Are You Allergic to the Family Pet?

Springtime Safety Tips For Dog & Cat Owners
By Loyal Biscuit Co.-

Spring has sprung, and with the change of season, our thoughts inevitably turn to Easter celebrations, spring cleaning and much-needed home improvement projects. But the new balmy weather can prove not-so-sunny for curious pets—or their unwitting parents. Before you embark on seasonal chores or outdoor revelry, take inventory of potential springtime hazards for your delicate, furry friend. To help you out, our ASPCA experts have come up with a few seasonal tips that will help prevent mishaps or misfortunes.

Easter Treats and Decorations - Keep Easter lilies and candy bunnies in check—chocolate goodies are toxic to cats, dogs and ferrets, and lilies can be fatal if ingested by our furry friends. And be mindful, kitties love to nibble on colorful plastic grass, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting and dehydration. Moreover, while bunnies, chicks and other festive animals are adorable, resist the urge to buy—these cute babies grow up fast and often require specialized care!

Screen Yourself - Many pet parents welcome the breezy days of spring by opening their windows. Unfortunately, they also unknowingly put their pets at risk—especially cats, who are apt to jump or fall through unscreened windows. Be sure to install snug and sturdy screens in all of your windows. If you have adjustable screens, make sure they are tightly wedged into window frames.

Buckle Up! - While every pet parent knows dogs love to feel the wind on their furry faces, allowing them to ride in the bed of pick-up trucks or stick their heads out of moving-car windows is dangerous. Flying debris and insects can cause inner ear or eye injuries and lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury, or worse! Pets in cars should always be secured in a crate or wearing a seatbelt harness designed especially for them.

Spring Cleaning - Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition in many households, but be sure to keep all cleaners and chemicals out of your pets’ way! Almost all commercially sold cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to pets. The key to using them safely is to read and follow label directions for proper use and storage.

Home Improvement 101 - Products such as paints, mineral spirits and solvents can be toxic to your pets and cause severe irritation or chemical burns. Carefully read all labels to see if the product is safe to use around your furry friends. Also, be cautious of physical hazards, including nails, staples, insulation, blades and power tools. It may be wise to confine your dog or cat to a designated pet-friendly room during home improvement projects.

Let Your Garden Grow—With Care - Pet parents, take care—fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides keep our plants and lawns healthy and green, but their ingredients aren't meant for four-legged consumption and can be fatal if your pet ingests them. Always store these poisonous products in out-of-the-way places and follow label instructions carefully. Check out our full list of garden care tips.

Poisonous Plants - Time to let your garden grow! But beware, many popular springtime plants—including Easter lilies, rhododendron and azaleas—are highly toxic to pets and can easily prove fatal if eaten. Check out our full list—and pics!—of toxic and non-toxic plants for your home and garden.

Ah-Ah-Achoo! - Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets can be allergic to foods, dust, plants and pollens. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can cause minor sniffling and sneezing as well as life-threatening anaphylactic shock. If you suspect your pet has a springtime allergy, please visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Pesky Little Critters - April showers bring May flowers—and an onslaught of bugs! Make sure your pet is on year-round heartworm preventive medication, as well as a flea and tick control program. Ask your doctor to recommend a plan designed specifically for your pet.

Out and About - Warmer weather means more trips to the park, longer walks and more chances for your pet to wander off! Make sure your dog or cat has a microchip for identification and wears a tag imprinted with your home address, cell phone and any other relevant contact information. Canines should wear flat (never choke!) collars, please.

If you suspect your pet may have come in contact with or ingested a potentially poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

5 Most Memorable Movie Cats

LOS ANGELES – Cats tend to get a bad rap in movies. They're always evil, scheming and untrustworthy — or at the very least, they're coughing up hairballs. Halle Berry won a Razzie Award for worst actress for squeezing into that skin-tight suit and tail to star in 2004's "Catwoman," but hey — at least she had enough of a sense of humor to show up and accept the ignominious prize in person.

With the documentary "African Cats" opening this week, here's a look at the five most memorable cinematic felines:

• Puss-in-Boots from the "Shrek" movies: Antonio Banderas was a total scene-stealer when he voiced this character in the 2004 sequel "Shrek 2." A tabby cat decked out in tiny Zorro duds in a nod to Banderas' starring role in 1998's "The Mask of Zorro," Puss is sent to take out the ogre Shrek, which would make way for a fairy-tale ending for Fiona and Prince Charming. Instead, the kitty ends up warming to the big green guy and fighting on his side. The character alternates with catlike agility between sword-fighting bravado and saucer-eyed vulnerability, and Banderas plays him with a sexual ambiguity that adds a hilariously subversive layer of humor. Puss also goes along for the ride in 2007's "Shrek the Third" and is the only reliable source of comedy in last year's "Shrek Forever After."

• Mr. Tinkles from the "Cats & Dogs" movies: He's soft and white and fluffy but don't let his looks or his cutesy name fool you. This power-hungry Persian is hell-bent on ridding the world of those enemy dogs and ensuring world domination for his species. Sean Hayes voices the character with wonderfully manic fury, and the fact that this cruel kitty was such a contrast to the flamboyantly charismatic role Hayes played on "Will & Grace" when the original "Cats & Dogs" came out in 2001 was part of the joke. Hayes returned to the part last year in the sequel "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore," which featured Mr. Tinkles locked up in a cell, Hannibal Lecter-style.

• Fritz the Cat (1972): He curses and smokes pot, sparks riots and indulges in orgies — and the best part of all is, he's animated. Fritz, the star of "Fritz the Cat," engages in such wild and shocking activities, it earned an X rating — a first for an animated movie. Based on the Robert Crumb comic strip, director Ralph Bakshi's satire follows the adventures of Fritz (voiced by Skip Hinnant) as he mingles with hippies, Black Panthers and Hell's Angels. The movie tends to meander and it can get a little heavy, man, but it's still a hoot. (Crumb, however, hated the film so much that he subsequently killed off the Fritz character.)

• Blofeld's cat from the James Bond movies: Such a sweet and docile kitty, sitting there in its master's lap, minding its own business, enjoying nice pets on its soft, white fur. Only the cat's master is Blofeld, one of James Bond's most persistent enemies. The word "supervillain" was created with Blofeld in mind. And so the cat, by association, must be evil, too. Since Blofeld only appears from the chest down in his first two Bond films — 1963's "From Russia With Love" and 1965's "Thunderball" — the cat is a defining characteristic, and clearly must be in on all these diabolical schemes for world domination. The cat is such a trademark, it was famously parodied in the "Austin Powers" movies with the hairless Mr. Bigglesworth and Mini-Mr. Bigglesworth.

