The Traveling Pet Show

Dog Helps Paralyzed Marine
Janice Lloyd -

Sam Farr, 23, and his Golden retriever Noble, a service dog. Farr said he hopes he and Noble can go to school and they are planning a Caribbean cruise.

Sometimes it takes a dog to make life better, much better. A Marine paralyzed during an on-duty accident is getting a new lease on life thanks to a service dog named Noble.

When the vehicle in which Sam Farr was driving went over a cliff in North Carolina two years ago, his spinal cord was partially severed. During his rehabilitation in a Georgia hospital, volunteers from Canine Assistants visited and asked Farr if he'd like a service dog.

After 18 months of training ,Farr, 23, is enjoying getting out with Noble. He told the Associated Press the hardest part of being paralyzed is going out. "Sometimes I feel there's no point, like it's a waste of time because I can't do the things I used to do."

Not since Noble has entered the picture. They have been to the mall, the movies and a restaurant.

READERS: Big hooray from us. We've done stories on Canine Assistants , an incredible organization that transforms lives. Jennifer Arnold is the founder. She raises and trains the Goldens on her farm in Milton, Ga, and provides the dogs free of charge to people in need. Milk-Bone is a sponsor, but we also know one of Arnold's training secrets: peanut butter.

Noble's Facebook page, chronicling his journey to becoming a service dog, is part of an ad campaign for Milk-Bone. He has over 34,000 friends and counting

Popovich has Purr-fect Performing Companions
By Yvonne T. Betowt, The Huntsville Times

Bob Gathany, The Huntsville Times Bob Gathany / The Huntsville TImes - Gregory Popovich's Pet Comedy Theater at Merrimack Hall Wednesday evening Feb. 23, 2011. Popovich delivers a cartload of cats to the stage.

HUNTSVILLE, AL -- Teach an old dog new tricks?

No problem.

Herd geese?

No problem.

Ignore a cat?

That could present a problem for famed Las Vegas entertainer Gregory Popovich, who was in town this week with his Pet and Comedy Theater featuring a menagerie of animals at Merrimack Hall.

"If you ignore a cat, he won't respond the next time (he is supposed to do a trick)," said Popovich while touring the Greater Huntsville Humane Society shelter early Thursday afternoon. "You have to pet them each time and they will remember it and respond, most of the time."

And respond they do.

Amid mass confusion of loud music, flashing lights, a cheering audience, and props constantly being moved around on stage, 14 cats climb their perches and sit waiting for Popovich to invite them to perform.

"Sometimes for some reason they won't respond, but the show must go on and I just move on to the next one," said Popovich, 46, who grew up in Russia, the son of circus performers and dog trainers. "As a boy I was always around dogs and boys love dogs. But as I got older I realized cats have more intelligence. They are smart enough to ignore you."

He brought his collection of some 30 animals, including the 14 cats, 12 dogs, a parrot, mice, doves, and nine humans to Huntsville as part of the show's southern and East Coast tour that began in January.

Bob Gathany / The Huntsville TImes - Gregory Popovich's Pet Comedy Theater at Merrimack Hall Wednesday evening Feb. 23, 2011. Popovich and dog firemen rescue jumping cat from "burning building."

He performed to three sold out evening performances and a nearly sold out Wednesday morning matinee this week. About a dozen children who take part in the Dance Your Dreams program at Merrimack, attended the morning performance, said Merrimack Marketing Director Ashley Dinges.

"Kids are the toughest audience," said Popovich, who has five human performers, including his daughter Anastasia Alexandrova, and four groomers for the animals. "They are very honest and if they don't like something, they let you know it."

Popovich was invited to perform with Ringling Brothers Circus 20 years ago and became the first Russian to work for "The Greatest Show on Earth."

But after a year, he decided to move on to other venues such as Circus Circus in Las Vegas. When not on the road, he and his troupe perform at Planet Hollywood Casino. He bases his shows on ideas from his idol, vaudeville great Charlie Chaplin.

Most of his four-legged performers were adopted from animal shelters in Los Angeles, including the geese after the owner of the farm where they lived died.

While on the road, Popovich always tries to visit local shelters, but never adopts from one because he said it would not be a good idea to take a new animal on the road. He subtley encourages people during his performance to adopt shelter pets.

Michael Mercier/The Huntsville Times. Las Vegas entertainer Gregory Popovich visits the Greater Huntsville Humane Society while in Huntsville with his Comedy and Pet Theater.

