Pet Snakes and Kangaroos

Did a Dog Help Get Osama?

It's being reported that a dog was part of the commando unit that killed Osama bin Laden. I seem to read a different version every day of how the raid went, so I'm not betting money either way. But what seems certain is that dogs are an established part of the US military - they can even parachute-jump, for heaven's sake.

According to Slate, the top brass haven't confirmed that the team which swept into bin Laden's compound in Pakistan included a four-legged member. But if it did, it could have had one of several roles.

"It's possible that the commandos brought a specialized search dog, which would have been sent in ahead of the humans to find explosives or people hidden inside the building," the Slate report said. "Or they might have used a 'combat tracker' dog instead-one of a newer class of military animals developed by the Marines just a year ago. These are taught to pick up the scent of a particular individual, usually from a footprint or a few drops of blood, and then follow the trail. If bin Laden had heard the choppers coming and fled the scene, a combat tracker dog could have been used to track him down as he high-tailed it through the streets of Abbottabad."

Dogs have been used in war for thousands of years: the Roman empire deployed huge fighting dogs as weapons on the battlefield, and other nations have used dogs as scouts, sentries and trackers. The US military used dogs during the 1860s Civil War and in World War I, but the official induction of dogs into the US Army didn't come until World War II.

I can't do better than to point you to a photo essay by Foreign Policy's Rebecca Frankel called War Dog. Some of the pictures of dogs in combat or training are extraordinary, including one of a special forces soldier and his dog leaping from a hovering helicopter into water below.

Dogs enter the battle arena the same way a human fighter does: winched or dropped from a helicopter, or even by parachute. Navy Seal Mike Forsythe and his dog Cara recently broke the world record for "highest man/dog parachute deployment" by jumping from 9170 metres.

Frankel says the US Army has 2800 active-duty dogs, many playing a role in Iraq or Afghanistan. They get their own gear, including Doggles to protect their eyes, body armour, gas masks and flak jackets. Some are trained in "controlled aggressiveness", which includes being ready to attack anyone who assails its handler.

But the military dogs are also guardians. "When Private First Class Colton Rusk was shot after his unit came under Taliban sniper fire during a routine patrol in Afghanistan, Rusk's bomb-sniffing dog, Eli, crawled on top of his body, attacking anyone - including Rusk's fellow Marines - who tried to come near him. Rusk did not survive the assault, but Eli was granted early retirement so he could live with Rusk's family."

So the character of dogs - loyalty, boldness and potential fierceness - is the basis of many of their military jobs. Another obvious canine talent is the sense of smell, and despite billions of dollars spent on bomb-detecting technology, no gadget has come close to the accuracy of a dog's snout.

Who can't have mixed feelings about all this? I'm trying to unpack my own. When I see what the dogs can do, I feel pride and admiration at their incredible talents and spirit. I love to see them save lives - as bomb-sniffing dogs do. But dogs have no politics and they have no country - anyone, any side can use them. Dogs will give their loyalty and heart to anyone, whether terrorist or peacekeeper.

The world is a tough place. I know that armies will use dogs just as they'll use people or any other resource available to achieve victory. I fully accept that. In a way, it's distressing to see something beautiful - the character of a dog - being turned to harsh purposes. But I don't believe that the dog, in any way, is made less beautiful or less noble by the purpose we put it to. The dog will serve us, whatever our natures.

Man Keeps Pet Alligator to Impress Women
By Tom Ayres, Entertainment Reporter -

A man has been arrested in Illinois after police discovered that he illegally owned a pet alligator.

MSN News reports that Deywayne Yarbrough was arrested on Thursday after police received an anonymous tip that he was keeping the 4ft-long creature in confined conditions at his home in Ford Heights.

When questioned about the animal, Yarbrough claimed that he had purchased it over five years ago in Indiana, and had been keeping it to try and impress women.

The American alligator has now been removed by the Animal Welfare League, following which it will be given to the Chicago Herpetological Society.

Yarbrough has been arrested and charged with possession of a dangerous animal, and is due in court on July 5.

Pet Briefs: Woman Can Keep Kangaroo

A depressed woman can keep a partially paralyzed kangaroo at her home in a northeast Oklahoma city, officials have agreed, just weeks after she was warned that the therapy pet might be run out of town.

