10 Big Fat PET Weddings (Photos)

Lucky Black Cat Survives 20-Story Plunge

NEW YORK -- A New York cat is counting his lives after taking a 20-story plunge on the Fourth of July.

The owners of Glouchester -- known as G to his owners -- were out of town for a long weekend. They cracked a window as they left, not thinking their cat would even notice.

"In all the years we've been here, he's never even looked at the window, let alone peeked his head out or anything," said Barry Myers, Glouchester's owner.

But the Myers got a call on the Fourth saying their cat had taken quite a tumble.

"I assume he saw something and leaned out and tried to take a swing at it," said Myers.

The black cat turned out to be pretty lucky, surviving the concrete landing. Vets said that the towering apartment window may have actually helped G survive.

"According to the vet, when you're 10 floors or above, you actually have an increased chance of surviving it because you have a chance to kind of right yourself and get ready to land," said Myers.

He said a woman walking her dog found G, got him some water and called for help. Myers said G was pretty shaken up and a little bruised, but nothing was broken.

He said Glouchester is back to being a cat saying, "He's getting around pretty good right now, and he's eating. He seems relatively happy, all things considered, and he curled up on the couch with me and watched TV."

How Cute!
10 Percent of Pets are on Social Networks
Jeffrey Van Camp - digitaltrends.com

1 in 10 pets have social networking profiles, according to a new U.K. study. Are pets more popular than celebrities?

Fair warning: this dog is insanely cute.

A new study suggests that more than 1 in 10 U.K. pets have a profile on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Commissioned by PetPlan, a pet insurance company, the study suggests that animals may be more popular than celebrities and just about anything else on social networking sites. And if a pet doesn’t have a social networking profile yet, its pictures are probably already on one. More than half of U.K. pet owners share photos of their pets online, reports The Telegraph.

“…animals are more popular than celebrities on Facebook and other social networking sites,” said Neil Brettell, director of insurer PetPlan.

We were unable to find a detailed copy of the study to see what other conclusions it draws and report its sample size and methods, so we cannot verify this information, but we can definitely say that pets sure are extremely popular here in the U.S. The picture you see above is Boo, a dog that has 1.4 million friends (Likes) on Facebook. He even has a book coming out called “Boo: The Life of the World’s Cutest Dog.” It seems Facebook can bring out the business minds of pet owners as well.

The Telegraph describes the trend of giving pets their own social profiles as social “petworking.” Even Google+, a social networking site that is still in beta, already has a few dog profiles like Beagle D. Dog, a dog that wears a stylin’ pair of headphones. Even our own Andrew Couts has been known to post a few things online about his dog. Have you made a profile for your pet?

Fat Cat Eddie gets Snatched Up by Hawk,
but Dropped in Neighbor's Garden
Due to His Weight
Joanna Molloy - nydailynews.com

Eddie, the fat white cat, was carried by a hawk for 50 feet, before the hawk could carry no more.

It was dawn on the upper West Side the other day when a young woman heard a screech usually heard in the countryside: the raspy kreeing of a red-tailed hawk capturing its prey.

It got louder and more horrible as it suddenly mixed with the mews of a terrified cat. Her beloved cat, Eddie.

She ran out to her fifth-floor terrace where Eddie had been stretched out on a bench and saw nothing but "fur, broken nails, and feathers."

The woman, a beer microbrewer who doesn't want her name in the paper, looked everywhere, including nearby Riverside Park, where, "all the bird/park people said he was surely dead."

She was heartbroken. Eddie was more than a pet. He had been a companion, a friend, in the sometimes lonely four years since she had moved to Manhattan and adopted him at the ASPCA.

"I walked for hours all over the neighborhood and up Riverside Drive, sobbing, looking for his body," she said.

"I went to all the hawks' nests. I put up signs with Eddie's photo."

I don't know about you, but I shudder to think that hawks, who have increasingly set up house here, are preying on pets.

"The diet of a red-tailed hawk is made up primarily of small mammals such as squirrels, chipmunks, rodents and rabbits," said Sarah Aucoin of the Parks Department's Urban Park Rangers.

"There was an instance of a hawk attacking a Chihuahua in Bryant Park in 2003. It is entirely possible that a red-tailed hawk could prey upon a small cat."

That, of course, is where this story is heading: You see, Eddie's no featherweight.

No offense, but when I saw him last month, he was huge, an all-white 15-pounder with light-green eyes. Eddie's one fat cat.

Maybe the hawk thought Eddie was a plump white rabbit stretched out on the deck like a country breakfast. No way the 4-pound raptor could carry him over the brownstone rooftops to his nest in the park.

The answer is, he couldn't. Not very far, anyway. He made it about 50 feet.

"He dropped him in the garden of a building a few doors down," Eddie's amazed owner said.

"The tenant was awakened by a huge thud in his garden. He ran out and found his garden umbrella toppled over, and a cat in the corner, meowing."

Fat Eddie had been dropped at least five stories.

"I can only imagine Eddie bounced off the umbrella like in the cartoons," the owner said.