Use Your Mouse to Play with a Cat
Terrence Petty -

Technology allows people to remotely interact with shelter animals

A cat sits over a robotic toy in the cat play room at the Oregon Humane Society in Portland. More than 90,000 cat lovers from 112 countries have remotely played with the kittens at the Oregon Humane Society since September, thanks to real-time computer technology.

PORTLAND – More than 90,000 cat lovers from 112 countries have played with the kittens at the Oregon Humane Society since September, wiggling and yanking on kitty toys at the shelter’s play room.

You’d think such a large number of people would be tripping over each other. But these visits are by remote, thanks to real-time technology that lets fans of felines use their computers to manipulate the toys, which dangle from robotic arms.

It’s a game of cat and computer mouse.

The kitties whack and tug at the toys and occasionally tumble with each other while their human playmates watch via cat-cam.

Cats being cats, sometimes they ignore the toys, too.

The technology, called iPetCompanion, was invented by a small Idaho robotics company, Apriori Control, and was first tested by the Idaho Humane Society in Boise last June.

“After launching our first site live in Idaho, we received an enormous response from Humane Societies around the country,” said Scott Harris, head of Apriori.

He chose the Oregon Humane Society for the next launch.

“All I had to do was provide space and kittens,” said Barbara Baugnon, communications director at the Portland shelter.

One purpose of the program is to increase cat adoptions by letting would-be owners play with the cats without having to travel to the shelters.

That’s working. Adoptions are up 16 percent at the Oregon Humane Society, and have increased at the Boise shelter as well.

But it’s not the whole point. People overseas who have played with the Idaho and Oregon kittens are probably not about to book a flight to the Pacific Northwest to adopt a cat.

Still, they benefit. Interacting with cats can have a soothing effect on humans, even if it is done remotely.

Some of the human playmates are people who can’t own cats, whether because of building rules, allergies or other reasons. Disabled people with limited mobility also play with the kitties.

The average interactive time per viewer at the Idaho shelter is nearly 14 minutes; at the Oregon shelter it’s just shy of 15 minutes, said Harris.

The Idaho site has had more than 86,000 unique visitors from 108 countries. For both shelters, the greatest number of visitors have been American, followed by Germans, Australians, Canadians, Britons, Estonians and Swiss.

Some 71.3 percent of people who visit the Idaho site come back again; that rate in Oregon is 85.6.

And having humans available to play 24/7 can be good for the felines’ mental and physical health as well.

“The basic idea of an online kitty play room is great for both people who are, for one reason or another, unable to play with their own cat, and for the kittens, to help with socialization, reduce boredom in the shelter and promote later adoption,” said Dr. Dennis C. Turner, an author and researcher in animal behavior at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

“I hope this innovation will be adopted by other shelters throughout the world,” Turner, an expert on cat behavior and human-cat relations, said in an e-mail.

Baugnon, at the Oregon shelter, hopes the interactive play rooms will help more people understand that cats need attention from their human owners, just as dogs do.

“Over the years, dogs have been elevated in status. Now they’re members of the family,” she said.

Cats, she worries, sometimes get unequal treatment.

“We want people to understand cats aren’t OK by themselves. We are hoping people realize these are beings that want to be part of the family,” Baugnon said.

There have been some glitches. During the first week, the kittens at the Idaho shelter broke all of the toy mechanisms in the play room, said Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, executive director at the Idaho Humane Society.

The mechanisms were toughened up to withstand the “destructive capacity of a roomful of kittens.”

Currently, you have to use Internet Explorer to interact with the kittens, but Harris is working on that. He also said he is working with a large pet-toy distributor interested in selling iPetCompanion.

While hundreds of other shelters have expressed interest, Harris said, the $8,200 installation cost is an obstacle unless sponsors can be found to foot the bill.

In the meantime, he said, the technology is being put to other uses as well – including plans to control the feeding of an even bigger cat, a zoo lion, over the Internet.

Dolphins Help Save Tired Dog Stuck in Canal
By Paul Gessler -

MARCO ISLAND, FL: Some persistent dolphins are being credited with saving a dog that had run away on Marco Island. The dog's owner said he had been missing for 15 hours before the dolphins alerted neighbors.

Cindy Burnett says her 11-year-old Doberman named Turbo disappeared late Sunday night after his gate was left open.

And that's when Burnett and her sons went looking for him.