The Broken Arrow City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to create an exotic animal ordinance exemption that would allow Christie Carr to keep Irwin the red kangaroo within city limits under certain conditions. Carr is unable to work because of her health and has found comfort in the companionship of Irwin, whom she met while volunteering at a local animal sanctuary on the advice of her therapist.

"Irwin is my life," she said Tuesday at the council meeting. "He's given me strength.

Irwin fractured his neck and suffered brain damage when he ran into a fence, and Carr offered to take him home and nurse him back to health. Irwin cannot stand or walk on his own, although he can hop with assistance. Council members had been concerned that the kangaroo could present a risk to public safety. Native to Australia, healthy male great red kangaroos can grow up to 7 feet tall, weigh more than 200 pounds and bound 25 feet in a single leap. But veterinarians say Irwin will probably not grow larger than 50 pounds because of his injury.

Cat Rescued After Spending
Hours on Utility Pole

A cat was stranded for about 24 hours atop a utility pole in Desert Hot Springs before an electrical worker rescued him Friday, according to Riverside County Animal Services.

A Southern California Edison worker pulled the cat to safety about 11:30 a.m. in the 11-300 block of West Drive.
The cat — nicknamed “Elly” — was fine, outside of being a little dehydrated and a bit underweight, said animal services spokesman John Welsh.

The Edison employee used a worker's bucket to lift himself up and rescue the cat, Welsh said.

“The cat is a very nice cat,” said Riverside County Animal Control Officer James Huffman. “She didn't try to scratch us. She didn't bite. She's a sweet one.”

The cat, which didn't have a collar or a microchip, was taken to the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms to be examined by veterinary staff.

Welsh said the owner of the brown and tan cat can call (760) 343-3644 to pick her up.

Proper Socialization Minimizes
Dog's Behavior Problems

The most important time is during the first 12 weeks of life.

Littermates play a big role in early socialization. Credit Brenda Belmonte CPDT-KA

I routinely have students that choose to participate in group lessons because they want their dog to “learn to play” with other dogs.

Before we can assess whether a dog has good social play skills, it is important to understand how dogs develop those skills.

The most important time to socialize any dog is during the first 12 weeks of life. Every puppy learns how to properly play as an adult through interactions with its own littermates from 4 to 8 weeks of age. This is a critical socialization period for puppies, and incomplete socialization (the absence of littermates) or improper socialization (scary interactions) greatly increases the risk of behavioral problems as an adult.

From 8 to 12 weeks of age, every puppy should continue to interact with other puppies and well mannered, vaccinated adult dogs in controlled situations. These include well run puppy classes that feature supervised play, and play time with familiar adult dogs in controlled environments.

Dog parks and day care facilities are not a good choice at this age due to a puppy’s fragile immune status and the unknown play styles of too many other dogs. Puppies should also be introduced to a variety of people at this age, with each new person offering the puppy a yummy treat! Strangers should become doggie “Pez dispensers”.

After 16 weeks of age, a puppy’s socialization window is rapidly closing. Puppies may begin to fear unfamiliar dogs and people if poorly socialized during the previous early months of life. The result is an adolescent dog that may be uncomfortable around unfamiliar dogs and people.

As the owner repeatedly attempts to offer opportunities to “say hi” to others on leash many of these dogs become fearful, with increasing reactivity particularly in the presence of other dogs. Owners of friendly dogs often compound the fear of these dogs by allowing their dog to approach too quickly or when over-stimulated by the possibility of play.

The poor dog is so overwhelmed at this point that he may growl or snap, a normal response for a dog that cannot get away.

It may be difficult or impossible to teach an adult dog to comfortably play with all other dogs. Why do we expect our dogs to “like” every other dog? Do you like every person you have ever met? Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for proper socialization:

•DO socialize your puppy with other puppies and well-behaved, familiar adult dogs if he is under 16 weeks of age.

•DO teach your dog how to approach other dogs calmly and quietly. Dogs should learn to sit and wait for permission from you to interact with other dogs.

•DO reward your dog for calm, attentive behavior around other dogs.

•DON’T assume that every dog you meet is friendly or wants to “Say Hi” to your dog.

•DON’T let your dog pull towards, rush up to, or lunge at other dogs.

