawed to death. She is very healthy otherwise.

Pat, Antioch

Dear Pat:

Taking Pumpkin to the vet is a yes-yes!

The bad breath could be from bad teeth, or from some other medical problem, and you definitely need to have a vet check this out ASAP. It's important.

Put Pumpkin in a plastic cat carrier with a fluffy towel and let her claw the towel to death.

Dear Gary:

Your Sunday letter from Mary about her concern that a hawk may take her small dog reminds me of something that happened to us.

I've had a teacup size Chihuahua for the past eight years and I vividly recall a big ruckus in my backyard, a few years ago, when a large crow kept hovering over my dog. The dog would jump at the crow attempting to nip it.

This went on for a good 10 seconds and it was hilarious. Later realizing that we could have lost our pet, we try to be more careful.

Gene, Tracy

Dear Gene:

I'm glad nothing happened to your tiny dog!

A bird as large as a crow could have seriously injured your tiny pet by pecking it in the eye. I'm glad you're being more careful. Once again proving that tiny pets should not be allowed outside without a nearby human.

Most American Pet Owners Blame Owners,
Not Genetics, for Dangerous Dogs

The majority of American pet owners believe a well-trained dog is safe -- even if it comes from one of the "bully breeds."

Some dog breeds, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers, are considered truly dangerous by 28% of American pet owners, but in an Associated poll, 71% said any breed can be safe if the dogs are well trained.

"It's not the dog. It's the owner that's the problem," said Michael Hansen, a 59-year-old goldsmith from Port Orchard, Wash. "The dog will do whatever it can to please the owner, right down to killing another animal for you."

"If they are brought up in a loving household, they can flourish just like any other dog," agreed Nancy Lyman, 56, of Warwick, Mass.

Sixty percent of pet owners feel that all dog breeds should be allowed in residential communities, while 38% believe some breeds should be banned, according to the poll conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications.

Denver and Miami-Dade County in Florida have pit bull bans that go back decades. The Army and Marine Corps have put base housing off-limits to the breed in the last few years.

Of the pet owners in the poll who support breed bans, 85% would bar pit bulls. Other breeds considered dangerous were Rottweilers, Dobermans, German shepherds and chow chows. Seven percent said any violent, vicious or fighting dog should be banned and 2% said all large dogs should be outlawed.

Asked specifically about pit bulls, 53% of those polled said they were safe for residential neighborhoods, but 43% said they were too dangerous.

Age played a major role in the pit bull questions -- 76% of those under age 30 said pit bulls were safe, compared with just 37% of seniors.

Janice Dudley, 81, of Culver City was taking out her garbage when she was charged by a pit bull whose owner had been walking him in her neighborhood for years.

"He came within a few inches of my leg. It was shocking. There was nothing I could do. The owner controlled the dog and they went on their way but it was really very frightening," she said.

She goes to great lengths to avoid the man and dog now, she said. "That was as close as I've ever come and as close as I ever want to be."

Dudley would stop short of imposing a widespread breed ban, but she believes pit bulls are too dangerous. "I think it is in their nature to be more vicious than other dogs," she said.

She blames breeders for the dangerous behavior of the animals and believes the dogs are genetically at risk. "People I know who have had them maintain they are the sweetest things in the world. I don't believe it," she said.

Older pet owners were more apt to support a breed ban than younger ones -- 56% of seniors believe some dogs should be outlawed compared with just 22% of those under age 30.

Parents who own pets were no more or less likely than non-parents to say certain breeds should be banned.

But Tiffany Everhart, 40, of Splendora, Texas, wouldn't have a pit bull. "I have a small child and I'm not going to take that chance." The paralegal also believes some dogs are too dangerous for residential areas and she would support a breed ban.

"Every dog is different and should be evaluated on its own merits," said "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan.

"If a pit bull has good energy, and if he is socialized early and brought up in a balanced and structured pack environment, then I would consider him perfectly safe for a family with children," Millan said.

Lyman, who has a 17-year-old, blind, deaf and crippled Shih Tzu, said any dog will bite if provoked -- citing Martha Stewart's recent run-in with her own dog.

Hansen blames the pit bull's bad reputation on owners and the media.

"You have a tendency to sensationalize stories or put into them right down to the blood and gore when it isn't really necessary," said Hansen, who has two dogs, 9-year-old Lab-collie brothers named Chaz and Zach.