When the flabbergasted neighbor with cats falling from the sky went out that afternoon he spotted the woman's flyers and called.

"I have your cat!" he exulted. She ran down, fetched Eddie and took him to a vet.

"He checked out fine, other than some minor cuts, scrapes and bruises," the woman said. "The vet says he's an amazing cat. And he is."

Yeah, but he's lost at least a couple of those nine lives.

"The moral of the story is essentially: Your flaws can be an asset," she surmised. "In Eddie's case, his chubbiness saved him."

Doody Calls:
The Importance Of Scooping Your Dog's Poo
Lynne Peeples - huffingtonpost.com

The girl and her dog, they were fine (wow)
Until they left a doody -- that's a crime (bow wow)

Performer Martin Luther sings to the familiar tune of Blackstreet's "No Diggity" as he swoops in to "bag it up" -- the artist's hand shielded by a plastic doggie bag, of course.

"Dog Doogity", the new music video created by the Seattle-based Puget Sound Starts Here is a fresh approach to persuade people to pick up after their pets. Despite campaigns that have passed out pamphlets and placed boxes of plastic bags in public parks, area residents still find themselves dodging doodies on sidewalks, lawns and trails.

"The thing about dog waste is that it's the only bacteria source that people willingly leave on the ground," Janet Geer, spokesperson for a partnership of regional governments dedicated to improving local water quality, told The Huffington Post. "For some reason it doesn't sink in that it is raw sewage."

While Geer acknowledged the power of poop "to bring out the 6-year-old in a lot of people," she also emphasized the seriousness of the issue.

It's not just a stinky situation -- skipping scooping poses a public health hazard.

For one, pet feces carry bacteria, viruses and parasites into waterways that can cause unpleasant infections such as giardia and E. coli. More indirectly, the excrement also releases nutrients into the water that can feed algae, kill marine life, contaminate beaches and send unlucky swimmers home with bouts of diarrhea or hives.

As Luther states simply in the song: "Hey yo, you don't want to swim in poo."

The Puget Sound area is home to over a million dogs, which the campaign estimates generate as much waste as about 300,000 people. And just like their owners, the dogs' are contributing to one of the region's major concerns: the pollution of the Puget Sound.

What's more, the Associated Press reported Monday, "too much pollution from animal and human waste has been washing into Samish Bay in north Puget Sound, prohibiting shellfish harvests 38 days already this year."

The problem isn't limited to the Pacific Northwest, or even the people who eat the Pacific Northwest's prized seafood. The U.S. pet dog population reached a record 78.2 million in 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported. The high number of pets is particularly noticeable in high density cities.

Along Stratford Avenue in the Bronx borough of New York City, for example, residents have to be careful where they walk.

"There's always dog poop everywhere," Bronx resident Migdalia Cordero told News Channel 12 last week. The current $250 fine for failure to pick up waste is having little impact, as enforcement requires a perpetrator to be caught in the act.

Jefferson County, Colo., recently unleashed a team of volunteers to approach and remind dog owners that "there is no poop fairy," after an imposed $30 fine alone wasn't doing the trick, according to the Denver Post.

"Unlike wild-animal feces, dog poop does not biodegrade quickly," the Post reported last week.

Meanwhile, one landlord in New Hampshire is going a step further in her effort to avoid stepping in doo-doo: mandatory DNA testing of all dogs that live in her apartment complex. If abandoned waste is found, she enlists a program called PooPrints to match samples with the dog database, CNN reported.

Leaving a pet's droppings on the sidewalk or in a park is not a crime in every municipality, but the environmental risk likely sits outside the law anyway -- hiding in people's backyards or other private property.

When it rains in Seattle, feces left in any of these places can wash into storm drains and ditches, which then flow untreated to the nearest lake, stream or wetland and ultimately wind up in the Puget Sound.

"Pet waste is one of the primary sources of bacterial contamination in our local streams," Geer said. "It's in almost all the water samples we've tested."

Of course, once you do scoop the poop, there remains the question of what to do with it.

Composting or flushing the waste down the toilet in biodegradable bags are options that have garnered recent attention. However, according to Geer, these strategies are not yet ready for wide adoption; compost generally doesn't get hot enough to kill pathogens and flushable bags don't necessarily break down and could result in clogged pipes.

Simply picking it up and putting it in the trash is the best way to go, she said.

It's Dog vs. Machine
at Congressional Hearing on Airport Security
By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN,com

Spencer, a bomb-sniffing dog, checks a suitcase at the airport.

Washington (CNN) -- What is the best way to search travelers for explosives: Full-body Imaging machines, which can see through your clothes? Or Rin Tin Tin, who can't, but might lick your hand?

That, unexpectedly, became the most contentious issue at a fiery congressional hearing Wednesday on airport security.

In a sometimes blistering, sometimes comical debate, Republican lawmakers, a canine officer and a Transportation Security Administration official argued over the relative merits of dog vs. machine in assuring the national security.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, led the dog caucus, arguing that canines are cheaper and less invasive than body scanners. Dogs are exceptional at sensing explosives, do not require software upgrades, don't depreciate with use and might even be able to detect bombs implanted under a person's skin.