• "Cat" from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961): Blake Edwards' classic romantic comedy provided one of the defining roles for Audrey Hepburn: Holly Golightly, the New York party girl who, outwardly, seems to live a glamorous life, but in truth is full of insecurities and neuroses. Distraught on her way out of town in the film's final scene, she kicks the orange cat — whom she's intentionally never named — out of the cab in the rain to live among the rats and garbage cans. But she quickly runs back to find him, and George Peppard waiting for her, in an emotional, climactic reunion in an alleyway. They kiss with the cat sandwiched between them. "Moon River" swells in the background. The end. I cry every time.

‘African Cats’ is Beautiful and Kid-Friendly | 3 ½ stars

A cheetah mother must remain ever-vigilant for her cubs.

Rated G | Time: 1:29

Earth Day is Mother’s Day in “African Cats,” a magnificent wildlife documentary from Disneynature.

It’s an engrossing and often moving film built around the fierce protect-my-young instincts of a lioness and a female cheetah struggling against the odds on the Kenyan Masai Mara savanna.

Almost every shot is a postcard-perfect African vista, and every animal is shown in majestic close-up — lions, cheetahs, hyenas, aardvarks, even the homely wildebeest, their snouts covered in flies.

And yes, almost every situation and story thread duplicates what National Geographic did with its darker and more straightforward documentary, “The Last Lions.” But it’s not a put-down to suggest “Cats” is to “Lions” what poetry is to prose.

Music, image and narration combine in the Disney film to present life and death up close (and yet almost bloodlessly), capturing a world where man isn’t yet the biggest threat — other lions and everybody’s favorite monster, the crocodiles, are.

A river separates two prides of lions. In one, the aged Layla raises her female cub, Mara, living under the dubious protection of Fang. On the other side of the river, Kali and his sons covet Fang’s pride and plot their assault.

Sita the cheetah raises her brood of five cubs on her own, a single mom. “Built for speed, but not staying power,” as Samuel L. Jackson narrates, she can run down most any animal she sees. But protecting her cubs, taunting and luring away lions and hyenas, eats up her energy.

Filmmakers Keith Scholey (“Big Cat Diary”) and Alistair Fothergill (“Deep Blue,” “Earth”) showcase the animals to great effect, letting us appreciate their beauty, their exquisite design. The filmmakers occasionally capture the cute — cuddly cubs wrestling. But they don’t shy away from the daily brutality of the “circle of life” — as we see in slow-motion takedowns of gazelles and zebras, whole herds of them bleating in alarm.

But Jackson’s enthusiastic narration, the splendid images and especially the wonderful sound — grunting aardvarks wrestling, lions trying to muster up their most menacing roar — make “the Disney version” of the hard life both educational and terrific, kid-friendly entertainment.

| Roger Moore, The Orlando Sentinel

4 Antioch Police Dogs Get Bulletproof Vests

ANTIOCH, Calif.—Four Antioch police dogs, including one that was shot in August, have been outfitted with bulletproof vests.
The dogs showed off their new custom-made body armor this week. Each vest weighs about five pounds and is both bullet and knife resistant.

The $1,200 vests come after one of the dogs, a 65-pound Belgian Malinois, was shot in the right shoulder by a burglary suspect in August.

The dog survived and was back on the job two weeks later. But police officials tell the Contra Costa Times that the injury might have been avoided if the dog had been wearing one of the vests.

The vests were provided by The Police and Working K-9 Foundation, a group that also helps pay for emergency medical care for police dogs.

In Praise of Mutts: A New State Dog

Virginia has the Foxhound as an official state dog. Pennsylvania has the Great Dane. Now there's Great news for mutts. New York might soon have a new state dog: rescue dogs.

Many people say they make the best family pets, including hundreds of this blog's readers.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner, an Upper Eastside Democrat, and State Senator Joseph E. Robach, a Rochester Republican, are partnering up to give the honor to rescue dogs, as in dogs who are rescued and put up for adoption in shelters. The New York Times is billing it "the tail of two cities.'' Kellner is a huge advocate for rescue dogs, according to The New York Times. The bill is being introduced today. A dozen states have official dogs. This is the first time rescue dogs get the nod.

Cat lovers couldn't be outdone. Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal said Wednesday that she would introduce legislation to make the "rescue cat" the state's official feline.

5 Tips to Help Your Pet in an Emergency
By Vicki Holt -

1. Take Care of Yourself First
You can’t help your pet if you are hurt.

2. Call a Friend or Neighbor Immediately for Help
If the emergency is serious, you might need help, and you’ll definitely need someone to drive to the ER while you continue to administer first aid.

3. Assess the Situation before Acting
Look around for clues as to what happened, to determine what aid to administer. Is something blocking your pet’s airway? Is a limb fractured? Is there bleeding or signs of seizure? Does an empty container suggest poisoning? Take any physical evidence (empty cans, bottles, diarrhea/vomit samples, etc.) with you to the vet.

4. Know your Local Poison Control Hotline
The ASPCA (1-888-426-4355) has the best resources, but also charges a $65 consultation fee, so have your credit card handy. If you live in a state with a poison control hotline for humans, they will usually be able and willing to advise about animal poisoning too. Keep these numbers posted near your phone.

5. Confine your Pet
Use a crate, a bathroom, a walk-in closet, or a leash to keep your pet in a confined space. This way you can keep a close eye on her.

Are You Causing Your Pet To Be Stressed?
By Dr. Paul McCutcheon -

You might not realize it, but if Fluffy or Skippy are listless, disobedient and getting sick all the time, chances are that your pet doesn’t have some mysterious disease – he or she may simply be stressed out.

“A lot of people think that stress is something that only affects humans, but it’s a very real threat to the health and happiness of their pets, too,” said Dr. Paul McCutcheon, a veterinarian with more than 45 years experience and co-author of The New Holistic Way for Dogs and Cats from Random House ( “Better pet care will result when pet lovers and veterinarians understand that stress is the underlying cause of every form of health problem a dog or cat can have.”

Dr. McCutcheon believes that stress, combined with diet and other environmental concerns, can present serious – but unspecific – symptoms that can worry both the pet and the pet owner.

“It is important to distinguish between acute stress, immediate and intense, versus chronic stress, a real drag on wellness that results from a long-standing cause of stress,” he said. “The best way to support your pet’s present and future wellness is through stress prevention. Tune into the kinds of stress that affect your pet and stress-proof the ways you look after their daily needs. For instance, boredom and loneliness are probably the most damaging stress factors in a pet’s life.”