Still, she said Michael Vick's dogfighting operation probably helped pit bulls' bad rep because it showed that "people can reintroduce these dogs back into a society that's not going to abuse them."

"The owner is responsible for what an animal does. It's totally your behavior, whether you have a good dog that minds well and is not a problem to society or you turn it into a vicious animal that will bite the mailman, the girl next door or grandma walking down the street," Hansen said.

Betsy Adevai, 50, of Grand Rapids, Mich., said muscle dogs have become status symbols for young men who walk through her inner city neighborhood.

"You don't see people walking cockapoos or fluffy puppies. I have five boys and they all have friends around here. They walk these dogs to say, 'I'm cool ... because I got this dog,' " she said.

She thinks pit bulls "look like little football players" so she wouldn't have one, but the seamstress doesn't blame the dogs.

"It's the attitude behind the people who raise them, not the dog," she said.

Tips to Limit Pet Allergy Symptoms
By Denise DeWitt -

If you are allergic to animals, including dogs, cats, rodents, birds, or horses, the best way to limit your allergy symptoms is to avoid contact with the animal. But almost half of all households in the U.S. have at least one pet, and many people consider their pets to be part of the family. If eliminating animals from your life is not an option, limiting your exposure to animal allergens can help you control your allergy symptoms.

The primary cause of pet allergies is skin dander (dry flakes of skin shed by the animal). Other pet allergens include saliva and urine. If you are determined to have a pet, choosing one without fur or feathers is the best way to avoid allergy symptoms. Some options include fish, turtles, and snakes. But remember that mold, another possible allergen, tends to grow where moisture is present. So large fish tanks and the humidity they add to a room can also contribute to allergy symptoms.

If you are determined to keep your dog, cat, or bird, here are some tips to limit your exposure to pet allergens in your home:

• Keep it clean – Pet allergens tend to be sticky. So get rid of fabrics and floor coverings that will hold on to allergens. Wash down walls, windows, and baseboards. Get rid of wall-to-wall carpets and use throw rugs that can be washed frequently.

• Limit fabrics – If possible, replace fabric upholstered furniture with leather that can easily be wiped clean. Curtains and blinds can also trap and hold pet allergens.

• No vacancy – Keep all pets out of the bedroom. Clean or replace all bedding pets may have been near, including pillows. If you can’t replace your mattress and box spring, cover them with allergen-blocking covers.

• Steam clean - If you can’t do without carpeting, chose a carpet with a low pile, keep it vacuumed, and steam clean it regularly to remove allergens.

• Dust masks – Protect yourself from dust and allergens that are stirred up during cleaning by wearing a dust mask.

Dog Show’s Rare Breeds Are Glimpse of History

As Baxter the otterhound bounded around the show ring at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Monday, his owner, Cathy Glenn, felt sure he would win best in breed — and not just because he had won the prize three years running.

The crowd was equally certain of his chances for victory: although five dogs had been entered in the show, Baxter was the only one who showed up.

The dogs’ scarcity at Westminster is an apt metaphor for the breed itself. The otterhound — a big, goofy mess of a dog with a slobbery beard, unruly coat and happy-go-lucky grin — was once sought after in England because it kept the country’s river otter population in check. Today, an estimated 350 of the dogs are living in the United States, and fewer than 1,000 are said to exist worldwide.

The otterhound is one of several English breeds on display at Westminster that have dwindled to near obscurity despite a proud history. Much like an heirloom rose or tomato, the dogs are living artifacts of a bygone era kept alive by a group of passionate breeders.

Other examples of classic but rare breeds include the Dandie Dinmont terrier, a dog with a Kim Jong-il hairstyle whose roots date to the 1700s; the field spaniel, a once-popular hunting companion that has been overshadowed by its smaller cousin, the cocker spaniel; and the harrier, a noble hunting dog that looks like a beagle on steroids.

For many owners, the dogs’ heritage forms part of their appeal. “I think it’s very cool that you look at a painting of dogs from 200 years ago, and they look like dogs that we have today,” said Joellen Gregory, the owner of three otterhounds, including Baxter’s brother.