•DON’T take your dog to the Dog Park or day care if he isn’t properly socialized. Even well adjusted dogs can be overwhelmed in larger groups of dogs or when involved in rough dog play.

At Old Dog House,
Loving Them to the Very End
By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. – — Three big old guys — a bit gimpy, as old guys are — meander happily through the trees, noses to the ground, lost in thoughts of whatever creature (maybe a coyote, maybe a mountain lion) passed through here last night. Four of their pals relax on the deck, soaking up the spring sunshine. And a couple of big blonds, graying around the edges, do the joyful, full-butt-swinging thing as a visitor approaches.

Co-founder Pam Carr passes out treats to the elderly residents of The Old Dog House, where more than 140 dogs have lived out their days. By Matthew Staver for USA TODAY

They're among the 22 residents of The Old Dog House, a cabin in the woods devoted to taking in elderly canines that have found themselves homeless and were almost certain to be euthanized.

The dogs may have only limited time left, but former teacher and now part-time casino worker Pam Carr and security officer Sindy Andersen, who started the non-profit in 2004, are determined to make those final months or years the best ever.

"Three are blind, a lot don't hear well, we've got a three-legged amputee," Carr says, "but they all enjoy life here."

Carefully preserved records memorialize the more than 140 dogs they've saved and loved — they remember each by name and idiosyncrasies. The animals are usually at least 10 when Andersen and Carr get them, and, on average, they live another three years.

But many, nurtured and given the medical care they need, defy all odds. Charlie, who is afflicted with lupus, has been with them for seven years and is now 17.

And there's Roxie, a redbone hound mix, taken in by the duo at age 10 after being found in an abandoned building in Steamboat Springs, 200 miles away. They soon learned Roxie had bone cancer, had the bad leg amputated and vowed to love her for the 12 months she probably had left.

Two years later, Roxie is doing fine.

"They're happy and loved," says Andersen of the pack, including Mollie the cocker spaniel, 16, whose owner died and no one wanted her; and Daisy, 15, a terrier whose homeless owner gave her to a friend who chained her up near a cardboard box for shelter for the year he had her.

Their charges range from an 8-pound toy poodle to a 125-pound Neapolitan mastiff. Tending to them all requires arising at 5:30, loading food bowls with kibble and stew, rice or noodles they make every day; distributing dogs throughout the little house, onto the porch or in outdoor pens to avoid food squabbles; giving meds (most are on glucosamine for joints and also fish oil, and seven require thyroid or other meds); and getting everyone outside to take care of business.

Then both women leave for work most days at 7 a.m.

The vet bill (they get a volume discount) is at least $250 a month; laundering dog bedding and doggie bath towels runs $50 a week (they live off the grid deep in the woods, so to conserve water and power, they travel to a coin-operated laundry); and food would be $1,300 a month if not for the donated food they've been getting.

These days, non-profits like these get few monetary donations, so they're shouldering the costs, but "there's nothing we'd rather spend our money on than these guys," says Carr.

They adopt out up to three dogs some years to carefully screened folks. But most stay with the women until their final breath. They euthanize dogs, Carr says, "only when the dog is ready, not when the dog becomes too much trouble for us."

It's heart-rending, loving so many animals with short life expectancies, they acknowledge. But the harder thing is turning down the many requests they get weekly to take in elderly hard-luck cases. "We have to draw the line," says Carr. "Our obligation is to the dogs we have."


The Old Dog House in Colorado (they don't have a dedicated website but can be e-mailed at is among a tiny group of non-profits specializing in senior homeless pets, including:

Old Dog Haven

Cares for 200-plus senior dogs through a foster network in western Washington; some get adopted, the rest are cared for until they die.

House With a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary

Gives rest-of-their-life care to 26 old dogs and five old cats in Gaithersburg, Md.

The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs in Cleveland

Cares for 20 to 25 old dogs. Half get adopted; half have a home for life at the sanctuary.

Summer Pet Tips with Marc

We humans can handle a heat wave with only a few minor adjustments: extra fluids, limited activities, fans, and air conditioners. But animals don’t have it quite so easy: Cats and dogs will find ways to negotiate the heat, but it’s our responsibility to make the summer months more comfortable for them.