Dr. McCutcheon’s tips for pet owners who want healthier, happier pets include:

* Think Before You Adopt – It’s critical to ask yourself serious questions about your lifestyle and future before you adopt a pet. In that sense, you can better choose an animal whose needs are similar to your own. By being honest with yourself about your personal circumstance, you can ensure that your pet won’t face a stressful future and inevitable health problems.

* Establish Your Role -- You need to see your role and your veterinarian’s role in a different way. While you are in the best position to influence your dog or cat, your veterinarian can be a good coach who provides you opinions and advice that help you make better choices regarding the care and feeding of your pet.

* Watch Their Diet – Just as processed foods are being blamed for an increase in obesity for people, causing a wide variety of health problems, processed food is a danger for pets, as well. Look into switching over to a new trend in pet food, raw foods. They can be found in pet specialty shops and grocery stores in the refrigerated section. They are also known as “fresh” foods for pets, so ask your store managers about them. They provide a balanced diet with none of the dangers associated with processed food, which makes up the majority of the pet foods available at pet stores and supermarkets today.

“There is a new holistic way of caring for your pet that incorporates a combination of many different approaches to health care -- traditional, indigenous, energy-based, and recent developments in Western science all contribute to this new method. There is a direct relationship between the emotional health of a pet and that pet’s physical health, just as there is in humans. When we’re stressed out from work or family issues, our immune systems suffer. We lose sleep, and we are far more susceptible to the bug that’s always going around. We’re mammals, and so are dogs and cats. What makes us think they are any different? The truth is, when we’re stressed out, so are our pets. Just as pets can sense anger, fear or illness in us – which explains why pets try to comfort us when we’re sick – they can also sense our stress. By addressing the stress in our own lives, we can help keep our pets stress-free and prevent many of the common illnesses that plague them, making them happy and healthy companions for a long time to come.”

Tips on How to Deal with Pet Anxiety
During Thunderstorms
By Alabama's 13 staff | Brad Strickland, Dog Wise USA

Pet anxiety is a problem a lot of dog owners face and there are some things you can do to help them through it.

One thing to remember is that we actually reinforce or encourage the behavior by petting them or trying to comfort them in the same manner you would a person. Coddling and “soothing” says to the dog that you approve of the behavior. This will only serve to ingrain the fear further. We should remain calm and carry on as though nothing bad is actually happening. Which there isn’t anything bad happening.

You can get an idea of Fido’s level of stress. When they get to a high level of stress, they won’t take food or treats, even high value goodies. If Fido’s taking food his level is still fairly low and you can do things like have him work on some obedience like sit’s and downs to take his mind off things and create a positive out of a negative.

They feed off our energy too. If we are concerned for their concern we can increase their concern even more and… wow that gets to be a circle… So remain calm and keep talking to a minimum. When you do talk keep it to a calm sturdy voice. Set the example for her to follow. Be sure to find you a spot to relax. Moving about and walking around can create a “pacing” environment and increase the level of stress inadvertently.

Never reprimand your dog for the fearful behavior and don’t get frustrated or angry yourself. It’s not their fault that they are afraid and getting out of sorts with them only worsens the problem. Calm and patience are key.

If you can get your dog to lie down on his side or back for a belly rub a good simple message can do wonders. Don’t force him down though, the purpose is to relax not stress.

There are some other things you can do to help. There are products on the market that help to soothe your dog like vests that are snug fitting to help calm them in the same way swaddling soothes a baby. You can use an old t-shirt to accomplish the same thing by putting it on them and tying it tightly. Provide a nice dark quiet place for them to retreat too, maybe in a closet or a crate with a blanket over it. Create some background white noise to help drown out the sounds of the storm.

For dogs with severe anxiety, where they become destructive and injure themselves trying to escape, you will want to seek out the help of a professional to try to help your dog overcome his fear. You can also see your vet about prescribing medication to help ease her during storms.

The storms won’t go away but there are methods to ease your pet’s anxiety, and yours too!

Allergic to the Family Pet?

Our groomer gives you some tips so that you don't have to choose between your husband or your dog.

Dear Groomer:

We just found out that there is an allergic human in the house. What can we do so we can keep our pets?

Breathless in Holliston

Dear Breathless,

Don’t despair! There are several options you can try before you have to put the human up for adoption. Adoption should always be a last resort. These tips are also good for getting you through allergy season in general:

1.Brush or comb your pet daily. Okay, at least as much as possible. If possible, groom your pet outside. I brush my cats on our screened-in porch. They get some outside time and so does the dander. You can use a small scarf around your face as a mask to protect you from flying hair and fur, and see if this is helpful.

It’s important to get your dog or cat on a regular schedule with the groomer. This will keep dander and fur to a minimum. Even if your pet has a low maintenance coat, the groomer can remove undercoat, dander, and help keep your pet healthy by spotting issues you haven't noticed.

2.Use topical sprays and wipes. There are sprays designed for pets and their bedding. Also, in your supermarket, you can find a spray that reduces allergens. This product is usually found with the other typical household sprays. I spray every fabric surface and all the carpets. Allergen wipes are available at most pet stores.

Keep boxes of allergen-reducing wipes handy when you and your pet are relaxing, perhaps watching TV, and give them a little massage with an allergy wipe. The massage will create a nice bonding experience.

3.Don’t let your pets in your bedroom. Somehow this rule got lost in our house (four pets and allergic husband)! Not only will you get a better night’s sleep, you won’t have to jockey for a comfortable position, and it will really help your breathing.

4.Keep your carpet and floors vacuumed.

5.Wash your pet’s bedding regularly in hot water.

6.If allergic symptoms seem to be getting serious or you can’t tolerate them, a visit to your own doctor may be in order. He or she will speak to you about oral medications, nasal sprays and shots that can help keep symptoms in check.

Good luck in your quest for the peaceable kingdom. In my house, we just tell my husband that breathing is overrated!

If you would like to share your stories of what you have found effective in battling allergies, or have a question about grooming and pet care, please send an email to Serena Keating at

10 Tips to Reduce Your Pet's Carbon Foot
Breed Trust

Is your dog or cat green? It may sound like a silly question, but as more than 1 billion people in 185 countries celebrate Earth Day it's an ideal time to consider how our pets impact our beautiful planet earth.

As responsible pet parents, we can make simple changes in our pet's lives to help save our planet, while also improving the lives of our pets. In honor of Earth Day, consider these ten simple tips to help you reduce your cat or dog's carbon footprint.