If these heirloom breeds have a hero, it is Stump, the 10-year-old Sussex spaniel who won Best in Show at Westminster in 2009. The Sussex spaniel was one of nine breeds originally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1884, but they are an unusual sight today, ranking 155th in annual registrations out of the kennel club’s 167 ranked breeds.

The issue has not gone unnoticed in the United Kingdom, where the Kennel Club, the British counterpart of the A.K.C., has mounted a campaign to protect 24 breeds that it has labeled “vulnerable.”

To encourage its countrymen to buy British, the Kennel Club holds annual breed showcases, called “Discover Dogs,” where the endangered breeds get special billing. The club has organized parades featuring the dogs and their handlers, who dress as historical characters with links to the breeds.

Last fall, the British clothing designer Jeremy Hackett warned in a newspaper article that his beloved Sussex spaniels — which are featured in many of his clothing advertisements — have a popularity that is “on a par with whalebone corsets and powdered eggs.”

“The whole idea is simply to re-educate the public about the benefits of some of the old British and Irish breeds,” said Caroline Kisko, a spokeswoman for the Kennel Club. “I think the main concern is that we have — as in the United States — we have a public that has become more and more accustomed to thinking that the Labrador retriever is the No. 1 possible pet, and the other breeds are just being forgotten.”

Rare-breed enthusiasts say they have devoted themselves to the dogs in part for the novelty. Nichole Dooley, a field spaniel breeder from Boston, said people often stop her on the street when she is with her dogs, which are often confused for cocker or springer spaniels. “They say, ‘I had one of those when I was little,’ ” Dooley said. “I’m like, no, you didn’t.”

But the main attraction, dog owners say, is the idiosyncrasies of each individual breed. Glenn, Baxter’s owner, said otterhounds are clowns. They tend to sleep with all four feet in the air, and Baxter is so obsessed with having his hind scratched that he introduces himself to strangers by backing into them.

Dooley said field spaniels tend to be calmer than other spaniels. “They’re a well-kept secret,” she said.

The field spaniel fell out of favor in the middle of the 20th century, losing out to the rising stars of the springer and cocker spaniels. They virtually disappeared from the United States in the 1940s and ’50s, before being revived in the 1960s after a breeder imported a handful of dogs from England. Every field spaniel in the United States today can trace its lineage to four dogs from the 1950s and ’60s, said Jane Chopson, president of the Field Spaniel Society of America.

“We joke in our breed that we don’t have a gene pool, we have a gene puddle,” Dooley said.

Extinction is a rarity in recent years, but canine history is full of cautionary tales. Many times, the dogs disappeared after they lost their jobs. In the Middle Ages, many households employed a turnspit dog, a breed developed to turn roasting meat by running inside a small cage that resembled a hamster wheel. Modern cooking technologies eliminated the need for turnspit dogs, and they faded away.

Aficionados of otterhounds and harriers say their breeds are also victims of changing times. Owners of both breeds worry that the dogs may become extinct, possibly as soon as 10 to 15 years from now.

Otter hunting was outlawed in England decades ago, and after that, demand for otterhounds dropped. “You’re talking about an ancient breed that no longer has a job,” said Betsy Conway, an otterhound owner and advocate.

Because of their small gene pool, otterhounds suffer from physical ailments, although Conway said breeders were working to address the issue. Of particular concern is late-onset epilepsy, which can surface after an otterhound has already produced offspring, as well as decreasing litter size and female dogs who have difficulty conceiving.

The harriers’ métier — chasing hares — was also outlawed several years ago, leading to concerns that they will eventually disappear in England, where the dogs are kept exclusively in hunting packs. Harriers in the United States are third-to-last in the A.K.C.’s popularity list and are mostly kept as pets. Less than 100 are believed to be living in the United States.

Breeders of harriers import dogs from England every few years to infuse fresh genes into the United States stock. “If we’re cut off from that, or if there’s some reason that there’s a difficulty with that, then it’s questionable if there is enough genetic diversity for this breed to exist,” said Kevin Shupenia, a Georgia breeder who owns about 20 harriers.

Still, Conway said owning an otterhound was worth it. “The negatives to me certainly are so minor in comparison to the wonderful things about life with an otterhound,” she said.

“Why have otterhounds? Because they are a piece of history,” she said. To those who question whether the dogs have outlived their usefulness, she answers: “What difference does it make if we have polar bears or mountain gorillas? What do you need them for?”

Is Your Child Ready for a Pet?

