The Legend of Rin Tin Tin

Colorado Woman Who Ran Chihuahua
 Next to Car Faces Animal Cruelty Charges

BOULDER, Colo. — A dog-sitter’s shortcut led to criminal charges for a Colorado woman who ran a Chihuahua alongside her car at 10 to 15 mph.

The Daily Camera reports that 29-year-old Joan Renee Zalk of Boulder faces animal cruelty and felony menacing charges after witnesses confronted her Friday morning for running the pup alongside her Toyota Camry.

The newspaper reports that Zalk told officers the dog, named Cooper, “goes ballistic” if it doesn’t walk 3 miles a day.

Witnesses called police after seeing the leashed dog struggling to keep up with the car. Zalk reportedly said the dog was fine.

Zalk is free on bond. Cooper was uninjured and was taken to a local shelter. The dog was expected to be released to its owner, who was out of town at the time of the incident.

Cat Comes Home 5 Months
After Vilonia Tornado,
Surprising Owners

VILONIA, Ark. — A four-legged victim of the Vilonia tornado has unexpectedly survived.

The Log Cabin Democrat reports that a black tomcat called Black Velvet was spotted on a fence in its owners' backyard late last week — five months after the tornado.

Black Velvet had gone missing after the April 25 tornado that killed five people and destroyed dozens of buildings in the town north of Little Rock.

The cat's owners, Keith and Debra Rorie, were concerned about a family member who lost her home and didn't think anything of Black Velvet's disappearance for almost a week.

Black Velvet appeared to look healthy and well-fed, and Keith Rorie thinks someone might have been looking after the cat.

House Cat With 2 Faces
Lives 12 Years, Sets Record

WORCESTER, Mass. – Frank and Louie the cat was born with two faces, two mouths, two noses, three eyes — and lots of doubts about his future.

Now, 12 years after Marty Stevens rescued him from being euthanized because of his condition, the exotic blue-eyed rag doll cat is not only thriving, but has also made it into the 2012 edition of Guinness World Records as the longest-surviving member of a group known as Janus cats, named for a Roman god with two faces.

"Every day is kind of a blessing; being 12 and normal life expectancy when they have this condition is one to four days," Stevens said, stroking Frank and Louie's soft fur as he sat on her lap purring. "So, he's ahead of the game; every day I just thank God I still have him."

Frank and Louie's breeder had taken him to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, where Stevens was working at the time, to be euthanized when he was just a day old. Stevens offered to take him home, but experts told her not to get her hopes up.

Janus cats almost never survive, and most have congenital defects, including a cleft palate that makes it difficult for them to nurse and often causes them to slowly starve or get milk in their lungs and die of pneumonia. The condition is the result of a genetic defect that triggers excessive production of a certain kind of protein.

But Frank and Louie did not suffer from most of the common Janus problems. Stevens used feeding tubes to nourish him for three months, hoping that would also save him from the danger of choking on food going down two mouths.

It turned out she didn't have to worry about him choking, because Frank and Louie used just one of his mouths to eat.

"The condition itself is very rare, and I think that the fact that this cat became an adult, a healthy adult, is remarkable," said Dr. Armelle deLaforcade, an associate professor at Cummings and head of the emergency services section.

Colleagues at the veterinary hospital told Stevens that trying to raise Frank and Louie might not be good for him — or her.

Still, she "stood firm and stood by the cat, and I'm really glad she did because this cat really has fewer problems than many cats that have very normal anatomies," deLaforcade said.

Frank and Louie's two faces have a complicated relationship. Both noses work, but one mouth does not have a lower jaw and isn't connected to his one esophagus, so he can't eat with it. Stevens discovered that only after the cat got an MRI later in life.

The animal can see out of only two of his three eyes. The middle one can't even blink and makes Frank and Louie appear to be staring even when his other eyes are closed.

Frank and Louie does not seem to be bothered by his condition and has developed a friendly personality. The breed is known for its soft and silky fur, docile temperament and penchant for relaxing in a person's arms like a rag doll.

He is "very, very laid back, not afraid of people, very friendly and he's actually more of a dog than a cat," Stevens said. "He walks on a leash, he goes right in the car; he loves car rides."

People often want to touch Frank and Louie's long, luxurious fur while Stevens is out walking him.

"It's funny because people walk up to him thinking it's a nice, fluffy white cat and they're walking up with a big smile on their face to pat him, like, 'Oh, what a beautiful cat' and I see a look of horror come over their faces when they actually see his face," Stevens said, laughing.