1.Chemical-free flea and tick solutions: The chemicals in some flea products are very toxic. Consider switching to chemical-free solutions Find ideas for chemical-free solutions and check the level of toxic chemicals in your current flea products on the NRDC's Green Paws directory.2.Biodegradable waste disposal: Also known as poop bags, some of these bags are safe to flush down the toilet too.

3.Clay-free kitty-litter: Made from wheat or corn, clay-free kitty litter is a healthier option. Cats are often resistant to change, so make the switch gradually, adding a little of the eco-friendly product at a time to the cat's existing litter.

4.Eco-friendly cleaning supplies: Chemical-free floor cleaners and laundry detergents are especially important for people with pets.

5.Paraben-free pet shampoos: Switch to all-natural shampoo free of fragrance and parabens. Ask your groomer to do the same.

6.Toxic-free pet toys and pet bowls: Read the labels and choose only organic items made from toxic-free materials for playtime and mealtime. Also try to avoid products made in China since the levels of lead in some products are an issue of concern.

7.USDA organic pet food and treats. Look for the "USDA organic" label on pet foods. This means they have met the same high standards as any organic human food. The "natural" label on pet foods is deceiving and does not mean they are minimally processed or of high quality, nor does it mean that the vitamins and minerals are natural. Try fruits and veggies as treats or bake some homemade goodies. Higher quality food will help reduce how much your pet poops!

8.Organic lawn care: Stop using toxic chemcial lawn fertilizers and switch to an organic lawn care program. It will cost more, but will prevent the potential for cancer and organ damage caused by lawn chemicals.

9.Plant a tree: This is an ideal way to memorialize a departed pet for years to come while enhancing the earth at the same time.

10.Spay and neuter: Help reduce pet overpopulation by ensuring your pet is spayed or neutered.

These simple changes will not only help save our planet, but they will also help extend your pet's lifespan. Dogs and cats lick their paws and chew or lick their toys often. When you don't buy all-natural, organic products, the chemicals in your floor cleaning supplies, lawn treatments, pet shampoos, flea treatments and pet toys can cause long term health problems for your pet.

Could You Love a Four-Eared Cat?

Woman Bit Cop After Refusing
to Pick Up Her Dog's Poop

A dog lover who refused to scoop her pooch's poop was arrested after biting a cop who demanded she pick up after her pet.

Kristen Anise Hall, 24, caught the attention of cops late last week after she began walking away from the steaming pile her pit bull left behind in an East Memphis park.

When the officers told her she had to pick up after the dog, Hall refused, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal reported Monday.

The cops said they were going to write her a ticket and asked for her ID.

Hall allegedly refused. And when cops tried to detain her, she fought with them, biting one officer on the hand, the paper reported.

Several other officers had to be called to subdue her.

Hall was charged with assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Sheriff: Family Dog Kept Missing S.C. Boy Warm

Authorities are crediting the family dog with keeping a missing 2-year-old South Carolina boy safe and warm as he spent a night outside.

Authorities are crediting the family dog with keeping a missing 2-year-old South Carolina boy safe and warm as he spent a night outside.

Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews says Tyler Jacobson was found with the dog behind a house across the street from his home Saturday morning.

His mother reported Tyler missing Friday night after the boy left the room where the family was watching a movie and didn't return. Deputies used bloodhounds and a helicopter to search until after midnight but found nothing.

Matthews says the family's part-Labrador retriever apparently found the boy and kept watch over him as temperatures dipped into the 40s.

The woman who lives in the house where Tyler was found said she heard barking outside but ignored it until she heard crying, too.

Spending on Pets Nearing $50 Billion Mark

Americans may be cutting corners to cope with the crappy economy, but spending on pets appears healthy as ever, at least according the the American Pet Products Association’s latest report and poll.

Pet ownership is at an all-time high of 72.9 million households — about two of every three households, according to survey results released Monday.

The total number of pets — including 78 million dogs and 86.4 million cats– represents a 2.1 percent increase over last year, according to UPI.

The APPA’s annual report showed Americans spent more than $48 billion on their pets in 2010, an increase of of 6.2 percent over 2009, and it anticipates spending could top $50 billion in 2011.

The biggest surge in spending is expected to be in the area of veterinary care, with the APPA estimating $14 billion will be spent by pet owners in 2011.

More than 15 percent of dog owners, in fact, said their animal’s medical treatment would take priority over their own, according to a Reuters report on the poll.

Spending on treats, toys and accessories was up a reported 30 percent, from $56 million to $73 million. And the cost of buying a dog has also spiked from $121 to $364 due to the increased price of pure breeds.

“The pet industry continues to see unprecedented growth,” said APPA President Bob Vetere. “The survey reveals pet owners are willing to spend money on their pets despite a downturn in the economy.”

Okla. Woman Fights To Keep Kangaroo

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. -- An Oklahoma woman was waiting Saturday to hear if she would be allowed to keep her disabled pet red kangaroo, which she cares for like a child.

Christie Carr, from Broken Arrow, Okla., was given the disabled marsupial named Irwin to care for just weeks after she attempted suicide in March 2010.

Named after iconic Australian wildlife campaigner Steve Irwin, the kangaroo had hopped into a fence and paralyzed himself, the Broken Arrow Ledger reported.

In the year since then, Carr has devoted her life to the brain-injured kangaroo -- dressing Irwin in clothes, transporting him in a child's car seat, changing his diaper and undertaking physical therapy.

The kangaroo, which weighs 25 pounds (11.3 kilograms), has been certified as a therapy pet under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but for Carr to take him to events and fund-raisers Irwin must have a legal residence.

However, Broken Arrow City Council does not allow wild and exotic animals within city limits, forcing Carr to seek an exemption.

City Attorney Beth Ann Wilkening recommended councilors not approve the application, citing the danger of a "kangaroo's six-foot [1.8 meter] vertical jump, speed, powerful legs, sharp claws and natural aggressive instincts."

Irwin's veterinarian, Dr. Lesleigh Cash, argued in a letter to the council that the animal's injuries and relationship with Carr made him far from normal and would "most likely continue to be docile and friendly."

Carr, in tears, told the council that they have a special bond. "He honestly thinks I am his mother," she said.

"He's done so much for me. He has brought me so much joy that I don't think that's something I'm not supposed to share with people. I think that might be what we're supposed to do and I think because of the timing and what I was going through that God brought us together," she added.

A Facebook page was launched for the kangaroo, which has more than 1,000 friends Saturday.

Councilors will vote April 19 on the exemption application.