"The single best way to find a bomb-making device or bomb-making materials is the canine," Chaffetz said.

And dogs are widely accepted by the public, he said.

"Who doesn't like dogs?" chimed in Inspector William Parker, head of Amtrak's K-9 unit.

Canines are missing one thing that body scanners have, Chaffetz said. Lobbyists.

"That's what the problem is," Chaffetz said. "If you look at those lobbyists who pushed through those machines, they should be ashamed of themselves, because there is a better way to do this and it's with the canines."

Transportation Security Administration Assistant Administrator John Sammon noted the TSA has fielded both body scanners and canines. But dogs have limitations, he said. They require frequent breaks, he said, while the imaging machines can be worked tirelessly.

And he said, a dog can cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars."

"How do you come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars. I mean Alpo only costs so much," Chaffetz said. "I challenge you to verify that number."

Sammon said the cost of trainers and handlers is substantial.

"I assume that your whole-body imaging machines require an operator too," said dog fancier Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. The machine at his local airport requires three, he said. "One to stop you going through, one to listen on the (walkie talkie), and the one in back (to review the image)."

Dogs and machines are both "expensive systems," Sammon allowed. "They each have their role."

But Chaffetz maintained dogs are more efficient and proposed a contest.

"Let's do this," Chaffetz challenged Sammon. "You take a thousand people and put them in a room, I'll give you 10 whole-body imaging machines. You give me 5,000 in another room. You give me one of his dogs and we will find that bomb before you find your bomb," he said.

"Let's see who can find more bombs, and let's see who is less expensive," Chaffetz said.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, asked Parker whether canines can detect explosive implants -- devices surgically implanted on a human.

"Scientifically, right now there's no data that says a dog can or cannot," Parker said. But he noted that dogs can detect cancer and tumors. "Dogs can detect anything that they're taught. I think if the dog is taught to do that, he'll be a very good asset for that."

TSA officials have told Congress that body scanners can not detect implanted devices, although they may detect modifications to body contours.

Sammon promised to look into the cost of dogs and report back to Congress.

Labs Top Dog Bite List

Pit bulls have gotten a bad rap in recent years.

They make the news when overly aggressive dogs bite people. But they were not the only dogs biting in the first six months of 2011. Locally, one breed tallied more bites.

Nebraska Humane Society statistics released this week showed 23 bites involving pit bulls in Omaha. They recorded 35 bites by Labradors, and German Shepherds were just behind pit bulls, with 19 reported bites.

But pit bulls and similar breeds, under a city ordinance, have to wear muzzles on walks unless they're younger than six months. The dogs must be collared, leashed and harnessed. Owners also have to have $100,000 in liability insurance.

Mary Larson of Omaha, like many, once was afraid of pit bull breeds.

“I used to cross the street when someone was walking a pit bull,” Mary said.

Then she met Dinah.

Dinah, an older Staffordshire terrier — a breed closely related to pit bulls — was a stray that came into the shelter in early 2010. She was estimated at about six years old, her disposition inherently calm and sweet.

But no one at the shelter would give her a chance. Larson, a shelter volunteer, said no one considered adopting her.

“She was getting depressed,” Mary said. “She wasn't eating.”

Mary's husband, Doug, said his wife came home in tears because no one wanted Dinah. After three months at the shelter, Doug, skeptical at first, caved, and they brought her home to join their family of two dogs and at least three cats.

Now they consider themselves converts.

“We foster kittens,” Mary said. “When we brought Dinah home, she started licking them. She's very maternal.”

Doug said sometimes the kittens would try to nurse on Dinah, something that didn't bother her.

When the Larsons adopted Dinah, she came with a muzzle. There was one way to avoid using it — with the Humane Society-administered Canine Good Citizen test.

During their first week together, the Larsons trained Dinah. She had no problems passing the test at the end of the week. They donated their muzzle back to the shelter, and now Dinah wears the required “Breed Ambassadors” vest when out in public, signifying that she's safe.

The Canine Good Citizen test isn't easy for every dog, said Pam Wiese of the Humane Society.

Part of the test requires that dogs not jump up to greet people. They have to react appropriately when left alone with strangers or strange dogs. They have to be able to navigate a crowd. They have to react without aggression when sudden, loud noises are made. Those that pass become “Breed Ambassadors.”

“But, honestly, pit bulls might have a better chance at passing the test than other breeds,” Wiese said.

Wiese said one of the hardest parts of the test for dogs is not jumping to greet people. Higher-energy breeds like golden retrievers and Labradors often are the ones that can't resist doing that, she said.

Especially young dogs.

The test is a step above a basic obedience class. Many dogs fail the first time, and test-prep classes are offered at the Humane Society and elsewhere. Even those that pass have to retest every year.

Raised by the right owners, Mary said, all pit bulls can be socialized and be wonderful pets.

Three weeks ago, Dinah went to her first birthday party for another pit bull pal. There were 15 dogs, all crowded in the same room. Most were pit bulls, and not all were ambassadors.