Thirty years ago, a cat like Frank and Louie might not have been given a chance to live.

Said deLaforcade: "You can look at a cat like this as either a very strange and bad omen, or you can look at this cat as a miracle."

Queen Nefer-Kitty:
Expert Makes Dead Pets into Mummies,
Pyramids Sold Separately
BY Katie Nelson - NY DAILY NEWS

Cagliastro said her mummification practice is "art" and "scientific."

Professional mummy-maker Sorceress Cagliastro cradles puppies alive and dead with the same tender care.

An avid animal lover who has four dogs and a bird, the Brooklyn native will mummify pets - cats, bunnies, birds, frogs, whatever - that weigh up to 100 pounds.

Her past projects include racing pigeons, a macaw, a millipede, a peacock, a caiman, guinea pigs and even an armadillo.

Cagliastro knows her services - which cost between $800 and $4,000 - aren't for everyone. But the upstate Kingston resident says a growing number of grieving pet owners are eager to seek her out.

"To me, mummification is the ultimate honor because there is nothing that would keep your loved one around longer," she said.

"When people tell me they want to do this thing, the first thing I am is impressed. You must have really loved that animal," she continued. "I have an enormous amount of respect for the animals entrusted into my care."

Cagliastro grew up in Flatbush and is a married to an exterminator, David, and is mom to 11-year-old Maghdalen. Prior to full-time mummy work, she did forensic reconstruction for the chief medical examiner's office, and served as an embalmer for funeral homes.

"All in all, I have seemed to spend my life in service of the deceased," Cagliastro said. "This seemed like a logical next step for me."

Cagliastro got started studying mummies after she was in a "horrific" out-of-state car accident about 15 years ago. While recovering at her then-home in Park Slope, she started studying Egyptian texts at the Brooklyn Museum. That led to experimenting with salts, and over five or so years, working with three chemists to develop a complex salt formula that she considers a "trade secret."

Cagliastro initially practiced on chicken wings bought at a supermarket, but now mummifies pets brought to her by grieving owners from New York and beyond. Eventually, she also intends to mummify humans.

"People choose all kinds of postmortem processes, and this is just one of them," she said recently, in between doting on her daughter and puppy, Rue.

With help from an assistant and an intern, Cagliastro takes on about 10 projects at a time. When the Daily News visited her laboratory, she had two cats, a sulphur-crested cockatoo, a stillborn puppy, two squirrels and a kitten.

Each mummy can be finished any number of ways, ranging from a "simple linen wrap all the way up to painted with semi-precious metals, decorated with heirloom jewelry or, say, a scrolled up piece of parchment put inside."

For those wanting to learn how it works first-hand, Cagliastro teaches classes - using bullfrogs bought at a wholesale Chinese grocery - at the Observatory in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The next limited-seating session is slated for Oct. 9.

"I'm fascinated by this thing called death," Cagliastro said. "It's sort of the only thing that everyone experiences."

Angry Fish Inhabit Most
Home Aquariums Analysis
by Jennifer Viegas -

Home fish tanks and aquariums may at first appear to be tranquil environments, but look closely and you might see a glaring goldfish or a ticked off tetra.

A new study has found that ornamental fish across the U.S. -- all 182.9 million of them -- are at risk of becoming aggressive due to cramped, barren housing.

In other words, fish can turn mean when their home sucks, according to a new study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.

"The welfare of aquarium fishes may not seem important, but with that many of them in captivity, they become a big deal," project leader Ronald Oldfield, an instructor of biology at Case Western Reserve University, said in a press release.

Oldfield's paper is the first to scientifically study how the environment of home aquariums affects the aggressive behavior of ornamental fishes. The findings are in keeping with related research, though. For example, earlier this year I reported on how cramped tank conditions are turning sea urchins into cannibals.

For this latest study, Oldfield compared the behavior of Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) in a variety of environments: within their native range in a crater lake in Nicaragua, in a large artificial stream in a zoo, and in small tanks of the sizes typically used to by pet owners.

The study looked at just juvenile fish in order to remove the possibility of aggressive behavior related to mating. The experiments were also set up so that the fish weren't competing for food and shelter.

In addition to tank size, he tested the complexity of an environment and the effects of the number of fish within tanks. "Complexity" in this case refers to the addition of obstacles and hiding places, such as rocks, plants, and other objects. Tanks with more complexity, and of a larger size, helped to reduce aggressive behaviors.

Tempers were observed to literally flare, however, in the less desirable aquariums, with perturbed fish flaring their fins. But that was on the low end of the anger spectrum. Very ticked off fish nipped, chased, charged, and even murdered each other. (Similar attacks and killings have been observed before among captive great white sharks.