If you leave a pet alone in the house on a summer day, the interior will heat up as the temperature climbs. The easiest solution is to leave an air conditioner running. (It doesn’t need to be set for a low temperature—about 85°F is sufficient.) If you don’t have an air conditioner, use fans, and provide your pets with rug-free spaces. Remember to keep an ample supply of drinking water available at all times. Under no circumstances should you leave a pet in a car on a hot day.

For rabbits, ferrets, and guinea pigs, freeze plastic bottles filled with water, and put them in their cages. To cool the water in a fish tank, place a resealable plastic bag filled with ice into the water. (Never put the ice cubes in directly, because any contaminants in the ice will pollute the fish’s water.)

Marc Morrone

Pet expert

Parrots of the World Ltd.

316 Sunrise Highway

Rockville Centre, NY 11570


Tips for Stress-Free Travel with Your Pet
American Kennel Club -

Millions of dog owners in the United States consider their pet to be a part of the family, so it's no surprise that an increasing number are including their pets in their vacation plans. Whether you're traveling by car or plane, taking a little extra time to prepare for the trip will make a world of difference when it comes to Fido.

The American Kennel Club offers the following tips to help make traveling with your dog a stress-free experience.

- Dogs get anxiety too. Many of the issues dogs face when traveling by car most notably motion sickness are caused by anxiety. Before you take Fido on the open road for a long trip, get him used to the car by taking many short trips. Take him to fun places like the dog park so he doesn't associate the car with going to the veterinarian and groomer only.

- Experiment with feeding. Before you take a road trip, experiment with feeding your dog before shorter car trips. Some dogs do better having not eaten for several hours before they go in the car, while others need to have a small meal immediately before the ride.

- Be prepared to clean up. Make sure to bring plenty of paper towels, cleaning supplies, and deodorizing spray to clean up. Accidents happen!

- Check flights. If you plan on taking your dog with you on a plane, try to find nonstop flights rather than ones with layovers. Pets remain in the plane's hold when it is stopped on the ground.

- Buy a crate instead of renting. Purchase your own crate instead of renting one from the airline. This way, your dog can get used to it before the actual flight.

- Have identification. Most importantly, make sure your dog has a collar and is microchipped should he get lost. His tag should have your cell phone number on it and check with your recovery service provider to ensure your contact information is current. To enroll your pet in a 24-hour recovery service, visit

For more information on responsible dog ownership, visit the AKC website at

Quirky Work:
Pet Groomers' Clients
Aren't the Most Cooperative
By Kathryn Lynch-Morin | The Saginaw News

Kerri LaBlanc, owner of Hairy Paws, a dog day care center and groomer at 3545 Bay Road #5 in Saginaw Township, treats the dogs in day care to a snack.

SAGINAW TWP. — With a quick shake, Claudia, an Old English sheepdog, manages to unapologetically spray water from floor to ceiling.

Though Kerri LeBlanc, the owner of Hairy Paws Day Center, bares the brunt of the shower, she’s unfazed and keeps shampooing the dog.

Claudia, a regular grooming customer, willingly walked herself into the metal tub where LeBlanc sprayed her with a massaging hose for a good, deep cleaning. By the end of the bath, LeBlanc’s shirt is soaked and Claudia’s fur is starting to curl.

Though the dog is large, she’s a lot less difficult than some of the giant Newfoundlands or St. Bernard’s LeBlanc grooms, she said.

Hairy Paws employs two full-time groomers who wash, clip, trim and de-matt five to 12 dogs, and sometimes cats, per day. There’s also a staff of three who manage the doggy daycare side of the business, where a group of a few regular pooches run and chew and play while their owners are at work.

Chester, a teddy-bear like cocker spaniel, jumps to nip at a shower of bubbles blown by Mary Birnbaum. He’s joined by the other dogs who, like Chester, don’t take their eyes off Birnbaum or the bubbles. It’s a fun game for the pack until someone new walks into the room and their attention is turned to sniffing, licking and jumping on the newcomer.

“Don’t be afraid,” Birnbaum says. “They’ve all been through temperament testing. There’s no mean dogs in here.”

Still, that doesn’t keep Aquila, LeBlanc’s pouty-faced black boxer, from getting put in time-out every now and then for being just a little too bossy.

On a recent Thursday, she sat on a grooming table on the lonely side of the window, looking forlorn as the other dogs played and barked.

“It makes for a better dog when they’re stimulated mentally and physically,” LeBlanc said.