Mary said it's important not to over-generalize an entire breed.

“At different points in history, people have been afraid of different dogs — chows, German shepherds, rottweilers, dobermans,” Mary said. “But in the right hands, these dogs are just as sweet as any other dog.”

6 Tips to Save on Pet Medical Expenses
By MoneyTalksNews - By Brandon Ballenger

People love their pets like family – dogs are man’s best friend, and well, pretty much anything cute and furry is a woman’s BFF. So it’s not surprising to hear a survey report that 91% of pet owners in the U.S. and Europe would give up their vacations to pay for a pet’s surgery.

That’s from Grey Healthcare Group. But this, from The New York Times, is surprising: Only about 3% of Americans have pet insurance. As we reported just last week, that can mean more than $1,500 in out-of-pocket expenses on things like torn ligaments and medical care resulting from eating what they shouldn’t.

Pet care is a growing industry – there are the traditional offerings, like vet visits and grooming. And then there are things like pet bakeries and pet resorts. It’s getting a little crazy, and doggone expensive. But pet health is more important than pet luxury.

Dr. Anvita Bawa also says insurance is a good idea for high-maintenance animals. “Especially bulldogs, rottweilers, and Dobermans,” says Bawa. Policies can be as cheap as $15 a month, although there are still deductibles and co-pays.

But as Stacy mentions, many pet policies won’t cover preventative care, older animals, or breed-specific genetic conditions – read the fine print and find out if your critters will get coverage worth the price. Here are some other ways to save, insured or not:

1.Check out the local animal shelter. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has local listings for animal shelters. These places may offer discounted services and cheaper (sometimes even free) vaccinations. Plus, they work for animals, not for profit – so they may be a good source for recommendations and referrals as well.

2.Comparison shop. Just like doctors who treat two-legged patients, vets don’t all charge the same rates. Visit HealthyPet.com for local listings of vets accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association. Then call them up and get some quotes.

3.Find cheaper prescriptions. Compare the prices your vet charges with online and local stores, including warehouse stores. Ask your friends and animal shelter workers what they use. There are plenty of places to find pet medications online: Just do a search for “Pet Medications.”

4.Pet sitters. Sometimes you need someone to watch your animals while you’re out of town. Last year, we wrote about sitter scam artists who robbed houses: The same story explains how to find a trustworthy pet sitter. If your family and friends can’t do it, try PetSitters.org or Pet Sitters International, where you should be able to find a good local sitter for $15-$35 a day.

5.Take good care of your pets. This sounds straightforward, but it’s easy to miss if you have a busy lifestyle. Make sure your pets are getting a proper diet – some animals have very specific needs. (This doesn’t mean generic pet food is bad, as long as it has the right ingredients.) Make sure they get enough exercise, and that you follow all your vet’s recommendations. Don’t skimp on preventative care like vaccines. Spend enough time and money to save yourself heartache and debt later.

6.Prioritize your pet budget. Many people treat their pets like kids, and it’s natural to want to spoil them. If you have the money, that’s OK. But remember that health is more important than luxury, and animals don’t need a lot of expensive toys or high-priced food. Unlike kids, they have no sense of how much money you spent. Your time and affection are worth more than what’s in your wallet.

7 Tips for First-Time Pet Owners

Here are a few tricks to help to prepare your pad for pets:

1.Curtain call. Be sure your windows are properly draped with materials that deter cats from using them as a scratching post, repel pet fur and dander and aren’t hazardous. Consider a window treatment designer to get the right look that’s also pet safe.

2.Plant perils. A number of plants found in your landscaping may be pleasing to the eye, but can be harmful to your pet. Be sure to ask your veterinarian what could be poisonous and develop a plan to replace it.

3.Sit, stay. Obedience training is a must for new dogs with no manners and old dogs with bad habits. Your pooch can be the Emily Post of the canine world — with a little guidance from an expert animal trainer.

4.Fenced in. No matter how much outdoor space you have, protecting your pets by fencing your yard is a smart move. If you don’t want to hinder your view, think about installing an invisible fence — no one will ever know it’s there.

5.Chemical ills. Household cleaning supplies and chemicals need to be out of reach, both in the home and the garage. Build shelves for storage or keep the materials behind closed cabinet doors because one taste could spell disaster for man’s best friend.

6.No room to run? Busy schedules and cramped quarters can leave any pup feeling antsy. A highly rated dog walker can help to ensure Jack gets to stretch his legs on a regular basis.

7.Stain pain. No one is immune to accidents and a stain’s a stain regardless whether it comes from a furry four-legged friend or a clumsy two-legged one. A professional carpet cleaner can eliminate any unsightly soiled spots that might occur.

Blood Suckers: How to Protect Your Pet
By Eric Kane, DVM - patch.com

Your pet can be affected by several blood sucking organisms, and the blood sucking may not even be the worst part.