Oldfield suspects cramped, barren environments for humans may also serve as breeding grounds for comparable negative behaviors.

"This study might help us to better understand how human behavior changes when people are placed in different social environments," he said, suggesting that prisons fall into that extreme "different" category.

From the fish's perspective, life in a too-small and dreary tank might even feel like a jail cell does to us.

So if you do have a fish tank at home, give it the once over to see if a replacement or remodeling job is needed. If you plan to set up a new aquarium, don't select the cheap, stagnant water models that will have you flushing your pet investment down the toilet soon.

Do Birds See in Color?
By Margaret A. Wissman,

A bird's eyes are unique in many ways. A bird can see in color as well as near the ultraviolet range.

A bird that is active during the day has great color vision.

Birds do see in color. Birds that are active during daylight hours have the best color vision and, conversely, birds active at night usually have very good night vision. I find it fascinating that diving birds, such as kingfishers, have eyes adapted to aerial and aquatic vision due to some unique adaptations to the deeper structures of the eye. Water birds and birds that live on open plains have a specialized area in the eye that allows them to fix the horizon accurately as a reference point.

Birds also have brightly colored oil droplets within the eye that are involved with interpretation of color vision. It is thought that the different colored oil droplets enhance contrast by acting as in-the-eye light filters. For example, the yellow oil droplets would remove much of the blue color from the background, which would increase the contrast between an object and the blue sky. The red oil droplet would remove much of the green from the background, which would greatly improve the contrast between an object and trees. The enhanced contrast would considerably increase visual acuity.

Some pet birds seem to have color preferences and aversions. I always try to avoid wearing red when working on pet birds, especially African parrots, including African grey parrots and members of the Poicephalus genus. If anyone walks into a nursery of baby African parrots wearing a bright red shirt, it is almost guaranteed to elicit quite a response from the babies! Adult African greys seem to react badly to red clothing, as well. I find this especially interesting, as the Congo African greys have gorgeous, bright red tail feathers. Red fingernail polish and toenail polish also seem to disconcert some parrots.

Birds are also thought to be able to see light into the near ultraviolet range. This might be why they can identify individual birds that look exactly the same to us, due to the secretions of the uropygial gland that have been spread onto the feathers during preening.

Birds are also known to be able to better detect and follow movement. While a bird and a person might both be able to see a mouse from a height of 250 feet, a person can only do so if his attention was accurately directed to the mouse, but the bird can see it without even directly looking at it. Moreover, the bird is able to see all the mice in a field in a single glance, but we could only do that by scanning the area meticulously. A bird’s vision is truly special and remarkable.

A Man and His Dog Create Enduring Legend
Rick Kogan -

How a puppy named Rin Tin Tin grew up to be a cultural hero

1924: Rin Tin Tin, the Warner dog star, comforting his master, William Collier, in a scene from the film, 'The Lighthouse By The Sea'. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images) (General Photographic Agency, Getty Images / September 23, 2011)

Born on a battlefield in France during World War I and rescued by a U.S. soldier named Lee Duncan, a terrified German shepherd puppy would become the most famous dog in the world.

Named Rin Tin Tin, after a popular French doll of the time, the dog would be as big a star as the movies and television have ever known. (Sorry, Lassie.)

In "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend," Susan Orlean has fashioned a masterpiece of reporting and storytelling, some of it quite personal and all of it compelling. Animal-related books have always peppered best-seller lists — "Seabiscuit" comes quickly to mind — and this one will top such lists. It deserves to, and also to work its way into millions of hearts and minds.

Orlean, a stylish staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 1992 and the author of seven previous books, including the 2000 best-seller "The Orchid Thief," is well-connected in the literary scene, and many of her writer friends and some reviewers have already plundered the thesaurus for words of praise for her latest book: "hugely entertaining and unforgettable" (Walter Isaacson), "fascinating and big-hearted" (Ann Patchett), "spectacularly compelling" (Donna Seaman).

To those, I will merely add "dazzling."

Orlean writes, "Rin Tin Tin has always been more than a dog. He was an idea and an ideal — a hero who was also a friend, a fighter who was also a caretaker, a mute genius, a companionable loner. He was one dog and many dogs, a real animal and an invented character, a pet as well as an international celebrity. He was born in 1918, and he never died."

Well, he did die, of course, in 1932, but he has carried on through all manner of ups and downs and careful breeding for 11 generations and counting. "I believe that there will always be a Rin Tin Tin because there will always be stories," Orlean writes — and she has written a definitive and spectacular one.