Professor Eyes Breeding Four-Eared Cat

A biology professor who happens to own a cat with three extra ear lobes wants to mate her with the only known tom-cat in Russia with a similar trait. Their offspring may start a unique breed of four-eared cats.
The cat named Luntya, living at Vladimir Obryvkov’s apartment in Voronezh in south-western Russia, was born with a few deformities. She has very large paws, dewlaps on her cheekbones and most noticeably three small earlobes, which have grown in front of the regular set and face backwards.

Obryvkov, who works at a veterinary faculty of the city’s Agriculture Institute, has gathered, over the years, a large collection of animal oddities. The strange feline lived in Voronezh’s streets, and a friend told the professor about her. At first Luntya was a sort of living exhibit, but eventually became a family member.

Apart from her appearance she is a normal cat. She loves playing games, enjoys standing upright on her back legs and is fond of fish for a snack.

According to Obryvkov, there is just one cat in Russia known to have extra ears. He lives in the Far East near Vladivostok and his name is Luntik.

“He’s about the same age as our Luntya. I wish Luntya and Luntik could meet one day and give birth to four-eared kittens,” he said, as reported by RIA Novosti.

A breed of such cats would be both aesthetically appealing and interesting for biologists, the scientist believes.

“How would the extra set of ears affect other functions, behavior; will they be a beneficial adaptation? Over the last 100 years a multitude of new breeds have been created. Naked cats started with a deformity too – they have an artificially selected alopecia,” Obryvkov explained.

Some Pet Owners Try to Skirt Rules
 with Fake Service Dogs
By Wayne K. Roustan, Sun Sentinel

They get look-alike certifications and vests off the Internet

Owners and trainers of service dogs are increasingly angry at pet owners who pass their animals off as service dogs by using phony credentials.

The imposters go to the Internet to buy vests, ID cards and certificates for their dogs. The deception allows their pets to live in restricted housing, accompany them inside restaurants and hotels or fly for free in airplane cabins rather than in cargo holds.

"I don't want to say it's a scam, but it is a scam," said Nick Kutsukos, 72, who runs Elite K9 Academy in Jupiter and has trained service dogs for 40 years.

People who fake a disability and/or pretend their pet is a service animal risk at least a fine or, in extreme cases, federal fraud charges.

Getting certification is as easy as filling out a form online, sending in your money and perhaps a photograph of your dog.

You can pay from $20 to $300. An owner gets a specially marked dog vest or collar, dog identification tags or ID cards, a certificate, training DVDs, information CDs and other official-looking items.

But none of it is required by law.

One website recommends annual certification, while another offers increasingly expensive bronze, silver, gold and platinum packages.

"There is no certification required, so there's no such thing as a legitimate [document]," said Toni Eames, president of the Michigan-based International Association of Assistance Dog Partners.

"Anyone who sells you a certification is a scammer," said Eames, who also is blind and has her own guide dog.

Given the time and money invested in training service dogs, disabled users and trainers are angered by those who buy or sell worthless service-dog items online for imposter pets.

"I'm condemning the people who are irresponsible and force people into cheating," Eames said.

Kutsukos, whose service dog helps with his seizures, said the fake certifications "make it difficult for people with legitimate service dogs to do things."

A restaurant manager, for example, might think twice about allowing a legitimate service dog inside because of a bad experience with a fake service dog that barked or misbehaved.

The best way to tell if a service dog is legitimate is to observe its behavior, authorities say. Service dogs won't appear restless or jump or bark. They will obey the disabled owner's commands, perform tasks and lie down passively where instructed.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, protects the rights of the disabled, including their use of service animals. But there was confusion when monkeys, cats, ferrets and other critters were utilized to help people with special needs function in public places such as restaurants and hotels.

The U.S. Department of Justice last month amended guidelines to narrow the definition of service animals to dogs that are trained to perform specific tasks related to the owner's proven disability.

Guide dogs are the most recognizable of service animals, having assisted the blind and visually impaired for more than 50 years, according to Jose Lopez of Lighthouse of Broward, which serves the sight impaired. He has had a guide dog for five years and is a consultant for guide-dog training schools.

"It's a heavy gray area," Lopez said. "Basically, everybody can print [certifications] from the Internet and say, 'That's my assisting dog.'"

Legitimate service dogs, of almost any size and breed, can be taught a variety of tasks that include alerting a deaf person to sirens or alarms, retrieving medication, warning of impending seizures and stopping autistic children from wandering off.

The dogs can be trained to wake up a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who's having a nightmare and help prevent or interrupt destructive or impulsive behavior by someone with a neurological or psychiatric disability, Kutsukos said.

Under the new federal rules, dogs that provide emotional comfort are not considered service animals, yet dogs, monkeys, ferrets and other support animals still are allowed in airplane cabins under the Air Carrier Access Act, and in homes under the Fair Housing Act, Eames said, with appropriate proof from the owner's doctor.

Still, not everyone bothers.

"People come up to me all the time and ask, 'Where do I get one of those harnesses to take my dog with me,'" Eames said. "They don't have any clue [my dog] had two years of training before I was able to take her on a plane with me."

There are about 20,000 legitimate service dogs across the country and as many as 2,000 in Florida, according to Ken Lyons, director of Orlando-based Service Dogs of Florida.

Training takes up to two years at most training schools, and only about 2,500 dogs graduate each year. There's usually a three-year waiting list.

Training guide dogs for the blind can cost up to $40,000, Lyons said. For most service dogs, it's up to $20,000.

"If you are truly disabled, then it's worth the money," Kutsukos said.

Although it's not mandatory, any certification, ID card, vest, tag or harness should have contact information for the service dog's school and trainer, Lopez said.

By law a disabled person can be asked only two questions about his or her service dog: "Is this a service dog for disabilities?" and "What tasks or assistance does the dog provide you with?"

In Florida, barring a disabled person and his or her service dog from a restaurant, hotel, airplane or other public place is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

On the federal level, a judge can order a change in business policies to allow access by disabled customers and their service dogs. Fines there are rare.

"If you portray yourself as disabled, or your pet as a service animal, the minute you go out in public you're committing a crime," Lyons said. "It's felony fraud."

Once You Find a Pet ...

One of's missions this year is to see animal adoptions rise from 1.6 million a year to 2.5 million, says founder Betsy Banks Saul.

But making the adoption is only the first step to being a successful pet owner, she says. She is also encouraging people to play at least an hour a day with their animal. "Otherwise, why invite them to be part of your family?" she says.

Animals need to be stimulated and entertained, she says, just like people. "Don't tie them up or keep them in the basement. Treat them like you'd want yourself to be treated."