There are many organisms in the environment that can affect our pets, often in more ways than one. Among them are external and internal parasites. These can be found in many areas, and the severity of disease they cause varies from pet to pet and organism to organism. While keeping your pets completely safe from these problems is not really possible, there are ways to try to help prevent, reduce severity, and treat your pet if they do become affected.

Some of the most common problems are caused by those organisms we will call 'blood suckers.' The name is quite telling, as all of these following organisms do indeed suck blood, which can sometimes lead to serious blood loss. However, some also carry and transmit other organisms, which then lead to other, sometimes even more serious problems. In the next few articles, we will focus on these little blood suckers, including fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and hookworms.


The most common external parasite we deal with, these wingless insects hang out and run around on your pet, sucking their blood for their nutrition. While the blood loss is usually not serious, in severe cases, your pet could lose enough blood to require a transfusion to survive. If your pet goes outside, comes into contact with other pet, or goes into an environment where fleas have been, they can become the next meal!

Adult fleas suck your pets' blood, and females lay eggs that fall into the surrounding environment. In optimal flea conditions, these eggs hatch and larvae eventually pupate and develop into adults. The adult emerges, finds your pet and hops on. Adult fleas on other pets can jump onto your pet, too. In addition to the varying amounts of blood loss, these adults fleas can cause, they also:

•Can carry and transmit TAPEWORMS - internal intestinal worms that cause diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, inappetence (not usually serious; treatable with a pill or injection, repeated in 2-3 weeks)

•Can carry and transmit the organism responsible for FLEA INFECTIOUS

ANEMIA - a microscopic parasite in cats that destroys red blood cells, leading to lethargy, weakness, yellow tissue (icterus) and collapse. (may require transfusion to survive–otherwise can be successfully treated with antibiotics)

•Can cause FLEA DERMATITIS (non-allergy) from the flea bites themselves, leading to mild itching and chewing (tail base, back end, neck, belly), and little bumps/crusts (tail base and neck usually). This is usually treatable by eliminating the fleas, shampoos and antihistamines.

•Can cause FLEA 'ALLERGY' DERMATITIS in those pets allergic to the flea's saliva–this can either be a mild or sometimes very severe skin inflammation with secondary bacterial and yeast infections, leading to signs of mild to intense itching and chewing (tail base, back end, neck, belly), hair loss, raw areas called hot spots, and a variety of strange skin and mouth changes in cats (lip ulcers, chin swelling, mouth granulomas, red bumps and plaques on the skin) *can be treatable by a variety of methods (a whole other article); however, can also be a very frustrating, ongoing problem that can be difficult to cure

•Can carry and transmit other less common organisms that we do not commonly see, like the organism responsible for plaque.


The best advice is preventing the fleas from ever affecting your pet. This is a tall order, as there is no way to 100 percent prevent fleas (in this area); however, there are things to consider when trying to reduce the risk to your pet:

•remember where your pet gets the fleas, and try to reduce exposure (outside, contact with other pets, previous flea areas)

•monthly 'spot on' liquids/oral pill products to kill fleas and/or prevent flea reproduction–recommend talking to your veterinarian about the best product for your pet

•bathing (regular bath and/or 'flea bath') to physically remove fleas and apply insecticide to kill fleas

CAUTION: I recommend not using over-the-counter flea control for your pet.

We see more 'reactions' in pets (allergic, local skin) when using these often less effective, non-FDA controlled products. While they may be less expensive, they may also be more dangerous and less effective. Be advised:

•keep temperature cool and humidity low (fleas love 70-90 degrees F and higher, and love humidity)

•vacuum, vacuum, vacuum (fleas lay eggs that are likely in your environment–before they hatch and get on your pet, get rid of them!)

•clean couches, upholstery, rugs, carpets

•use environmental foggers containing insect growth regulators to kill eggs and larvae

Endangered Snow Leopard,
World's 'Most Elusive' Cat,
Thriving in Afghanistan

Researchers have discovered a "healthy population" of elusive snow leopards in Afghanistan, thanks to camera traps set up at 16 different locations along the Wakhan Corridor, a high-altitude panhandle in northeastern Afghanistan.

Female snow leopard, Milla sits in her new enclosure at the Servion Zoo in Servion near Lausanne.

Snow leopards are among the most elusive and endangered animals in the world. There are believed to be only 4,000 to 7,000 snow leopards alive today: The sleek and beautiful cats are victims of human intervention - destroyed by poachers, killed by shepherds protecting their flocks, and targeted by illegal pet traders.

The snow leopard's habitat is in the mountains of central Asia. There is a belief in China that the cats' penises and bones can enhance sexual performance, which has contributed to their illegal capture.

The snow leopard population is believed to have declined by as much as 20 percent over the last 16 years.

"This is a wonderful discovery," Peter Zahler of the World Conservation Society said in a statement. "It shows that there is real hope for snow leopards in Afghanistan. Now our goal is to ensure that these magnificent animals have a secure future as part of Afghanistan's natural heritage."

The area where the snow leopards were found is one of the few that are untouched by civil unrest and military conflict in Afqhanistan.

The 2006 BBC miniseries Planet Earth broadcast the first ever close-up footage of a snow leopard.