The seed of this book was a small plastic figurine of the dog that sat on the desk of Orlean's grandfather, "maddeningly out of reach … (a) mysterious and eternal figure." This personal connection infuses the book, and Orlean is not at all loath to participate in the narrative.

She does so with admirable sensitivity, skill and energy, even visiting the Meuse Valley battlefield where the dog was born. Later, she delivers a puppy with the Rin Tin Tin pedigree to a family in Boston and imagines that it might remain with her for keeps. Ultimately she hands the dog over: "I had no right to cry about it, but I couldn't help it. For that moment (on the plane), at least, after a lifetime of imagining it, that shy, worried, tender, heroic, brave, loyal, gallant puppy had been mine."

This may seem a bit over the top, but in context it is nothing but refreshingly honest. Almost everyone who has come into contact with Rin Tin Tin has been moved to love bordering on obsession.

Duncan was an orphan, and his love of animals was tied to his lonely childhood. He believed that his puppy's survival was a miracle, and it was a combination of his training skills, the dog's talent and a considerable amount of luck that turned "Rinty" into a star. Duncan and the dog (dogs) would ride that wave and suffer its crash, until TV came calling and fame returned.

It came in the form of Bert Leonard, a child of New York's Hell's Kitchen who grew up "bold and brash, carnal, concrete," and produced "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" series that first aired in 1954. When that run ended five years later, Leonard made several stabs at reviving Rin Tin Tin's career and spent his fortune on a series of squabbles and lawsuits that ruined him.

We meet, more pleasantly, Daphne Hereford, the owner of the current Rin Tin Tin at her El Rancho Rin Tin Tin in Texas. We meet, disturbingly, a middle-aged man named Paul Klein who for years visited conventions and other Rin Tin Tin-related gatherings pretending to be former child actor Lee Aaker from the TV series.

The dogs' story is embellished by thoughtful excursions into larger but important related matters such as the growth and oddities of the film and television industries, the rise of American pet culture, dogs and war, and the bond between dogs and people.

There is, I am sorry and shocked to tell you, one glaring error in the book. In writing about the early reactions to Rin Tin Tin's film career, Orlean quotes the first movie critic of the Chicago Daily News, a not-yet-world-famous poet named Carl Sandburg, who gushingly wrote, "A beautiful animal, (Rin Tin Tin) has the power of expression in his every movement that makes him one of the leading pantomimists of the screen." Orlean spells his name Sandberg, but that will certainly be corrected in future editions.

Sandburg called Rin Tin Tin "thrillingly intelligent" and "phenomenal."

The same can be said for this remarkable book.

A canine career

Movies:He debuted playing a wolf in "The Man From Hell's River" in 1922, and went on to star in more than 20 films, including:

•"Where the North Begins," 1923

•"Clash of the Wolves," 1925

•"A Dog of the Regiment," 1927

•"Rinty of the Desert," 1929

•"The Million Dollar Collar," 1929

Radio: He had three radio shows:

•"The Wonder Dog," quickly changed to "Rin Tin Rin," a 15-minute program on the NBC Blue Network co-starring Don Ameche, 1930-33

•"Rin Tin Tin," on CBS radio, 1933-34

•"Rin Tin Tin," on the Mutual network, January-December 1955

"The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," on ABC, co-starring James Brown as Lt. Ripley "Rip" Masters and Lee Aaker as Rusty, October 1954-May 1959


"Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend"
By Susan Orlean
Simon & Schuster, 324 pages, $26.99

The World's Richest Pets

Florida Teen Reels in 800-Pound Alligator

It was a battle of man versus beast Friday evening on Florida's picturesque St. Lucie River.

The contenders: Tim Stroh, a 6-foot-3, 160-pound 19-year-old against a three-legged alligator, more than 12 feet in length and 800 pounds in weight. Armed with what his dad described as a "puny" fishing rod, the teen triumphed.

Gator-hunting runs in Tim Stroh's blood. His parents, Steve and Rachel Stroh, own a taxidermy shop in their hometown of Hobe Sound, Fla. Steve Stroh told Florida's that he's hosted guided gator hunts since 1989.

So naturally, the family was excited when they heard rumors of a large alligator in the locks of the St. Lucie River, reported The three of them, plus a friend, loaded up a gator-hunting boat Friday, not knowing what they would find — if anything.

Then, within an hour of being out on the boat, reported, they spotted it.

"I thought it was just a 9-footer," Tim Stroh told "Then I saw how big it was."