Dog Gets Head Stuck in Pot
Reported by: KPSP Local 2 News

"Smokey," a two-year-old dog from Hemet, got his head stuck Friday afternoon. (Riverside County Animal Control)

A dog from Hemet got himself stuck in a tricky situation Friday afternoon.

"Smokey" somehow got his head stuck inside the top, canister-like portion of an old smudge pot! Poor little guy! Smokey is the dog's temporary nickname.

The two-year-old male dog was spotted around 2 p.m. in the 45-900 block of Willowbrook Road, near Florida.

Riverside County Animal Services Officer Amy Farrell showed up just in time to help Smokey out of his misery.

He was "probably chasing a mouse or other critter," said Farrell when asked how the dog wound up with its head stuck.

Farrell said the dog seemed slightly underweight, but is otherwise friendly and playful.

He didn't have a microchip, but he did have a collar. The animal is being cared for at the new San Jacinto Valley Animal Shelter, which is not yet open to the public.

Smokey's owner is urged to call Animal Services at (951) 358-7387.

Minneapolis Woman Who
Tried to Mail Puppy Wants It Back
Sara Duane-Gladden - Minneapolis Examiner

The woman who tried to ship a puppy across the country through the U.S. Postal Service has filed an appeal to get the dog back.

On Jan. 25, Stacey Champion, 39, was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty after she tried to mail the 4-month-old pup to Atlanta in a box with no air holes, water or food. The canine, named Guess, was discovered after the package moved and a postal worker heard breathing inside. Had the package been sent along in an airplane's unheated, non-pressurized cargo hold, the puppy would likely have died.

The black poodle and Schnauzer mix, which is being held by Minneapolis Animal Care & Control, was supposed to go up for adoption on Saturday, but now that process has been suspended. Minnesota statute allows an appeal hearing after an animal has been impounded due to a cruelty investigation.

On Monday, an administrative hearing will determine whether or not Champion is a danger to the puppy. There is the possibility the dog could be returned to her custody. Even if she wins the puppy back during her appeal, a judge could restrict her ownership of animals.

If it is determined that the dog should not be returned prior to the court date for Champion's criminal charge, she would need to either appeal the case or post a bond that would cover the cost of Guess' care and kenneling at a price of $15 per day. If she doesn't post a bond, Animal Control would be able to place the dog for adoption. In the meantime, the puppy will stay at the shelter while the hearing is pending.

Many people from around the Twin Cities area and beyond have been asking about adopting Guess. Though Minneapolis’ adoption policy is first-come first-served, the process involves basic screening of potential owners to ensure the animal will go to a suitable home. When many interested parties are present at the shelter, a drawing will take place.

Opie the Cat Saves Tenant from Apartment Fire
By Melissa Reid -

WHEELING -- A pet cat is being hailed a hero after saving a woman from her burning apartment.

Denise Huss was sound asleep when the fire broke out at the two story residence on South Park Street in Woodsdale.

As black smoke filled her room, Denise grabbed her pajamas and her purse and ran.

"I had no time. It was dark, there were no lights, I had to scramble. I brought nothing out," said Huss.

Firefighters saud the fire spread throughout the two-story house very fast.

They said the layout of the house and the origin of the fire made it difficult for crews to put out the flame.

"Initial crews found heavy fire in the basement but there was an electric hazard there. We had to wait for AEP to get here and cut power to the structure, so we had to fight the fire from the outside until then," said Wheeling Assistant Fire Chief Jim Blazier.

Firefighters said that things could have been a lot worse if Denise had not been awakened by Opie.

"I'm gonna hug it, but I'm normally very short with it because the meows a lot. I just thought it was once again, but this time, it sensed that fire," said Huss.

Firefighters say the house is a total loss.

Scuffle Over Dog Biscuit Leads to Arrest in Montana

LIVINGSTON, Mont.—A Montana man who took exception to someone else giving his dog a biscuit faces a misdemeanor assault charge.
The Livingston Enterprise reports one man had reached over a fence to give a dog a bone Thursday when the dog's owner grabbed him and threw him up against a garage.

Livingston Police Chief Darren Raney says the dog's owner believed the other man was trying to poison the dog. He was not.

The biscuit giver was not injured.