The mesmerizing footage - which tracks a snow leopard as she hunts a goat - took three years to capture, and was dubbed "the holy grail of wildlife photography" by the Telegraph.

Housing Boom, if You’re a Bird
By JEFFERY DelVISCIO - nytimes.com

Buildings constructed to lure the edible-nest swiftlet have been popping up in Indonesia. The nests are used in soup. Jeffery DelViscio/The New York Times

SUKADANA, Indonesia — Along the spine-jarring road that runs through this city on the South China Sea, in between the sparse, waterlogged shacks of corrugated aluminum and wood, colorful buildings have begun to sprout.

The nests, on sale in Jakarta, are highly prized, and go for almost $1,000 a pound.

They tower over their low-slung surroundings with dollhouse facades, colored in baby blues, sunshine yellows and ruby reds.

Sukadana, a small coastal city in western Borneo, is in the midst of a building boom. But the new houses are not for people. They are giant birdhouses playing an all-day siren call through booming speakers to a small bird whose edible nests — at almost $1,000 a pound — produce a broth that is highly prized, and highly priced, in China.

“They actually look nicer than a lot of the real houses,” said Andrew Teixeira de Sousa, field director for the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program, which is active in the nearby Gunung Palung National Park. “But that’s just because there’s a lot more money going into those buildings.”

The bird — called, appropriately enough, the edible-nest swiftlet — makes its nest by regurgitating long strands of sticky saliva onto the wall of a cave or house, as the case may be. These strands harden into a woven cup, weighing on average about a third of an ounce, that provides a cradle for the birds’ young and hangs from the wall.

Many Chinese believe that these hardened cups, when married with broth, bestow special health benefits. Some Web sites claim the nests can help fight disease, aid blood flow, strengthen the body, moisturize the skin and even help mothers recover their youthful figures more rapidly after childbirth. One company advises women to feed their babies nest fragments dissolved in milk to “give the infant a flexible mind.”

Real or not, the supposed health benefits of the nests have allowed sellers to charge a premium price. Iskandar, a village official in Riam Berasap Jaya who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said a good quality nest that had the classical cup shape and was free of dirt and feathers could fetch $11 to $23.

Mr. Iskandar, a former illegal logger, shares a property line with a swiftlet house; he has many friends involved in the trade and is saving up for one of his own. Since most of the forests in the area have been bought up by palm plantations, he says, the logging business is not what it once was.

The edible bird’s nest has been in Indonesia for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until the advent of the CD player that the boom really took off, said Lim Chan Koon, of the University of Malaysia, the co-author of “The Swiftlets of Borneo.”

Before then, people would venture into caves to gather the nests. “Some wise guy thought of using playback of the swiftlets’ vocalization to lure them into purposely built structures imitating the cavelike environment,” he said.

Once enticed inside, the swiftlets encounter an environment designed to keep them regurgitating comfortably. Small openings in the rear of the building allow them access but keep predators out. Holes allow air to circulate but keep crosswinds to a whisper.

There are large bird feeders, and open-face water tanks provide bathing and drinking water. Misters keep the temperatures inside cool despite the blistering daytime heat.

Getting started in swiftlet farming requires what is, for this part of the world, a significant amount of money. Mr. Iskandar said a medium-size three-story swiftlet house can cost about $16,000 — a prohibitive sum for many.

Still, the houses keep going up. Almost every kink in the winding roads here reveals another. On some of the straighter stretches, the houses sit in clusters of threes and fours.

In the early morning and evening when the birds return from foraging, the jostling around the entrances seems like an avian freeway exchange — a black roiling mass of thousands of birds, each entering and exiting faster than the human eye can track. And between the birds and the electronic calls, the chirping never stops.

Economists estimate the total value of the nesting trade ranges anywhere from tens of millions of dollars to anyone’s guess. “The bird’s nest industry is in the informal sector of Indonesia’s economy that is difficult to estimate,” said Fauzi Ichsan, a senior economist with Standard Chartered Bank.

But the unregulated industry is also raising concerns that Indonesian swiftlet farmers could be producing more than just nests. Indonesia is acutely sensitive to bird-related disease scares. Since 2003, H5N1, better known as the avian flu, has caused 146 deaths and fueled global fears of a pandemic, and the toll in Indonesia is the highest in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Some are concerned that the increasingly dense networks of swiftlet houses could create disease flight paths for the avian flu, threatening both the local bird populations and potentially humans, as well. Almost as worrisome are the large water tanks inside each house that provide prime breeding sites for mosquitoes that could carry dengue fever and malaria — two tropical diseases of particular concern in Borneo.

The profusion of bird droppings that cover the buildings and the surrounding areas is also a concern. “When it’s dry, the wind will carry any particles and germs in it, possibly causing various respiratory diseases,” said Trisasi Lestari, a physician and researcher in the public health department of Gadjah Mada University.

But on the roads around Sukadana, potential health concerns seemed secondary, and swiftlet house owners seemed more concerned with the flightiness of the birds themselves.