"I searched and searched and called his name. I drove through this street at least five or six times," she said.

Late Monday morning, Turbo was finally found.

"He was shivering and a lot of distress," Burnett said.

She says Turbo could have been in the canal water for 15 hours. And she says it would have been longer if it weren't for a persistent splashing coming from the water.

"The lady here who had gotten him out of the canal said, 'No, the dolphins were with him,'" Burnett explained.

Dolphins got a neighbor's attention - alerting them to a stranded pooch in shallow water.

"If he had to tread water all night long, I know he wouldn't have been able to," Burnett said.

The neighbor jumped in the water after calling 9-1-1 and got Turbo out. But she wasn't home Wednesday when we tried reaching her.

While Turbo has been reunited with his family, Burnett says she doesn't expect him to get too close to the water any time soon.

Cat Recuperating
After Losing Ear to Frostbite
By Katherine Landergan -

A stray cat that was befriended by workers at the Wentworth Institute of Technology is recovering from a severe case of frostbite that nearly claimed the animal’s life, according to the Animal Rescue League in Boston.

Wentworth maintenance workers were familiar with the cat, but had not seen it around campus for some time until it reappeared on Thursday, Jennifer Wooliscroft, communications director of the rescue league, said in a prepared statement yesterday.

The cat looked unhealthy so workers called the Animal Rescue League. As senior rescue technician Bill Tanguay was transporting the cat, its ear fell off, Wooliscroft said.

“When our shelter veterinarian examined her, she found that she had severe frostbite,’’ Wooliscroft said. “The padding on her paws was worn away, and we unfortunately had to remove her tail.’’

But Wooliscraft said that in spite of the cat’s troubles, she is expected to recover once the frostbite has been treated.

“Even though she’s had a pretty rough time, she’s making everyone here smile,’’ she said.

Wooliscraft said the cat, named Elsie Maude by the shelter staff, is recovering and should be healthy enough to be put up for adoption within a week.

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe .com.

Family Dog Might Make Teens More Active
By Randy Dotinga - HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay News) -- Teenagers who live in homes with dogs get a bit more daily exercise than teens without pooches, new research finds.

The study doesn't prove that dog ownership directly leads to more active kids, but "there does still seem to be some association between owning a dog and adolescent physical activity," said John Ronald Sirard, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Virginia.

"What's causing it, we don't know yet," he added.

In the big picture, the study fits into wider research looking at equipment in the home that boosts exercise, he said. "We see the dog as one of those pieces of physical equipment," Sirard explained.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons to own a dog other than to get a teenager to move around more. Some studies have suggested that pet owners are healthier than other people, although research findings have been inconsistent. In terms of dogs in particular, research from Australia has suggested that their adult owners are more physically active than others.

In the new study, published in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers examined a 2006-2008 survey of 618 adolescent/parent pairs in the United States. The teenagers -- 49 percent were male and their average age about 14 -- wore devices to measure their physical activity.

White and wealthier families were more likely to own dogs. When the researchers adjusted the figures to account for factors that might throw off the results, they found that teens in families without dogs got an average of 29.5 minutes of physical activity a day compared to 32.1 minutes among those with dogs, Sirard said.

"It's a small difference, but it's a piece of a larger puzzle," Sirard said. "Anything we can do to tip the balance in favor of more physical activity is going to be a good thing, even though it's not the magic bullet."

However, neither dog owners nor non-owners got enough exercise to meet current guidelines, which suggest an hour of activity a day.

Still, teens with dogs were less sedentary than their peers without a four-legged friend, but it's unclear what specific role the dog might play. Sirard said it could be that teens walk the family dog or play with it. Or it may just be that families that are more active have more dogs.

Katherine D. Hoerster, a postdoctoral fellow at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, who has studied dogs and exercise, said the ultimate goal is to get teens to be more active.

The study is "an important first step" in understanding whether it would be useful to try to encourage dog walking in young people, said Hoerster, who's familiar with the research findings.

Pets and Alzheimer's:
 More Ways to Help Your Dog
By Steve Dale for USA WEEKEND

What can you do in real-life to potentially delay or even – who knows – prevent cognitive decline in pets? It all begins with providing lots of enrichment, a lifetime of learning, adequate exercise and appropriate nutrition.