Vet's View:
It's a Dog-Eat-Dog-Food World
By Patty Khuly, Special for USA TODAY

I get asked some version of this question so often that I've finally broken down and decided to make my answer public.

Some of you might argue this issue is a no-duh no-brainer. But you might be surprised to learn just how many of my cat owners feed their precious felines dog food … or look the other way as Fido wolfs down the kitty's kibble.

Some of my clients have even taken to feeding the alternative species' food because it's either cheaper (as is the case when feeding dog food to cats) or because the dog got a taste of it once and now turns his nose up at everything else.

Not that it should be too tough to wean a dog off cat food or pony up a few extra pennies for the El Cheapo cat food —— not for my suburban clientele, anyway —— but it happens, and much more often than you might think.

That's why it's always worth detailing the differences between the two — perhaps so that you'll not make the mistake of allowing your cat to eat the dog food she craves. But maybe also because, well, you never thought to wonder and now you'll know why dog and cat food are NOT interchangeable.

Though it's not so common for cats to adore commercial dog food, I have met my share. They gobble down the big kibble with wild abandon, chewing messily so that chunks fly and saliva drips. It's not pretty. And so you know, it's not a great idea, either. At least not on a regular basis and definitely NOT as an exclusive diet, for these four key reasons:

•Vitamin A must be supplied in cat food, whereas dogs can make do with beta carotene instead (their bodies can turn it into vitamin A). While some dog foods may contain additional vitamin A, many won't have the amounts a cat requires for a lifetime of optimum health.

•Taurine is an amino acid all cats require. Dogs can make their own. Many dog foods may be deficient in taurine, the result being a cat who suffers a devastating kind of heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This also happens when cats eat a fish-only diet, since fish meat is so deficient in this amino acid. Which is probably why you've heard that fish is "bad" for cats, even though it's not. Well, not unless you're offering a poorly balanced diet. (Most commercial cat foods offer extra.)

•Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid that dogs can make for themselves, given enough other building blocks. Cats need the real thing. No substitutions allowed.

•Protein levels are another big reason not to feed dog food to cats. Though some dog foods do offer very high levels of protein, most do not reach the percentage of protein our carnivorous cats require. A lifetime of low protein may not kill your cat, but we know it's not their natural diet, and therefore it can't be a good thing.

More common than the kitty-in-the-dog-kibble thing, however, is the dog that will turn up his nose at commercial dog foods but gulps down the cat's food with gusto. This canine penchant for cat food leads many frustrated owners to mistakenly consider feline-only diets an acceptable alternative for finicky dogs. And it's not!

Although a dog can live on cat food alone (unlike cats and a lifetime of dog foods), it's not considered advisable. The caloric density, high protein levels and heavy doses of fat aren't ideally suited to all canine gastrointestinal tracts — or to their waistlines.

More than anything else, cat-food-eating dogs tend towards the obese and suffer more gastrointestinal ailments than others. Diarrhea, vomiting and even pancreatitis (which can be life-threatening) are possible outcomes for either short- or long-term feeding of cat food to dogs. Kitten food, with its even higher protein and fat levels, is even less appropriate for dogs.

But is a feline "snack" every once in a while going to hurt your dog? Will a doggie biscuit harm your cat? Not likely. Still, it wouldn't be at the top of my to-do list for optimal pet health.

So now you know. And the next time you run out of dog food and couldn't possibly be moved to drive to the market or "starve" your dog? Please don't feed him the cat's food. Try a little oatmeal and scrambled egg instead. But go easy on the serving size, OK?

5 Things to Know About Catnip

Q: What is catnip?

A: Everyone has a weakness. For me, it's salted caramel ice cream. For my dog, Lulu, it's expensive shoes. For most cats, it's catnip. Here are five things every cat lover should know about this mysterious product that drives cats batty.

1. Catnip is an actual plant.

A member of the mint family, Nepeta cataria L. (aka catnip) grows throughout the United States. The plant features small, lavender flowers and jagged, heart-shaped leaves that smell faintly of mint.

2. It's easy to grow.

Cat lovers who possess a green thumb can grow catnip from seed after the last hard frost of the season. As a perennial, this herbaceous flowering plant will return each year with proper care. Keep in mind that catnip requires plenty of room to grow and flourish, much like most felines. Once it grows, you will have the most popular house in the neighborhood - at least among the feline population.