In Riam Berasap Jaya village, Budi sat in a sweltering room staring at a mostly blank closed-circuit television screen. A recording of bird calls screamed at high volume in the next room. It had been six months since his swiftlet house was finished, but only a few nests dotted the walls.

Luck, Mr. Budi says, plays as great a role as preparation in swiftlet farming. You see, he said with a sigh, you can entice an edible-nest swiftlet to a birdhouse, but you can’t make it nest.

Mariamah Achmad contributed reporting from Ketapang, Indonesia.

10 Big Fat Pet Weddings
By IB Times Staff Reporter

Pet wedding is a growing trend, despite high divorce rates among humans.
Pet lovers have been throwing grand wedding parties to get their little ones walk down the aisle and tie knot to their partner.

Sometimes these wedding are made legal by putting their paw prints on a set of matrimonial documents.

A dog wearing a bridal veil attends a symbolic wedding as part of celebrations of a local municipality in Lima July 9, 2011.

A 7-year-old male monkey named Wukong (R) and a 6-year old female monkey named Xiaoya are seen during a special wedding ceremony at a zoo in Wenling, Zhejiang province, September 4, 2008. The zoo organised the special wedding ceremony hoping to attract more visitors, local media reported.

Dogs dressed as a bride (L) and groom (R) take part in a wedding ceremony for pets as part of Valentine's Day celebrations at a shopping mall in Hong Kong February 13, 2007.

"Newlyweds" Gook (R), a rooster, and Brown, (2nd-R), a hen, pose with fellow "newlyweds" rabbits Fufu and Blao after their wedding ceremonies to mark the upcoming Valentine's day in Bangkok on February 10, 2003. Many animals, including miniature poodles, attended the event.

Two spotted-billed pelicans participate in a wedding ceremony in a "bridal house" at a zoo in Fuzhou, southeast China's Fujian province April 25, 2007. The female pelican was found in south China's Hainan province, and brought to Fuzhou to mate with the male pelican, who lost his mate three years ago, local media reported.

Sterilized pet rabbits dressed in traditional Chinese costumes are pictured during a wedding ceremony in Hong Kong, where organizers also attempted to deliver messages of promoting kindness to animals, February 13, 2011. Rabbits are the third most neglected animals in Hong Kong after cats and dogs, according to figures from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), showing that around 200 rabbits are abandoned by their owners each year. The Hong Kong Rabbit Society says the situation could worsen over the Lunar New Year, which began on February 3 and marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac.

A pair of chihuahua wears a wedding costume during a fashion show at the Woefstock dog festival in Antwerp October 21, 2006.

Female pig Huang Pu-pu (R) and male pig Shui Fu-ko kiss during their wedding ceremony in Taiwan's Yilan County February 5, 2007. The owners of the two pigs married the animals on the occasion of the upcoming Chinese New Year, also known as the "Year of the Pig".

Chimpanzee groom Yangyang (R) and his bride Wanxing attend a symbolic wedding at Hefei Wildlife Park in Hefei, Anhui province September 28, 2010. Four-year-old Guinea born Yangyang moved to the Hefei Wildlife Park after he was selected as six-year-old Wanxing's partner by the park in 2009.

Sterilized pet rabbits dressed in wedding outfits are pictured with their owners during a wedding ceremony in Hong Kong, where organizers also attempted to deliver messages of promoting kindness to animals, February 13, 2011. Rabbits are the third most neglected animals in Hong Kong after cats and dogs, according to figures from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), showing that around 200 rabbits are abandoned by their owners each year. The Hong Kong Rabbit Society says the situation could worsen over the Lunar New Year, which began on February 3 and marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac.

Hints From Heloise:
The Heat Is On for Pets
By Heloise, washingtonpost.com

Dear Readers:

Summertime can pose a potential danger to your pets. Here are a few hints from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help protect your pets in extreme heat:

* Your pets can get dehydrated very quickly. Be sure to provide plenty of clean, fresh water when it’s hot.

* Do not leave your pet in the car for even a few minutes during hot days. When turned off, a car can become a hot oven in less than 10 minutes.

* Some dogs are good swimmers, and some are not. Don’t leave dogs unattended around a pool unless you know that your pooch can swim.

-- Heloise


Dear Readers:

Nancy P. in Gardiner, Maine, sent in a picture of her 9-year-old Yorkie, Maggie Mae, sitting up and riding around in her granddaughter’s baby walker. Nancy said that Maggie Mae will spend all day in there if you let her! To see Maggie Mae and our other Pet Pals, go to www.Heloise.com and click on “Pets.” -- Heloise


Dear Heloise:

My small parakeet is very smart! He has figured out how to open the three doors of his cage. I outsmarted him so that he would not escape. I put paper clips on each door, and twisted them so the clips will stay on.