Other goals for pet owners:

• Get your pet microchipped and registered. Collars with identification tags can fall off. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted under a pet's skin. They have information on them about you that vets or shelters can use to identify you.

• Insure your pet. "Some people turn older pets into shelters because they can't afford to pay their vet bills," says Banks Saul. "Insurance can help foot the cost of surgeries and other veterinary needs."

Cleaning Tips for Pet Owners

Pets add a lot of love and personality to a home - but they also add plenty that needs cleaning up. From slobbered-on chew toys to pet hair on the sofa, they definitely leave their mark on the home.

Here are some simple tips for keeping things fresh and clean, for you and your pet.

Pet Toys.
Wash plastic and rubber toys in a solution of 4 tablespoons baking soda dissolved in 1 quart warm water. Launder plush toys, or give them a dry shower by sprinkling on some baking soda, then brushing off after 15 minutes.

Collars, Harnesses and Leashes.
If they are cloth or nylon, you can either hand wash them with a little dishwashing soap and water, or toss them into a nylon bag (or even a pillow case) and run them through the washing machine. Leather can be wiped down with a damp cloth, then rubbed with a little saddle soap. While you're cleaning them, check for worn areas - you may need to replace them.

Vacuum bedding and crate pads thoroughly. Most should be washable (or have removable, washable fabric covers), so launder them along with any pet blankets. You can keep pet bedding smelling fresh in between washings by sprinkling liberally with baking soda, waiting 15 minutes, then vacuuming it up.

Outdoor Shelters.
If your pet has a dog house, crate or some other outdoor hangout, be sure to give that a good cleaning, too. Sweep or rake out leaves and other detritus. If it can be disassembled, take it apart, scrub it down with a non-ammonia based cleaner, then hose it down, let it dry, and put it back together.

Removing Pet Hair.
Shedding is the bane of many pet owners' existence. Regular floor vacuuming is a must to keep it under control. For getting pet hair off of furniture, there are several things you can try: lint rollers; swiping a damp rubber glove over surfaces; using a squeegee with a rubber edge; or trying hand-held vacuums or attachments specially designed for picking up fur.

Reducing Litter Box Odor.
Litter boxes can bring the worst of smells to the house. Whenever you replace the litter, be sure to clean the litter box itself. Use a non-ammonia based cleaner. Also, consider using a different litter to help control odors better, such as Arm & Hammer Double Duty Advanced Odor Control Clumping Litter. It's specially designed to eliminate both urine and feces odors. A breakthrough formula uses powerful moisture-activated baking soda crystals boosted with feces odor neutralizers to destroy urine and feces odors on contact. To learn more and get money-saving coupons, visit

8 Secrets to Perfect Pet Photos

(Grace Chon, Shine Pet Photos)

Pets have such charm—why is it so few photos of them show it? In most snapshots, pets look stiff, posed and vaguely uncomfortable. Just — come to think of it — like most people in posed shots.

Grace Chon, a pet photographer in Los Angeles, has made a business of capturing a pet’s personality in casually artful portraits.

She has offered tips that any pet owner can use to immortalize the dog or cat with a mantel-worthy portrait.

1) Let the animal be an animal: Photograph your pet where it likes to hang out, whether it’s the backyard or the foot of the bed. And give the pet its favorite toys. That’s one way to capture your pet showing its personality — have it doing what it likes to do best. It’s all about making the Rex or Whiskers comfortable.

2) Pay your models: “I try to keep this as fun and engaging for the pets as possible. I use very high-reward treats,” said Ms. Chon. Her goodie bag often includes freeze-dried steak and dehydrated organic duck. “I call it doggie crack,” she said. “The pet is going, ‘Oh, my god! I have to pay attention to this lady! She has amazing food!’”

3) Get to know them: Animals often find being stared at intimidating — and to them the camera can look like a big unblinking eye. Give your pet treats while you are holding the camera. Work up to holding the camera to eye level with the pet. If they flinch at the shutter sound, click the camera, then give them a treat until they adjust. “It’s all about getting them incrementally used to you.” Most of all, avoid using the flash.

4) Light lightly: Outdoors, Ms. Chon prefers to shoot in full shade and indoors in a room filled with diffuse light. That way details, like individual strands of light-colored fur, don’t get lost to overexposure.

5) Be patient: “Animals are so unpredictable. I don’t go in and say, ‘I’m going to shoot a dancing chihuahua today,’ although that has happened. Get in position with the pet, compose your frame, then wait. You have to be willing to sit until the pet is, say, done chewing its toy before you get the right expression. It can’t be rushed or planned unless …”

6) Shoot and repeat: If the pet can be enticed to repeat a photogenic pose, don’t hesitate. “I will recreate moments,” said Ms. Chon “I am totally fine with, ‘Hey, lets do that again.’”

7) Stay focused: Ms. Chon doesn’t carry a giant gear bag. She uses a Canon 5D Mark II professional camera, mostly with a 50mm f1.4 lens, which is crucial to getting those softly focused backgrounds. That way, the pet is at the literal and figurative focus of the shot, even if the family wants to make an appearance. “Owners like to be in the photos, but the pets are the heroes. So the owners are there, they are a part of the story, but the emphasis is always on the pets.”

8) Retouch with a catlike tread: Ms. Chon shoots in RAW format, which she said could leave images looking a little drab. She gently increases contrast and uses the vibrance control to intensify colors, not saturation, which she said looks too artificial. “I don’t think your photos should look like you have done work in Photoshop,” said Ms. Chon. “You have to use restraint.”

While these tips can work wonders for pets, they may apply to working with any difficult subject, whether squirmy children or a cranky uncle. Keep those organic duck treats in mind.

Heloise: Cat Hair the Copy Culprit

Dear Heloise: I enjoyed the picture of Murphy on the fax machine (a previous Pet Pal - Heloise).

I would like to share my experience with my cat, Lizzy, lying on my copying machine.

I went to my copier to make copies, and they were coming out light and missing sections of the print. Naturally, I suspected my ink cartridge and replaced it. But the copies looked the same.

I took the copier to an office-supply store to see what was wrong and if it could be fixed. I questioned the repairman about what the problem was. He laughed and said all he could find was a big gob of cat hair.

I sure wasn't laughing when I was handed a bill for $80. When I got home, I got a big towel and draped it over the machine. Lizzie can still lie and sleep on the copier, and I don't have to worry about another big bill for repair. - Carole F. in Warriors Mark, Pa.