Many dogs attend puppy classes, but learning shouldn’t stop there. Use the techniques you’ve learned in your puppy class to continue teaching your dog. Sometimes those approaches come in handy; for example, you can teach your dog not to jump at the door greeting visitors. You can also teach dogs (in good health) to find dinner in a game of hide ‘n seek. Pour the kibble into enrichment toys (such as Busy Body or Kong toys, or the Talk to Me Treatball), which you hide for your pup to seek. This game provides exercise for the brain as well as some physical activity. There are even ‘board games’ for dogs, such as the Nina Ottoson interactive brain games for dogs.

In truth, let out to run in the backyard, most dogs typically sprint around a few times, and then chill because unless you are there, there’s little for a dog to do. A walk around the block is far more enriching; with each sniff the pup checks out the 4-1-1 on every dog, cat or squirrel who has recently dropped by. There’s usually an opportunity to meet other dogs and their people; and Carl Cottman, director of Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the University of California, Irvine, notes that it’s been shown that social activity stimulates canine brains. Cottman says that brain exercises (thinking and learning) are good for the brain, and physical exercise turns out to be good for brain health as well.

“We’re pretty convinced that engaging novel activities and increasing and changing around the complexity of the environment are all effective at helping to preserve brain volume in rats, and probably in dogs and in people,” says Jeffrey Kaye, director of NIA-Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, and chair of a Task Force for the National Alzheimer’s Association.

For cats, enrichment and exercise are no less important – and veterinary behaviorist Gary Landsberg, of Thornhill, Ontario, director of veterinary affairs for Cancog Technologies, says our cats may be in more need of both compared to dogs. While increasingly people keep their cats indoors, they are likely under-exercised and bored. However, by changing around the environment too dramatically, you could instantly have one stressed out cat, since cats unaccustomed to change generally detest anything new and different.

“One easy way to change up the environment for a cat or a dog is to rotate the toys,” says veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, and director of the Behavior Clinic of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Aside from playing with your cat, and having a second cat or another pet in the home for the cat to interact with, some of the same techniques to enrich lives in dogs can be used for cats. Feeding some or even all of the cat’s food in toys that dispense kibble is a great idea for activating a cat’s prey drive. You can do the same with moist food by spooning small portions of the food into several little containers or plastic lids, and put them in various locations around the house.

Is Your Cat a Bully?
by Melissa Breyer -

The truth about cats and dogs is that dogs are not always the bullies–many cats stealthily torment their canine roommates. It isn’t about physical size; it’s all about attitude. Bully cats want to control practically every situation. They may even attempt to push their people around, too, by demanding meals when they want them and nipping hands when they have decided they have received enough petting.

If your cat is a threat to your dog; there’s help. According to Arden Moore in The Cat Behavior Answer Book (Storey, 2007), bully cats do not accept punishment or corrections, but they do have a weak spot–they want attention. Use that to your advantage. Retraining a bossy feline is much like training a dominant dog. Start by exercising your cat more frequently to expend some of his excessive energy and turn his attention to you instead of your poor dog. Protect your hands by engaging him in games with a fishing pole toy or cat teaser (a coiled wire with a small bundle of lightweight wood on one end that moves erratically, imitating the movement of a butterfly).

With regard to protecting your dog, the first step is to stop the attack. Look for early warning signs and stop a fight before it starts. Right before an attack, a cat will typically dip his head, arch his back end, and shimmy a bit. If you see this, try to remain calm. Scolding and high-pitched shrieks may only serve to fuel any aggression. Instead, step in and try distracting with food treats, a favorite toy, or spend a moment rubbing under his chin. Cats can’t be happy and mad a the same time.

Separate the two when you cannot be around to supervise them. Avoid having them together during high-energy times, like at mealtimes and when you arrive home. Reintroduce them when they are both tired–for instance, after you have played with your cat and taken your dog for a brisk walk. When you do reintroduce them, keep your dog on a leash and let him learn your cat’s signals. Do this until you see that both pets are calm. Then unleash your pup. Finally, make sure your cat’s claws are trimmed to avoid any injuries.

Shanghai’s New Dog Rules
Mean One Best Friend Per Household
By Bloomberg News

Shanghai, China’s richest city, is extending the country’s one-child policy to animals as it moves to limit residents to one dog per household in a bid to curb the growing popularity of man’s best friend.

The population of dogs is causing headaches for the city government which is banning certain breeds because of an increasing number of attacks under new rules passed by lawmakers, according to a statement released by the municipality today.