-- Harriet in New Jersey


Dear Readers:

Have a difficult time bathing your dog because of the slipping and sliding in the tub? This is easily remedied. Grab a piece of shelf liner or an old bathmat and put it down for the animal to stand on. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise:

I have found an easy way to make a homemade bed -- cheap sleeping bags! I zip each bag up, fill it with cedar-bark bedding and clip the open end with jumbo clips. To wash the bed, I unzip it, pour the cedar chips into my flower beds, wash the sleeping bags and fill with fresh cedar.

-- A Reader, via email


Dear Heloise:

I use the plastic newspaper sleeves to collect waste from both my cat and dog.

When cleaning the litter box, I scoop up the litter with waste, then place it in a plastic sleeve and tie. It keeps everything contained, and odors are kept to a minimum.

When walking my dog (or cleaning the back yard), I put one plastic sleeve over my hand, pick up the waste and place it in another sleeve. It can then be tied and disposed of properly.

-- Jacinda H., Colorado Springs, Colo.


Dear Heloise:

An unclean hamster cage can stink, but cleaning it isn’t so hard. I take my hamster out of his cage and put him in his exercise ball. I take the cage outside and place the used litter in a large trash bag. Some mild dish detergent used on a plastic scrubbie will remove stubborn stains, and I just rinse well and dry.

-- Carrie in New Hampshire

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

Pets Pump You Up, Study Finds

You can credit your dog or cat with improving your well-being and confidence, researchers say.

(HealthDay News) -- Pets are a key source of social and emotional support for their owners, whether they are "everyday" people or those facing serious health problems, a news study finds.

"We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions," said lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, of Miami University in Ohio.

"Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners," McConnell added.

To assess the benefits of pet ownership, researchers performed three experiments. First, they asked 217 people (about 80 percent women, with an average age of 31) whether pet owners differed from people who didn't have pets in well-being, personality and attachment style. In general, they found pet owners to be happier, in better health and better adjusted than non-owners.

Next, they questioned 56 dog owners (about 90 percent women, with an average age of 42) to determine if they benefited more when their pet seemed to fulfill their social needs. They found that owners experienced greater well-being, and reported that their dogs increased their feelings of belonging, self-esteem and a meaningful life.

For the third experiment, researchers asked 97 college undergraduates (average age 19) to write about a time when they felt excluded. Then they asked them to write about their favorite pet, or to write about their favorite friend. Writing about their pets was as therapeutic as writing about a friend, the researchers found.

The study was recently published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"[T]he present work presents considerable evidence that pets benefit the lives of their owners, both psychologically and physically, by serving as an important source of social support," the researchers wrote in a journal news release. "Whereas past work has focused primarily on pet owners facing significant health challenges, the present study establishes that there are many positive consequences for everyday people who own pets."

The study authors added that no evidence emerged to show that relationships with pets came at the expense of relationships with other people, or that people relied more on pets when their human social support was lacking.

By Jill Christofferson, DVM Columnist

Q: My 7-year-old Lab has really bad breath. Her teeth look clean and I am using chlorophyll tablets from the pet store. Is there something better that I can use? -- Barbara P, Walnut Creek

A: Bad breath is a common complaint among dog owners. It would be great if there was a magic pill that you could give that would resolve it, but I am afraid I don't have one.

Bad breath can have a variety of causes so it's not always easy to find the solution.

The most common cause of bad breath in dogs is some form of dental disease. Even if your dog appears to have beautiful teeth, there may be periodontal disease that you can't see.

When dogs develop periodontal disease -- in which the supporting structures around the teeth become infected -- bad breath develops. One of the worst causes of bad breath is a poorly understood disease called chronic ulcerative paradental stomatitis, where the gum and cheek tissues become inflamed and ulcerated due to a reaction to bacteria-containing plaque on the tooth surface. Dogs with this disease have terrible breath which responds poorly to most types of treatment.

Additional causes of bad breath that originate within the mouth include foreign bodies like sticks or bones which wedge themselves between the teeth or across the roof of the mouth, and oral tumors.

Disorders of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine can also result in bad breath. Gastric reflux, where stomach acid comes in contact with the lining of the esophagus, will result in ulceration of the esophagus and can lead to bad breath.

Slow or delayed emptying of food from the stomach will also contribute to bad breath.

Changes in normal intestinal bacteria can result from inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatic enzyme deficiencies. These changes in bacterial colonies may cause an unusual odor to the breath.

Usually dogs with one or more of these gastrointestinal diseases will have other signs like weight loss, vomiting, or diarrhea as well.

Skin infections can mimic bad breath. Infections of the lower lips can cause severe odor which people often mistake for bad breath. An area the size of a pencil eraser can be infected and the dog will appear to have terrible breath.

Have your Lab examined by your vet. A complete physical examination should be performed and blood tests may be recommended.

If no other cause can be found, a complete dental examination under anesthesia with teeth cleaning and dental X-rays should be performed to look for and treat periodontal disease.

It may not be a quick fix, but it will be worth it when she is sitting next to you on the sofa and you aren't forced to hold your nose.

Ask Dr. Jill Veterinary Advice is a column written by Jill Christofferson, DVM, of the Encina Veterinary Hospital in Walnut Creek. Contact her at askthevet@encinavet.com .

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