It wasn’t long before LeBlanc, a Freeland resident, took pity on the pup who was wagging her tail and behaving like a well-trained show dog.

Back in with the others.

Claudia’s gray and white fur is ready to be dried, and she stands, mostly still, on a high table as a noisy, super-powered blow dryer annoys her senses.

After her nails are clipped and hair trimmed, she’s sprayed with doggy perfume and finished off with a seasonal bandanna. She’ll come back for another appointment in about six weeks.

The American Pet Products Association predicts spending on pet supplies, food and grooming to exceed $50 billion this year, and LeBlanc said it’s not uncommon for a dog’s haircut to cost more than its master’s.

Grooming at Hairy Paws can range from $20 for a simple cut all the way up to $120 for giant dogs.

“Grooming is definitely harder than it appears to be,” said LeBlanc, who has more than 20 years experience as a groomer. “The dog’s not going to turn its head to the left if you ask it.”

How to Tell When Your Pet is in Pain
By Bernhard Pukay, Ottawa Citizen

Q: My husband and I have a 14-year-old cocker spaniel that has had arthritis for several years and a host of minor ailments. Last week, she was diagnosed with kidney failure and was prescribed a special diet. Despite her problems, she is still very active and has her playful moments. Our question is this: How will we know when she is in pain or suffering and how will we know when it is time to have her euthanized?

A: Euthanasia is done in order to save a pet from unnecessary pain, distress and suffering. A pet's life should never be prolonged simply because an owner cannot bear to part with their pet.

It is often difficult to determine if a pet is suffering or experiencing pain since animals rarely vocalize or cry out when they are in pain.

Veterinarians have learned to recognize the signs of pain in animals and look to certain indicators to determine if a pet is suffering, whether physically or psychologically. Vocalization (crying out, whimpering, growling) can be an indication of existing pain in some patients but it is much more common for a pet to retreat from the family or try to hide and be on its own when in pain.

Pain and discomfort can manifest in several ways, including pacing, restlessness, agitation and repeatedly assuming different positions in an attempt to get comfortable. Animals that are in pain may pant excessively and/or shiver or tremble and they may be reluctant to move. Some pets may growl or bite if handled, while others may simply grunt or try to get away. Often, there may be a decrease or lack of appetite, listlessness or lethargy.

When trying to decide whether or not it is time to euthanize your beloved pet, you need to ask yourselves some important questions: Is your pet in pain, distress, or serious discomfort, which cannot be effectively controlled with medication? Is your pet able to walk and balance reasonably well? Can it eat and drink enough for normal maintenance without difficulty and without vomiting and/or diarrhea? Is it free from tumours that cause pain or serious discomfort and are judged inoperable? Is your pet able to breath without difficulty? Can it urinate and defecate reasonably frequently without serious difficulty or incontinence? Can you as an owner cope physically and emotionally with any nursing care that may be required?

If your answer to one or more of the preceding questions is "No" and there are no realistic treatment options available, then euthanasia is the recommended course of action. The two most important questions to ask are: What is my pet's "quality of life" like? Is my pet's sense of dignity still intact or is there a loss of dignity?

If you are uncertain, discuss this matter with your veterinarian. Veterinarians deal with these issues on a regular basis and are an excellent source of wisdom and advice.

Cat Purred 'Round the World
Detroit Free Press

Smokey's loud purr sets a Guinness World Record.

Smokey the cat has roared her way into Guinness World Records, having achieved the loudest purr by a domestic cat.

Guinness said Thursday the 12-year-old, gray-and-white tabby from Northampton, England, earned her place with a record-setting 67.7 decibels. Hear it yourself at:

Guinness says the loudest animal sounds are the low-frequency pulses made by blue whales and fin whales -- up to 188 decibels. By comparison, a lawn mower is 90 decibels.

Many pets seeing diabetes diagnoses

Diabetes diagnoses are rising at an even faster rate among dogs and cats than their human companions, according to a national analysis of pet health released last week.

The report is based on data from more than 2.5 million dogs and cats that visited Banfield Pet Hospital facilities in 43 states.

Nationally, diabetes rates increased by nearly a third among dogs in the last four years and by 16% among cats. By comparison, human diagnoses of diabetes rose 10% over the same period.