3. Most cats love it.

Catnip leaves and flowers can trigger chemicals in a cat's brain that lead to bouts of energetic euphoria or laid-back laziness. For that reason, dried catnip and catnip-laced toys make regular appearances on pet store shelves. Mary Ellen Burgoon of Park Pet Supply in Atlanta advises cat owners to sprinkle dried catnip leaves on scratching posts as a training tool. Pinch the leaves first to release essential oils, and a little goes a long way. You also can refresh old toys by placing them in a sealed jar along with a sachet of catnip. It's a great way to jump-start a fat cat's exercise regimen.

4. Use with care.

Once cats get a whiff of catnip, it's best to leave them alone until they've lost that loving feeling. Catnip also can cause excessive drooling, so you may want to retrieve those cat toys after use. No one wants to step on a soaking wet cat toy. Burgoon also suggests storing catnip and catnip-laced toys in an airtight container or a cat-proof area.

5. People like catnip, too.

Catnip also can be used for tea. The presence of a chemical called nepetalactone produces sedative-like affects in humans, making catnip a popular home remedy for headaches as well as insomnia. To make catnip tea, add one teaspoon of dried catnip leaves or three to four teaspoons of fresh catnip leaves to a mug of boiling water and let it steep.

Advance Planning:
Burial With Your Pet
by Lady Bee -

Would it be a bit easier on your loss of a pet if you knew that you could be buried with him or next to him? If so, you are not the only one who would get solace from this knowledge - not by any means.

Americans are buried next to their cats, dogs... even iguanas, and more are preparing for their own inevitability by purchasing plots in advance right next to their pets.

The International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories told the United Kingdom's Press Association that nearly a quarter of pet cemeteries are accepting humans and that the demand is growing.

"We hear about it all the time in our membership, people asking for it," said Donna Bethune, the group's executive secretary.

The Hartsdale Pet Cemetary, about 40 minutes north of New York City, gets 10 to 12 requests a year from owners wanting to be buried with their pets and, at Hartsdale, they are accommodated. About 700 persons have joined the 75,000 buried pets they loved. Hartsdale, which opened in 1896, is the first American pet cemetery, and it probably offers more services to the grief-ridden than most other pet cemeteries.

If you choose to be buried with your pet, one or both of you will have to be cremated. Of course, this is not a very popular choice for burial, even today. When a pet is buried in a human cemetery with his owner, the pet has to be cremated and placed in the coffin with the owner. Is it irony or justice that in most pet cemeteries, humans must be cremated to be buried with their pets?

Know If Your Child is Ready Before Getting a Pet

Deciding to get a pet for your child can be a tough call. However, pets can definitely teach youngsters a thing or two about love and sharing.

Pets are the best companions for children.
I would advise the parents of a single child to definitely get a pet. Pets are the best companions for children. They make them feel secure and completely melt away the feeling of loneliness. In a family with two or three children, they learn the art of sharing when they have a pet at home. They also learn to take care and protect another being. This helps in psychological development and overall personality building.

The best part of having a pet is the child never feels lonesome. Even if animals cannot talk, they respond through gestures. A pet is good for a family as a whole. However, people who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems are advised not to keep pets. In that case, getting a fish tank is an option. Fishes also make for good pets.

I have come across couples who complain that they got a pet on the persuasion of their children who started neglecting them after a while. Sometimes, children are extremely excited about getting a pet but then grow out of the fascination. This leads to unnecessary frustration at home. Keeping a pet is a responsibility, so it’s only if everyone in the family agrees to chip in that you should go ahead and get one.
Seema Darode, clinical & school psychologist

Fishes are fantastic pets once children are little older.
It is a brilliant idea to have a pet at home. It is most beneficial for single children or kids who are shy. You can start by keeping a fish tank. Fishes are fantastic pets once children are four or five years old. Later on, you can opt for pets like dogs and cats.

The interaction with animals helps children learn many new things. Firstly, they get comfortable with touching and cuddling pets; moreover, they learn many biological functions. Their inhibitions and shyness can reduce to a great extent. Children also become more active since they have someone to play with all the time.