Others on the boat tried reeling in the alligator first, but couldn't. Then Tim, using a "puny bass rod," tossed his line, Steve said.

The 12-foot, 3-inch reptile chomped down, according to WPTV. It wasn't until he was reeling in the alligator that Tim realized its true size — its tail alone was as thick as his waist, according to To guarantee his victory, Tim hit the alligator with a "bang stick," a .44-caliber gun shell on a stick.

"I had adrenaline pumping through me and I was just like, 'Oh my God,'" Stroh said, reported The alligator "came up and he was popping his jaw and stuff."

Once on land, four more friends joined to help carry the alligator, which was missing one of its back legs, into the family's truck.

"We have a big box cooler we normally would put a gator into, but he wouldn't fit. We had to keep him in the truck overnight and throw in ice to keep him cool," Tim said.

Stuffing its head, eating its meat
Up until Friday, the biggest catch the Strohs had ever had was a 400-pound gator, reported WPTV.

The family has special plans for this one.

"I'm gonna mount the head for him so he can put it in his room," Steve told WPTV.

As for the rest of the creature? According to, Rachel Stroh will be making a lamp from the gator's back leg; the family has plans to make keychains from the gator's bony back; and there are 250 pounds of gator meat in their freezers waiting to be fried or made into gator sausage.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials say they have had bigger catches. The longest gator ever caught in the state was more than 14 feet long; the heaviest was over 1,000 pounds, according to

Alligator hunting season runs until Nov. 1. The Strohs have permits to legally hunt.

Tim Stroh, who did not return messages from, said the gator put up a good fight.

"He had a lot of character, and I had a lot of fun," he told

Pets That Inherited a Fortune
By Laura Moss -

The beloved pets of the rich and famous inherit more than just a doghouse — they often get the whole multimillion-dollar house.

Between 12 and 27 percent of pet owners provide provisions for their pets in their wills, according to the Washington University School of Law. In fact, pet trusts have become so popular that 39 U.S. states now have statutes outlining them. In most cases, these trusts are relatively small — typically in the $30,000 range — but some pampered pets inherit millions of dollars, in addition to property, jewelry and a lifetime of prearranged pampering.

Take a look at some of the world's wealthiest animal heirs:

Trouble: Hotel heiress Leona Helmsley, who died in 2007, made her Maltese her biggest heir, leaving a $12 million trust fund for the pooch in a will that disinherited two of her grandchildren. A judge later knocked the pup's inheritance down to $2 million, and Trouble took the money and retired, flying by private jet to the Helmsley Sandcastle hotel in Sarasota, Fla. The hotel's general manager cared for the dog and spent hundreds of thousands on her care annually, including $1,200 on food, $8,000 on grooming and $100,000 for full-time security. (Trouble had received death threats.) The little Maltese passed away in December at the age of 12, and her remains were supposed to rest beside Leona's in the family mausoleum, but the cemetery refused. Instead, Trouble was cremated and her remaining money went to the Helmsley Chairtable Trust.

Nicholas: When British singer Dusty Springfield died in 1999, she instructed that her money be used to care for her 13-year-old ragdoll cat. The will stipulated that Nicholas be fed imported American baby food and live in a 7-foot-high indoor treehouse with amenities that included catnip, scratching posts and a bed lined with one of Springfield’s nightgowns. Nicholas was also to be played Springfield’s recordings each night before bedtime. The singer even arranged for her cat to be “married” to a 5-year-old English blue breed that belonged to her friend, Lee Everett-Alkin, whom she named as and Nicholas’ guardian.

Flossie: In 2002, Drew Barrymore surprised her Labrador mix, Flossie, with a new doghouse — she placed her Beverly Hills home in trust with the pooch. What inspired such an extravagant gift? In 2001, Flossie barked and “literally banged on the bedroom door” to awaken Barrymore and Tom Green, her husband at the time, to alert them of a house fire. Flossie saved their lives and now stands to inherit a $1.3 million house, making her a milionaire mutt.

Bubbles: Michael Jackson left his chimp $1 million to ensure he would have a “secure long-term future,” but so far Bubbles hasn’t seen a penny of his inheritance. The chimp now lives in an animal sanctuary in Florida, and animal trainer Bob Dunne says he’s not sure if Bubbles will ever receive his share of Jackson’s money.

Minter, Juice, and Callum: Before British fashion designer Alexander McQueen hanged himself in 2010, he left a note that read, “Look after my dogs, sorry, I love you, Lee” — as well as $81,000 for the three English bull terriers’ care. The money was put into a trust for the canines and will pay for their care for the rest of their lives. Most of McQueen’s remaining fortune was donated to animal charities.