"It's no mystery how that occurs: overfeeding and the lack of exercise," said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, chief medical officer of the chain.

The most common signs of diabetes are excessive urination or thirst and weight loss. Managing the disease can be time-consuming, usually including twice-daily insulin injections, a change in diet and regular monitoring by a vet.

Pet name paradigm past its prime?

Are you the owner of a dog or cat? Maybe you should consider yourself a "human caregiver" instead. And maybe Fido and Fluffy are better called "companion animals."

Such vocabulary shifts will help elevate the discourse about other species and, in turn, improve our treatment of them, according to the new Journal on Animal Ethics, published last month at Britain's University of Oxford.

The journal even suggests getting rid of terms like "critters," "beasts" and "wild animals" and phrases like "drunk as a skunk" and "eat like a pig."

Koi Make Good Pets
Steve Pettis -

Fish are easier to care for than dogs, that is for sure.

There is something to be said for fish as pets; they require little care to thrive. Pet fish do not need to be walked, they do not bite, they don’t eat your homework, they eat very little and leave no piles to clean up. I think pet fish are basically staid passive creatures demanding little existing on next to nothing. You do not even have to water them because they live in their drinking water.

I have a koi pond that I inherited when I moved into my home. It is a very nice one, much nicer than anything I would have spent that kind of dough on though. I am very cheap. My idea of a pet fish is a gold fish in a bowl.

However, I do like the water feature. It has two waterfalls that provides a loud waterfall sound you can hear from the front porch. There is also a bridge and pool full of aquatic plants. Water lilies, irises and acoris are but a few of the plants in the water garden.

The fish of course are the best part. Watching the multicolored koi swim in the sun; flashes of red, gold and silver. Angel wing fins on some and brilliant metal flecks on others. They greet you eagerly when it is feeding time.

Sitting in the porch swing this evening listening to the water fall, I was thinking about the koi. A native of Japan, the cool water fish has been enchanting folks for hundreds of years. From the Buddhist Temples of Japan to Oconee County, the koi swim the ornamental waters eating very little, not making any kind of mess and swimming in their own drinking water. That makes them great pets in my book.

Heloise: Baking Birdseed Unwise
By Dear Heloise -

Dear Heloise: Years ago, a friend said to put birdseed in the oven for 30 minutes at a low temperature. This kills germs but leaves the seed nutritious for birds. Even the squirrels like it, and best of all - no weeds. - Jean in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Jean, the hint I've printed for a long time is to put the seed on a flat cookie sheet for only eight to 10 minutes in a 140-degree oven. A national bird association said it does not recommend baking the birdseed because it could change the nutritional content. It suggested the following for keeping birds fed without sprouting birdseed on the lawn:

• Clean the area under the bird feeder once a week or more often to pick up the fallen seeds.

• Buy a feeder with a tray at the bottom to collect the seeds, or add a tray to the bottom of an existing feeder.

• Black oil sunflower "chips" are a good choice for birds because they are no-waste.

• Check with your local pet/bird stores to see if they carry no-mess, nonsprouting seed blends that do not germinate. The main ingredient should be sunflower "hearts" or "chips." - Heloise

Dear Readers: Grace Denecker of Chino Valley, Ariz., sent us a picture of her beautiful black-and-white long-haired cat, Loveable Baby, comfy in a pretty floral blanket. To see Loveable Baby and our other Pet Pals, visit www and click on "Pets." - Heloise

Dear Heloise: Your reader's advice about hamsters brought back memories. My children had a hamster, Princess, when they were young. That squeaking wheel at night drove us crazy. I discovered I could rub some bacon grease around the shaft of the wheel to stop the squeaking. The grease wouldn't harm Princess if she licked it, and it solved the problem for quite a while. - Judy in Texas

Dear Readers: Eye discharge is a common problem for dogs. One part plain baby shampoo to 10 parts water is a good formula to use.