Children learn how to look after someone without being self-centred. It also makes them socially and individually aware. Though pets cannot express like people, their gestures convey so much more. Thus, automatically, children learn to think more humanely about others. They are able to build and develop relations in a better way.
Dr Bhooshan Shukla, child & adolescent psychiatrist, Trimiti Clinic

You become understanding, caring because of pets.
It’s been two-and-a-half years that I have a pet. My younger brother and I always wanted one, but my mother kept postponing it till she felt we were responsible enough to take care of a pet. Looking after a pet is a task, especially a complex one like a dog.

In the initial stage, you have to train dogs in how to live in a confined area while ensuring that they develop social manners. You also have to keep them active or else they become lazy and behave lethargically in all situations. While teaching your pet all this, you also start becoming socially aware.

The best part about having a pet is the love and care it brings. Whenever I come home, Tyke sits beside me wagging his tail to welcome me. It’s such a beautiful feeling to know someone is so happy to see you.

You learn to be understanding, loving and caring because of pets. They cannot speak but understand a lot. You can share your feelings with them like you do with any friend.

Having a pet is like having a sibling. However, you need to be careful when you get a pet for a child. The child should be old enough to understand what a pet is, how it should be cared for and so on.
Tanushree Mahajan, pet owner

My pet dogs, fishes are a real blessing for us.
I have two dogs and a fish tank at home for my child who is 5 years old. I had heard that getting a pet for a single child is good. I wanted to get fishes not just for my child, but also others in the family because they have a calming effect on the mind. I also got dogs that have been a real blessing. They are not only great companions for my son, but are also very protective about him.

Once a snake had entered our compound and the dogs saved my son from getting bitten by it. Thus, pets are extremely loyal and devoted to the owner. My child plays with them and shares everything.

I am extremely happy seeing my son learn so much from our pets. He is different from other five year olds that I have seen. There are small changes in his behaviour, like he will not eat until he distributes what he has and ensures everyone gets it. Usually, children are very possessive about their toys and chocolates. But my son is not like that. He shares everything with the dogs and involves everyone in his activities. Getting these pets was the best decision I made and I know it is going to benefit us
Rahul Shewale, pet owner

Cats have been a constant part of my growing years.
I adore cats and we had five earlier. Since the last five years, my cat Lily has been a companion for the whole family. I was in standard XII when my cat came home. Before that I had two tomcats called Steve and Mark. I have always loved cats more than dogs. In fact, they have been my friends since my childhood. My sister also loves cats. They are naturally clever and do not need any kind of training.

We have not trained Lily in any way, but she knows every nook and corner of our home and colony. Whenever we get home, she welcomes us with joy. She reacts in this manner only with a few family members and does not bother when there are guests. It is amazing the way she uses tricks to get attention. She perseveres till she gets what she wants. Pets make you feel special; the love they shower on you is overwhelming at times.
Hrishikesh Joshi, pet owner

Pets are family members who seek love & attention
I still remember the day we (my dad, younger brother and myself) made a pact to get a puppy home. It was just the three of us because my mom was totally against the proposition. However, when we finally got an innocent black and brown furred German Shepherd puppy, she had very little to complain as he was completely adorable. We named him Judo after noticing his fondness for extending his paws in a fighting stance. We had him for a good 11 years through our school as well as college years — a completely memorable time.

A pet dog is like a family member wanting his share of attention and care. We as kids use to play with him all day considering his insatiable energy. However, along with play also came in the responsibilities — like feeding him, toilet training, regular wash as well as manners at home.

Pets also serve as a great stress-buster. I remember Judo used to bark endlessly whenever we brothers had a fight, urging us to end it and make amends immediately. Pets have one quality that really differentiates them from us humans — that’s their unconditional love. When my dad passed away, Judo did not eat for almost 10 days. He was as much in mourning as all of us. My only advice to all parents wishing to bring in a puppy is to adore and respect it as much as your children.
Indrajitt Shirke, pet owner

Pet Care Tips –
5 Ways to Pamper Your Pet Dogs and Cats

A good way to treat you pet dog or cat is to pamper them once in a while. Giving them care and pampering is indeed a way of reciprocating the joy and companionship they have given you all the time. Here are some pet care tips and some pampering you can give to your pets.

(1) Get your pet a toy.
A frisbee would be greatly delightful for your pet dog. Choose a frisbee that is lightweight and but something that can’t be easily chewed apart. You can also give your pet rubber balls to play with. Some important pet care tips – be sure that you choose a toy that does not have some parts that can be easily swallowed and don’t leave them playing with something that they can tear into pieces and swallow.