Dear Readers: Leo and LeEtta Waldhausen type their church's bulletins and inserts. Their cat, Ke-ke, decided one day that she wanted to "help" by chasing the cursor around on the computer screen. To see Ke-ke "helping," go to and click on "Pets." - Heloise

Dear Readers: When stocking your home aquarium, even though it is tempting to do so, don't use shells that you find on the beach. They can harbor bacteria that can harm your fish. Cleaning the shells will not help, either. Whatever landscape material you want for your aquarium is readily available from a large chain store or specialty fish shop. - Heloise

Dear Heloise: I love dogs, and I had a picture of my favorite old pet, but although it was otherwise perfect, the "red-eye" spoiled it. Who hasn't experienced that? I had an inspiration while looking at it and made a tough decision. I took a black permanent pen and very carefully put a small black dot in each eye. It worked. The picture is now perfect, and not even I would know the difference. Hope this helps someone else. - Wilson H. in Laredo

Dear Heloise: Please advise your readers to check with their veterinarian before chopping up their pet's pills. This may be perfectly OK for some drugs, but dangerous for others. Sustained-release dosage types, for example, are designed to release their contents slowly over time. Chopping up the pill will likely cause too much of the drug to be released all at once. - A Reader, via email

How right you are. That is why we always recommend checking with a veterinarian. - Heloise

Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or email it to

Why Cats Hate the Vet -
Plus Ways To Make the Visit Easier on Everyone
by Amy D. Shojai-

Cats get the short end of the health care stick. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats visit the vet much less frequently than dogs. It's not that felines are healthier (although cats do hide illness better) but many cats hate the vet so much their owners find it easier to just skip it. But even healthy cats need well exams once or twice a year.

Cats are adept at protecting themselves from stranger danger. What's familiar is safe, while anything new or different raises kitty suspicions. A vet visit delivers a triple whammy by changing the cat's routine, environment and exposure to strangers. Here are seven reasons cats hate the vet and how you can ease the angst.

Negative Crate Expectations.
Cats learn very quickly to recognize cause and effect. The appearance of the cat carrier prompts kitty disappearing acts if used only for vet visits. Make the carrier part of the furniture and add a fuzzy bed or catnip toys inside to create a pleasant association.

Claustrophobic Car Rides.
Though humans can look out windows and know what's happening, the cat's-eye view from the carrier offers movement without warning. Odd sounds and being in a strange environment raise cat blood pressure and might even prompt motion sickness. Covering the view with a towel over the carrier's door helps some cats. But simply taking Kitty for many short rides around the neighborhood (and never going to the vet!) followed by treats or games can diminish nerves.

Scary Smells.
Cats experience much of life through their noses. The array of unfamiliar smells found in a hospital -- antiseptic, strangers, other animal's fear -- can ramp up the kitty fright factor. A pheromone product like Comfort Zone with Feliway that can be spritzed on a towel inside the carrier can help soothe environmental stress.

Strange Pets.
Nothing turns felines into hiss-terical claw monsters like barking dogs or meowing cats. When confined inside a carrier, your frightened cat can't flee, so the fight-or-flight instinct has no outlet. She may redirect her fear aggression on the nearest target -- you or the vet staff. Ask to schedule your cat's exam early in the morning or at slow times to avoid a busy waiting room. Some vet practices have separate waiting rooms and entrances for cats and dogs, so at least your cat never has to see or hear the mortal enemy.

Cold Exam Tables.
Though cats may hate getting into their carriers, being dumped on a cold metal table elevates the "strangeness" of the experience significantly. After all, Kitty-Boy's preferred lounging spots are the windowsill with a view, the soft top of the sofa, or a table underneath a warm lamp. Take along a towel or even the cat's bed that smells like your cat to make the exam table more feline friendly. Some cat specialty practices have exam room windows with bird feeders outside or water fountains and fish tanks for kitty distraction.

Weird People Doing Weird Things.
The vet and clinic staff love animals, but to your cat they're from Mars. Maybe they wear uniforms and smell like dogs (spit!) and don't ask permission to stroke his fur. A particular stressor is being handled by several people -- the vet tech for getting a temperature or stool sample, for example, and later the veterinarian. Reducing the number of handlers may help. Scheduling enough time so the cat doesn't feel rushed also can ease the tension.

Painful or Surprising Events.
Needle sticks aren't much fun. And a cold thermometer inserted into the nether regions is no way to make friends. It's up to owners to offer treats or toys during and immediately after upsetting procedures to help change how cats feel about vet visits.

Cats remember discomfort, fear and bad experiences and expect them in the future. But they also remember good experiences and anticipate accordingly. Ask about taking your kitten for "fun visits" to meet and get used to the vet and staff, so he can simply play and be petted rather than examined and treated. Repeated happy visits take the scary out of the equation. Make vet visits more pleasant, and your cat will be happier -- and healthier.

Amy D. Shojai also appears on Animal Planet's "Cats-101" and "Dogs-101" and lives in North Texas with a senior citizen Siamese and a smart-aleck German shepherd.

Critter Corner:
Some Tips for Pet Pedicures
By Lindsay Reynolds - Daily News columnist

Trimming a pet's nails can be a dreaded process for any pet owner. Many animals are sensitive to having their paws even touched, let alone having someone come at them with a strange metal tool and grabbing their foot. In the wild, animals' feet are very important and must be protected: they carry them to food and help them escape predators. Domestic animals still have these instincts.

For "newbie" pet owners, start the desensitization process by getting your animal accustomed to having their paws touched. If possible, start early with young animals; if you have an adult pet you can also begin the process. Give an excess of treats and praise when you pick up a paw. Once you're ready for the actual pedicure, start with the proper tools: a clipper intended for pets, styptic powder (or flour) which will immediately stop any bleeding that may occur, and, of course, plenty of your pet's favorite treats.

Make sure the clipper's blades are sharp. The sharper the blade, the quicker you can cut the nail with less pinch. Unlike human nails, animals have a nerve and blood vessel inside their nails, usually referred to as the "quick." If the nails are light colored, you can easily see where the quick begins. However, if the nails are dark, clip only little bits off at a time, or you may cut into the quick, making them bleed and causing a bit of pain. If this happens, apply the styptic powder at the end of the nail and offer many treats.

If the animal is uneasy about the procedure, take the time to introduce each step gradually with treats and praise. You may also find having another person distract the pet with treats is helpful. If you are just not comfortable or if your companion animal tries to bite or thrashes too much, consider visiting a professional groomer. Exotic pets need to have their nails trimmed too. Follow the same steps above and ask your exotic animal veterinarian for more tips.

See more pet and behavior tips at under resource library.