Tinker: In a true rags-to-riches tale, Tinker the stray black cat began frequenting the London home of Margaret Layne, a wealthy widow, and won the woman over, inheriting her $800,000 home when she passed away in 2003. But she didn't leave him just a house, she also created a $226,000 trust fund for Tinker and gave a hefty sum to her former neighbors so they could look after the cat and his new home. However, the inheritance came with strings attached — if Tinker returns to his straying ways, he relinquishes ownership of the house. But according to reports, Tinker has decided to settle down and has taken up with a single mother cat and her kitten.

Conchita, Lucia and April Marie: Heiress Gail Posner left $3 million to her three Chihuahuas, as well as diamond dog accessories and an $8 million mansion in Miami. The dogs’ live-in caretaker also inherited millions.

Gunther IV: When Carlotta Liebenstein, a German countess, died in 1991, she left her fortune to her dog Gunther III. The canine died a month later, but his wealth was passed on to his son, Gunther IV, whose estimated worth is $372 million, making him the richest pet in the world. Gunther is said to have a personal maid and a chauffer-driven limo, and there are even reports that he owns a home in Miami that once belonged to Madonna.

Blackie: When British antiques dealer Ben Rea died in 1988, he bequeathed his $12.5-million fortune to Blackie, the only surviving cat of the 15 cats he shared his mansion with. The recluse overlooked his family and split the majority of his wealth between three cat charities, with instructions to look after his beloved pet.

Red: Often referred to as the “million-dollar tabby,” Red was the beloved cat of Canada’s reclusive David Harper who died in 2005 with no heirs except his pet. Harper left his $1.3 million estate to the United Church of Canada, but in exchange for the money, he stipulated that the church would have to look after 3-year-old Red. The rich feline was the last in a long line of orange tabby cats named Red that Harper took in over the years.

Kalu: Once thought to be the second wealthiest pet in the world — worth roughly $65 million — Kalu the chimp seems to have lost his inheritance. Patricia O’Neill, the daughter of the Countess of Kenmore and ex-wife of Olympic swimmer Frank O’Neil, found Kalu tied to a tree in war-torn Zaire in 1985 and he quickly became her closest companion. She changed her will so that her estate in Cape Town would go to Kalu, and she set aside money so that he and her other rescued animals — 30 dogs and 11 cats — would be cared for after her death. However, in 2010, O’Neill learned that most of her money had been stolen, leaving her with just $100,000. “I don’t know how much will be left when I die,” she’s said. “I don’t want to spend much money because I am determined that my animals will be cared for."

Jasper: Diana Myburgh, a brewery heiress, rescued Jasper, a Labrador and Doberman mix, from an animal shelter and brought him home to live with her and her Whippet, Jason. She cared for the dogs until she died in 1995, but she left each of them a trust fund of $50,000 — in addition to her 1,236-acre estate that’s worth more than $1 million. When Jason passed away, Jasper inherited his money, and the dog moved in with Myburgh’s former son-in-law, Sir Benjamin Slade, who feeds him tripe, his favorite dish. Slade once considered having Jasper cloned, but this angered trustees who stand to inherit Jasper’s money when he dies.

Tobey Rimes: New York heiress Ella Wendel died in 1931 and willed $30 million to her French poodle, Tobey Rimes, who slept in his own brass bed beside Wendel. According to reports, that fortune has been passed down through the years to the descendants of the original dog — all named Tobey Rimes — and even grown over time. The current Tobey is said to be worth millions.

Oprah’s dogs: The retired talk show host — who’s net worth is $2.7 billion, according to Forbes — plans to take good care of her dogs even after death. She’s reportedly set aside $30 million for her beloved pack of pups.

Betty White's pets: According to newspaper reports, White plans to leave a $5 million trust to her animals.

Trekkie pups: Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s widow, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, who was also an actress in the original series, set up a $4 million trust for her dogs. She even left $1 million to her domestic employee Reinelda Estupinian to take care of the canines. In the trust papers, Majel said that Estupinian "did an excellent job of caring for my animals, giving them comparable or better care than that which I gave them during my lifetime."

Captured Drug Kingpin Pets
 Strain Mexico's Zoos
By MANUEL VALDES Associated Press

TOLUCA, Mexico—For years, three tiny squirrel monkeys led a life of luxury on a 16-acre ranch surrounded by extravagant gardens and barns built for purebred horses.