(2) Style and shoot.
Give your pets the celebrity pet look and have a photo session for them. You can get good pet dresses for your dog or cat or you can also get themed dresses to make the photo shoot more exciting. This may be a challenging task but it could be a fun activity to spend time with your pets.

(3) Get a treadmill for your pet.
A pet treadmill is an amazing way to exercise your dog indoors. It can be convenient if you do not have the luxury of time to go outdoors and give them a good walk. Although a walk in the park can also give them a breath of fresh air, your dog treadmill can be helpful if you want to stay indoors. You can also choose a manual treadmill so they can have control over it, and never leave your pet on their own when exercising. One of the important pet care tips to keep in mind is to be responsible for the safety of your pets in whatever gadgets you are putting them in.

(4) Schedule a pet spa.
If you like going to the spa to pamper yourself, you can also book a great spa for your pet dog or cat. Bring them to pet day spa where they can be treated like a royalty! – just exactly what you want them to feel. A good massage, a great nail clipping and teeth and ear cleaning… it can be a great experience for your pets. You can even apply for programs on teaching your pets to do some tricks. This experience will definitely be great for your pet and for you as well. Having a clean, sweet-smelling pet at the end of the day is indeed something that you would want to cuddle and play with.

(5) Give them a good bath.
Of course, the easiest and most common thing you can do for your pet is a good bath. Give your dog a good bath but do not also give them frequent baths as this can also make their skin dry and susceptible to skin infections. You can however clean them by rubbing their body with a damp towel and cleaning their paws. Cats on the other hand can manage to clean themselves but you can also give them a good bath. You can use lukewarm water and pour, not spray, on them. If you can’t get your cat to take a bath especially the older ones, you can also rub them with damp towels. Also comb their hair before bathing to get rid of loose hair and make your shampoo more effective.

You can start with this pet care tips to give your pets the pampering they need. You can also find more ways to make them feel important once in a while.

Hints From Heloise:
Just Like Cabbie?

Dear Readers: Some say most mini-schnauzers LOOK ALIKE, but do they? Our Cabernet (Cabbie for short) is a silver-haired sweetheart with big, brown eyes. If you have a dog that looks like Cabbie, send in a photo, and we will pick a handful to post on my Web site. So, take a look at to see several photos of she who runs the household! Each person whose pet photo is posted will receive a special thank-you from Cabbie and Heloise Central. Please send a good-quality photo to: Heloise/Cabbie, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279, or e-mail, and please put in the subject line "Cabbie." -- Heloise


Dear Readers: Laurel Cameron in Rindge, N.H., sent a picture of her black-and-brown short-haired cat, Suki, sitting on top of the fish tank. This is her favorite place to sit, much to the dismay of the goldfish in the tank, which is looking quite nervous! To see Suki, go to and click on "Pets." -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: My friend says that he feeds his hamster dry dog biscuits. Is this okay? I've heard of giving hamsters treats, but I've always bought them at the pet store, and I have never given mine a dog biscuit! -- Harry in New Hampshire

Harry, your hamster can chew on a dry dog biscuit occasionally. It's best to give hamsters a small piece of one every day or so, along with their regular hamster food. Did you know that a piece of apple is another good treat? -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Rather than destroy old toothbrushes, pet owners should save them for use as facial brushes for their dogs and cats. The toothbrushes are the right size to brush around the eyes, snout and ears without being frightening to the animal. My wife and I have been giving kitty facials for years, and all our little felines love them. -- Russ Vaughn, Ruidoso, N.M.


Dear Heloise: One day, as I was walking out back while it was raining, I saw my cat, Kringles, sitting under an old pickup-truck bed cap of my brother's. She was dry and could still see outside. Since one of the side windows was broken out (which was why my brother wasn't using it), I carefully removed the rest of the glass, scattered straw under the cap, and now ALL my cats love it!

There's plenty of room for them and their dishes, they are out of the wind, rain and cold, and it holds heat from the sun really well. In the summer, I open the "tailgate" window to let air in. -- Tessa in Empire, Ohio


Dear Heloise: I adopted my fourth animal from the city pound. To make sure that none of my other animals feels jealous, I spend a little time with each one separately. They feel loved and comfortable with the new addition. -- Elizabeth in Texas