Mix the solution and, using a cotton ball, gently wipe the area. Repeat until the staining is gone. Then wipe with warm tap water. If the dog has an excessive amount of eye discharge, you may want the vet to check out the animal, just to make sure there is not a more serious issue going on. - Heloise

Dear Heloise: When our rat terriers had pups, we gave them all away except the runt, whom we named Nacho. When someone chose him, I would say, "Sorry, he's Nacho dog - he's mine." - Ronni in Texas

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

Gertie the Dog Found Safe
After a Winter on the Run
Written by Brian J. Howard -

Gertie the dog is safe at home with owner Claire Albahae in Brewster, nearly seven months after she first went missing from Clarence Fahnestock State Park in Putnam Valley, 15 miles away. / Submitted by Claire Albahae

CORTLANDT — Claire Albahae had just about given up hope of ever finding Gertie, the mixed breed, black-and-white hound dog she lost nearly seven months ago.

But Gertie turned up Tuesday, 15 miles from where she'd been lost. By Friday night, trackers had snared the emaciated pup. Now she's safe at home, if a bit scrawnier than before.

"Physically, she's not quite skin and bones," a relieved Albahae, 62, said.

"I had almost given up hope but not quite," the Brewster resident said. "I had many, many sightings."

Albahae was hiking with her three dogs in Clarence Fahnestock State Park in Putnam Valley Oct. 9 when Gertie, her youngest, broke free and ran. Albahae searched for her until 4 a.m.

Sightings poured in all fall and winter as Albahae posted hundreds of signs and followed up on every lead.

Gertie, who is between 7 and 8 years old, weighed 38 pounds when she went missing. At Brewster Veterinary Hospital on Saturday, she weighed in at 28 pounds.

Several feet of snow fell between Christmas and early February. And when it wasn't snowing, it was cold.

Gertie's ID tags and collars were still on, so Albahae thinks she was fed by strangers but never caught.

Trackers Chuck and Kricket Dyckman of Dyckman Wildlife Control in Carmel advised her to post signs and try to establish where Gertie was roaming.

That proved difficult until the call from a worker at Hudson Valley Charter Service in Cortlandt who'd spotted Gertie. Albahae went there and laid out food to lure the dog and an infrared camera to make sure it was indeed Gertie.

When she saw that it was, she called the Dyckmans.

A trap they set Friday morning safely captured her by midnight. Albahae had her home by 1 a.m., in need of a bath and tick removal, but safe and in good spirits.

"I'm so happy. Life has never been the same since I lost her," Albahae said. "There was a blank spot where her bed used to be, and I would just stare at it."

She found Gertie at in early 2010, rescued by ASPCA of Ohio from an abusive home. She also has a beagle, another mixed breed and three cats, one she found while looking for Gertie.

This isn't the first local dog to survive a winter in the suburban wilds. In February 2010, a black Labrador named Apollo roamed the woods of Croton-on-Hudson for six weeks before the Dyckmans found him.

"There's always hope," said Kricket Dyckman, who has tracked dogs lost as long as three years. "Dogs are hardy animals; they really are. They can travel a good distance and they're smart."

Albahae plans to offer the worker who found Gertie a cash reward. A message left at the business was not immediately returned.

How to Handle Death of One Pet
By Dr. Patty Khuly -

Q. Our schnauzer, Helga, is reaching the end of her life. She’s 15, and now that her kidneys are failing, we’re making plans for what we’ll do at the time of her euthanasia. One thing that keeps nagging at us is all the rest of our animals and how we’re going to help them deal with their loss. We’ve been wondering if pets have to say goodbye when their housemate dies. Should we bring them to the hospital with her or bring her body home?

Some owners believe pets must acknowledge the death of another before moving on with their lives. It’s one reason clients cite for preferring an at-home euthanasia, or even for taking the body home for a “viewing” by the entire household.

That humans would anthropomorphize grief makes lots of sense to me, especially given that some species, such as elephants, do overtly grieve.

There’s an almost overpowering human need to share in the death of a loved one, and the desire to share it with the other members of the household is a natural extension of that impulse.

So it’s no wonder some pet owners seek to help their surviving animals through a grieving process rather than allowing them to languish in the wondering stage. (“Where did my buddy go?”).

I get it, but in practical terms, having other animals present at the euthanasia is likely to be a stressful experience for them. It’s also my experience that animals don’t seem to care that much about the body once their housemate has departed it.

My advice? Concentrate on Helga. The others will find their own way of grieving.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at Send questions to, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.

Expert Tips for a Pet-Friendly Landscape
By Jeannie Armstrong, StarPhoenix

Is it possible to design and maintain an inviting backyard, while owning a dog (or two or three.)?