Shanghai’s population may have reached 23 million people last year as more migrants moved to the city, China Daily reported Feb. 23. Dog ownership has also risen dramatically with incomes in China, which passed the one-child policy in 1979 to limit its human population.

The city’s gross domestic product last year grew 9.9 percent to 1.687 trillion yuan. The city now has 600,000 unlicensed dogs, according to a report in the Shanghai Daily. The newspaper added that the government will also impose a 200 yuan fine on dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets.

“As incomes rise, more people want pets,” said Shaun Rein, Shanghai-based managing director of China Market Research Group. “It’s becoming a serious issue about dogs running around, pooping and causing a mess.”

The Shanghai government wants to cut down on the number of animals in urban areas to decrease cases of animal attacks and prevent rabies, according to a statement on its website. Canine abuse has also been targeted, it said.

Last year, police handled about 140,000 cases of people being bitten by unlicensed dogs, compared with 100,000 such incidents in 2006, according to the Shanghai Daily report. Banned attack dogs include Tibetan mastiffs, Beauceron wolfdogs and English bulldogs, the newspaper said.

Owners who violate the new law will face fines of as much as 1,000 yuan ($152), the Shanghai-based newspaper said. A dog that attacks people more than once can be seized by police, it said.

The new regulations go into effect May 15.

Is Your Dog or Cat too Fat?
By Rob Manker, Chicago Tribune reporter

The skinny

A report Wednesday by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says half of all dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Overall, one-fifth are obese, defined as 30 percent or more over their recommended body weight, according to the report. It also cites numerous health problems such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease the excess weight causes for big dogs and fat cats. So not only do they look like us, they eat like us too.

Gary Bogue:
Have You Pet-Proofed Your Swimming Pool?
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

I got the shivers

just standing by the window

it's so cold outside

Dear Gary:

Monday afternoon I was catching up on the Sunday paper at my kitchen table.

I do not know what made me look out back, but I noticed waves in my pool.

Confused, I got up to look and found my Yorkie in the spa! Our spa is elevated so water was flowing out of the waterfall into the pool.

He was treading water but not making a sound. I do not know how long he had been in the water.

Our other Yorkie had been wandering from the slider to me but I did not know why. I think he was trying to get my attention.

We have a doggie door in the screen and the slider was open. It was a scary moment.

We have always been cautious with the pool and spa, never letting the dogs outside when we are not home and checking them when we are home. And they are never outside with our slider closed.

The way our pool and spa are situated in our yard makes it difficult to put up any type of fencing.

I think it's time to get those alarmed floaters that are used for small children.

I am so thankful that the outcome was good. I still shake when I think of what would have happened if I did not notice when I did.

The water is only about 48 degrees!

Linda, Discovery Bay

Dear Linda:

Whew! That was close.

I'm very happy for you that it all worked out well.

Now is a good time to remind us all to think about pool safety for our pets and children if we have pools or spas. You obviously can't be too careful!

When it (I hope) gets warm one of these days, the pools will get a lot of use. And even if it's not warm, those pools are still there waiting for pets or kids to slip and fall, as you discovered just in time.

Go to and do a search for pool safety alarm for pets and children. They have excellent Pet (and child) Immersion Alarms that fit on collars and bracelets. A LOUD alarm instantly sounds at a base station when the unit is immersed in water.

It may save the life of someone you love.

Avian Society meeting

Contra Costa Avian Society invites you to join them at their next monthly educational club meeting, 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Contra Costa Water District building, 1331 Concord Ave., Concord. Meet other pet and wild bird enthusiasts, plus raffle, door prize and munchies.

Dr. Duane Flemming, UC Davis Veterinary School graduate and founding member and past president of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association will talk about options for a trust for your pet: "Long-lived pets -- Consider a Pet Trust."

Go see what the big squawk is all about. It's free!

A final note

I totally agree with your response to the writer with the especially naughty cat.

With only one exception, I have used the "timeout" method successfully in training all my cats not to scratch the furniture or claw the curtains: the problem that bugs me the most.

My cats have all been indoor/outdoor so I haven't had to deal with TP stunts, etc.

I make sure the cat knows physically what I want by holding its paws to the couch, saying "No" firmly the first time.

If it happens a second time I repeat that process, then 5 minutes in the bathroom. If it happens more times, timeouts can take longer.

It usually takes only a few of these sequences to cure the problem forever -- including when I am gone from the house! (Mari, Berkeley)

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