Lindsay Reynolds is outreach coordinator for the Peninsula Humane Society. For more information, visit or call 650-340-7022, ext. 344.

Tips for Taking in Foster Pets
By Caroline Dohack-McCrary - Columbia Daily Tribune

If anthropomorphism weirds you out, you should probably stop reading now.

Ready now? OK.

I’ve had my rat terrier, Prozac, since I picked him out of his litter 13 years ago. Since then, he has been my most faithful companion. Sometimes, I think he can read my mind, and I know for a fact he can read my wardrobe. If I’m wearing heels, he knows he’s staying home. If I’m wearing running shoes, he knows there’s a good chance he’s going out on the trail.

Lately, he hasn’t had as much pep in his step. In dog years, he has hit his mid-80s. He still wants to go out to the trail, but we have to stop and rest frequently, and sometimes I end up carrying him back to the car. That’s OK. We still have fun.

I don’t like to think about how much time we have left together, but in the back of my mind, I know it’s not forever. Also in the far recesses of my cranium is the knowledge that I will at some point replace Prozac. I’m OK with that, too, because I know there’s no shortage of wonderful dogs out there.

And for this, we have to give the foster pet parents out there some credit. They open up their homes to rescue animals and help them work on their manners, which makes them more desirable to potential adopters.

Interested in trying it yourself? Here are some tips from longtime foster pet parent Megan Burnam.

Start with the familiar. “If you have cat experience, I’d recommend a cat. If you have dog experience, I’d recommend a dog,” Burnam said.

Start small. Maybe you’re thinking of a big lab you can take running with you every day, but Burnam said you’re less likely to be overwhelmed if you start with a smaller, more easy-going animal. “Start with something below your comfort level,” she said.

Set aside some time for the animal. “Expect to spend your first day or two getting to know the animal and seeing what it knows,” Burnam said.

Be aware of space issues. “Be sure you have an area in your home you can designate for the animal. If you have animals of your own, separate them for at least 24 areas to allow the animal to become comfortable in a new environment, to own a space. That can be very important for them to have that comfort,” Burnam said.

Pet Terrapin Puts Man’s Life at Risk
with Flesh-Eating Bug

A HAIRDRESSER almost lost his arm after contracting a potentially fatal flesh eating bacteria from a pet terrapin.

David Lynch caught the bug, which got into a small cut on his finger, while he cleaned out the tank at his men’s hairdressers in Langton Place, Bury St Edmunds.

“It was frightening, particularly with the nature of my job.

“At one point they said if the infection didn’t stop spreading and reached my armpit they may have to think about amputating my arm,” he said.

Mr Lynch only returned to work this week – more than three months after his ordeal started.

The 54-year-old cleaned out the tank three days before Christmas, but woke during the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, to find his finger was severely swollen and throbbing.

“The pain was excruciating, I have never known anything like it,” he said.

He rushed to West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury, where he was given antibiotics for an infection and painkillers before he was sent home.

But later that day his condition worsened.

His finger turned black and his arm became swollen and red.

Mr Lynch was admitted to hospital, where he spent six days on a cocktail of intravenous antibiotics. A sample of his blood was sent for analysis and he was then diagnosed with a potentially lethal bacterial infection known as a Group G streptococcal – and the terrapin, called Cosmo, was identified as the culprit.

On Christmas Day, the father of three was taken for an operation, where his hand was opened up to ‘wash-out’ the infection.

He was taken for a second operation and was warned that the doctors might need to amputate his finger.

Instead, the dead flesh on it was removed and he was referred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, for reconstructive surgery.

He said his lowest point came during a 10-day wait for this surgery.

“Bits of my finger were falling off each day and I wished I had just had it cut off,” he said.

In February, the bone in his finger became visible and he has since had three skin grafts to correct it.

He has started having occupational therapy to improve the movement in his damaged finger.

Cosmo was originally bought by David for his 15-year-old daughter seven years ago.

But when she lost interest, he took Cosmo to work where he proved a hit with the customers. Now Cosmo has been re-homed through one of David’s customers.

David said: “Any animal that defecates in its own water, like tropical fish, culture these bacteria.

“My advice to anybody who’s got tropical fish, or that type of aquarium, is to wear rubber gloves when you clean them out, feed them or handle them because you never know.”

Hints From Heloise: A Low-Cost Pet
By Heloise -

Dear Heloise: Thank you for your column! I’m hoping you may have some information to help me. I am almost 70 years old and have been alone 15 years.

I love cats, dogs, birds -- something for company! My dilemma? I would feel it immoral to not to be able to pay for vet bills should I get a pet and have them. Is there any provision for those who need help financially for an ill or injured pet? I have no car any longer, and I long for a pet to give a lot of love to. -- Annette in Oregon

Annette, we can help you find a pet to love! Get to know a vet or ask for suggestions from friends. Tell the vet of your general financial situation, and should surgery or something serious arise, the vet might be able to find an organization to help you, or might work on a payment plan.

However, think about a pet that doesn’t need as much vet care or usually have “big” medical emergencies like cats or dogs. A parakeet, small bird or even a goldfish could fill the void. It would provide a bit of companionship -- birds sing and some talk, while fish swim back and forth, are calming to watch, and some do have personalities!

If you go the dog or cat route, check with your food bank as well. Many now offer food for pets. -- Heloise


Dear Readers: Christi Palmer of Wichita Falls, Texas, sent us a picture of her 2-year-old, short-haired orange cat, Sir Oliver Heathcliff, sitting on his tail by the fireplace. Christi says he is one funny and smart cat! To see Sir Oliver and our other Pet Pals, visit and click on “Pets.” -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I recently retired, and my staff made a donation to Southeastern Guide Dogs, Palmetto, Fla., in my honor. I had toured the facility and seen the wonderful work done to give the blind independence through a silent partner! It quickly became my charity of choice. My staff’s thoughtful generosity meant more than any other gift possibly could. -- Bonnie in The Villages, Fla.


Dear Heloise: The personal weeklong medicine boxes are wonderful for things other than medicine. I think these pill containers would work well for fish food. The small divisions from Sunday to Saturday would hold a small amount of food for fish or other animals, like turtles. My sister also uses larger ones for medicines for her dogs. Love your advice. -- Betty Harris, Goffstown, N.H.


Dear Heloise: Each morning after it rains, I take an old cup with me and pick up the worms in the driveway as I walk up to get the newspapers. I deposit these worms in large pots or planters. I recycle worms! -- Carolyn in Auburn, Calif.

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state.

2011, King Features Syndicate