Pet ownership can be compatible with a beautiful backyard, says Janet Wanner, ODH, founder of Gentle Earth Design Studios in Saskatoon.

"When you're designing a yard with a dog in mind, think low maintenance. You can't have a very detailed yard with lots of flowers and perennials, because the dog will run through them and trample them. I suggest a simple landscape design, replacing traditional flowering plants with lots of colourful shrubs," says Wanner.

Wanner suggests dog owners opt for deciduous, leafy shrubs, as well as a few upright junipers or evergreens.

Dog owners should think twice about planting cedars in their yards, she adds. "Cedars smell different than other shrubs to dogs. Dogs like to use cedars as a toilet area; then the cedars die. I never put cedars in a yard where there are dogs."

Wanner recommends training the dog to go to the bathroom in one specific area in the yard, preventing the formation of ugly dead spots throughout the lawn. "Create a bathroom area for your dog. Spread pea gravel over the designated area. It's easy to hose off and keep clean," says Wanner.

Many dogs are territorial by nature. They like to survey their domain, doing regular perimeter checks of the yard, patrolling along the inside of the fence. Tender plants quickly get trampled; stalks broken and leaves crushed.

If you can't teach your old dog new tricks, study the path he or she takes when cruising the yard. Creating a pea gravel path along the inside of the fence will make both dog and homeowner happier.

Make that gravel border as wide as four feet, says Wanner. "Plant your shrubs four feet out from the fence. I would use a combination of larger shrubs in the corners - flowering shrubs like cranberry and golden elder. You can plant smaller shrubs along the fence line, such as flowering spirea, dogwood and barberry."

To Wanner, a chain link dog run is essential for pet owners. "That's especially true if the homeowners have a large dog. The humans want to be able to enjoy the yard, as well as the dog," says Wanner.

"When I design a dog run, it has a view at one end or the other. I'll plant some shrubs around the exterior of the dog run, so the dog can enjoy the shade and be out of the sun. I'll create a shrubbery bed along the outside of one side of the dog run, with some taller shrubs in the corner. Even a small tree would be excellent, like an amur maple or a mountain ash."

Position the dog run in an accessible location in the yard, not in the very back corner of the yard. "About seven months of the year, you're taking the dog out to the run in cold weather," she laughs. "You want that dog run to be accessible. You're not going to use it if it's at the back of the yard. Make it accessible to your side or back door."

A new paw-friendly option for dog play areas is offered by Saskatoon entrepreneurs Mark and Paula Nowakowski. They are the Saskatoon region distributors of Perfect Turf. Among the company's products is a synthetic turf specially formulated for dog runs and kennels.

"It's very hard to have a nice lawn when you have dogs. That's how I came across this product," says Nowakowski.

"I have two big dogs. I started off with grass and they wore that down to mud. Then I brought in rock, gravel and sand. Everything got tracked into the house. When I tried this product, I liked it so much, I bought the dealership."

The Canadian-made artificial turf is maintenance free, requiring no mowing or watering. The turf looks and feels like natural grass, however, homeowners never have to deal with dead spots or torn-up yards.

Small perforations in the turf promote optimal drainage of liquid waste. "It's very clean. It's installed over a base of crusher dust, which acts as a natural filter, preventing odors," says Nowakowski.

"Very often, I'll go out to a home to give a quote on a dog run and end up doing the whole back yard."

Nowakowski says that Perfect Turf is arning "glowing recommendations" rom doggy day cares, vet clinics, roomers and breeders. "The reponse has been very positive!"

For further information, contact Mark owakowski at Perfect Turf, at 261-392. Janet Wanner of Gentle Earth esign Studios can be reached at 43-8594.

Atheist Ready To Care For Pets After Rapture

Pet owners no longer need to worry about who will take care of their animals should the rapture come to fruition.

Bart Centre made plans to take care of people's pets in 2009 when he started Eternal Earth-Bound Pets USA.

Centre, who is an atheist, tells the "Washington Post" that for just 135-dollars he or one of his people will adopt your pet once you're gone.

Centre says his company operates in 26 states, adding that they already have "over 250 clients." Centre's business does, however, have a few restrictions.

Animals like horses, camels, and donkeys will only be rescued in New Hampshire, Montana, Vermont and Idaho.

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