More than 200 animals, ranging from mules to peacocks and ostricheslived on the ranch in central Mexico and hundreds more stayed on two related properties, many in opulent enclosures. Also kept on the grounds were less furry fare: AK-47 assault rifles, Berrettas, hundreds of other weapons and cocaine.

The ranch's owner was Jesus "The King" Zambada, a leader of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel. He had developed a love for exotic species shared with other kingpins. Just two days before Zambada's arrest, police confiscated two tigers and two lions from a drug gang hideout on the forested outskirts of Mexico City.

As federal authorities capture a growing number of gang leaders, many of their pets are being driven from their gilded cages into more modest housing in the country's zoos.

That's proved overwhelming for some institutions, which are struggling to cope with the influx. But it's also giving Mexican animal lovers a bounty of new creatures to admire.

Like Zambada, who was apprehended in October 2008, the squirrel monkeys sit in state custody, chirping away at gawking children at the Zacango Zoo, about an hour outside Mexico City.

Their previous home "was a very big enclosure made of good quality material," said Manlio Nucamendi, the zoo's coordinator. "But they didn't have the right diet and medical attention."

Mexican forces have discovered drug cartel private zoos that housed tigers, panthers and lions among other animals of exotic breeds, though the federal Attorney General's Office, which supervises all seizures from drug gangs, couldn't provide an exact count of the number of animals seized.

Whatever the number, officials have been challenged to house the armies of confiscated drug cartel animals.

"Within the limited resources of the Mexican government, there are a lot of efforts to ensure the welfare of these animals," said Adrian Reuter Cortes of the conservation group the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico. "But even the zoos have limits, and can't welcome all the animals."

The government usually calls zoos for help because they have the expertise, equipment and vehicles to transport large animals, said Frank Carlos Camacho, executive director of the wild animal park Africam Safari in the central Mexico city of Puebla and president of the national association of zoos.

"There's some risk involved in handling animals like big cats, bears and large herbivores," Camacho said.

He said he has heard of drug cartel zoos that included giraffes, buffalos and camels.

As the cinematic gangster film "Scarface" portrayed in 1983, private zoos have long been considered status symbols for drug kingpins eager to show off their wealth.

Descendants of Colombian drug boss Pablo Escobar's hippopotamuses still roam his private zoo in Colombia, which became state property after his killing and is now a tourist attraction. Three of the beasts escaped and lived in the wild for two years.

Some kingpins also use the beasts for more nefarious purposes.

Leaders of the ruthless Mexican Zetas cartel have been rumored to feed victims to lions and tigers kept in their properties, local media have reported.

Animals are also used in the drug trade as smugglers. Over the past couple of years, traffickers have tried to ship drugs inside frozen, cocaine-stuffed sharks, snakes fed with bags of cocaine and bags filled with transparent liquid cocaine inside containers shipping tropical fish, Reuter Cortes said.

As with drugs, Mexico is a main corridor for the illegal trafficking of animals to the United States. The country also has a healthy domestic demand for animals, with big cats found in some urban markets.

In July, Mexican authorities seized more than 5,500 illegal animals and plants during a nationwide three-day operation.

Not all exotic animals, however, are as lucky as Zambada's monkeys. Many animals found in drug cartel captivity or in private homes suffer from malnutrition or have been de-clawed or de-fanged, said Nucamendi.

"It's a symbol of status and power," he said. "It's a bizarre psychology for the people that keep these animals."

As he showed off the zoo's grounds on a recent afternoon, Nucamendi jumped over a barrier and knelt to greet Diego, a 2-year-old jaguar, who responded by pressing his face against the chain-link fence. Diego's former owners in Tijuana used to charge for pictures with him, Nucamendi said.

Elsewhere in the zoo was a 3-decade-old elephant seized from a circus because his owners didn't have the proper permits. Workers joke that the elephant is an illegal immigrant because he was sneaked from the U.S. to Mexico.

An 8-month-old male lion cub, also called Diego, arrived malnourished from private owners. Now fatter, Diego plays with two other lion cubs also on exhibit.

As for the squirrel monkeys, they'll be moved to a bigger exhibit being planned in a remodeling of the zoo.

Although some of the confiscated animals had finer housing before, their new homes offer genuine care from the people watching them.

"It's more important for us to guarantee the welfare of these animals than the criminal investigations," Nucamendi said. "That's our duty. We offer our bodies and souls for the welfare of these animals."

Top 10 Pet-Friendly Hotels
By Jill Rosen - The Baltimore Sun

Vermont's Paw House Inn named one of TripAdvisor's Top 10 Pet-friendly accomodations (Paw House Inn)

The most pet-friendly places to stay in the U.S. with your pet include a boutique hotel in New York City and a Vermont inn with custom dog beds, according to the travel website TripAdvisor.

The site just released it's choices for the top 10 pet-friendly hotel properties in the U.S. TripAdvisor based its results on the opinions of travelers that frequent the site.

Nothing in Baltimore, alas. But there one of the Hotel Monaco properties made the list -- and Baltimore has one of those, just as pet friendly, downtown. And one hotel not too far down the road in D.C. made the cut.

Here's the list, in order:

Affinia Dumont, New York City, New York. The hotel in midtown boasts dog beds, trats and a pet psychic on call. Average rates $192 to $614.

Hotel Monaco Portland, Portland, Oregon. Ammenities include complimentary dog bowls and a personal greeting on the "pet welcome board." Rats from $126 to $325.

Ocean Park Resort, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. If there are posh offerings for the pup, the hotel isn't bragging about them. But the pet fee is $15 per night. Rates from $57 to $150.

Palomar Washington DC, Washington D.C., District of Columbia. The hotel's got pet peds, poop bags on hand and an evening happy hour where dogs can enjoy a pet lounge called "The Dish." Rates from $182 to $557.

A Laughing Horse Lodge, Port Aransas, Texas. These beach cottages offer treats and dog collars that say, "Return me to Laughing Horse Lodge." Rates from $59 to $239.

The Paw House Inn, West Rutland, Vermont. Custom pet beds, an off-leash dog park for a backyard, nearby hiking trails and homemade treats. Rates from $135 to $255.

Carmel Country Inn, Carmel, California. A bed and breakfast that claims "an unlimited supply" of biscuits for pups. Dogs also get their pictures taken for display in the lobby. Rates from $195 to $395.

Hotel Marlowe, Cambridge, Massachusetts. With no size or weight restrictsions, the Boston hotel welcomes all pets. Their "pampered pet package" includes a fuzzy blanket and gourmet treats -- even a scratching post if you bring the kitty. Rates from $204 to $489.

La Quinta Inn & Suites, Valdosta, Georgia. The hotel offers a sizeable pet walk, and there's no surcharge for animal guests. Rates from $89 to $128.

Cypress Inn, Carmel, California. Dogs can order from a "doggie menu" and mix it up at nightly "yappy hours." Rates from $150 to $575.

Tehachapi Dog Gets National Honor
for Search-and-Rescue Work

Tehachapi border collie Hunter and his owner, fire Capt. Billy Monahan, are seen in a photo provided by the American Kennel Club. Hunter's being honored by the AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence as the top search-and-rescue dog.

NEW YORK — Add another award to Hunter's impressive resume.

In 2010, the Tehachapi border collie became the first-ever nonhuman to be named Los Angeles County's Firefighter of the Year.

Now, Hunter is being honored by the AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence as the top search-and-rescue dog.

The awards, announced Wednesday, honor five loyal, hard-working dogs that have made significant contributions in each of the following categories: exemplary companion dog, law enforcement, search-and-rescue, service and therapy.

Hunter, who is owned by fire Capt. Billy Monahan, is being honored for his work in earthquake-stricken Haiti and earthquake- and tsunami-devastated Japan. He helped rescue three Haitian girls from a collapsed four-story building and worked through aftershocks and freezing temperatures in Japan.

"The AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence celebrate what dogs contribute to our lives, and these five exceptional recipients exemplify the selfless service canines perform for us everyday," said AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson in a news release. "The dogs we're honoring with the ACE award show the impact a single dog can make in a community."

Hunter and his fellow honorees will receive $1,000 and an engraved sterling-silver medallion Dec. 17 at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Fla.

Rabid Cat Exposes Three Cats, 10 Horses, Three People

A rabid cat found in the Ledford community Sept. 9 possibly exposed three other cats, 10 horses, two people and a veterinarian to the disease, according to a press release from the Davidson County Health Department.

The cat is the 13th case of rabies for the year in Davidson County. The three other cats and 10 horses all received rabies vaccinations booster shots, as did the veterinarian. The two people were referred to their physician for medical follow-up.

Do not handle an animal with bare hands after it has had contact with a wild animal. Saliva from the wild animal may still be present on the domestic animal's fur, and by handling the animal, you may expose yourself to the rabies virus.

Hutchinson Prisoners Have Begun Making Dog Beds

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Some recycling efforts at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility have really gone to the dogs.

For more than a year, inmates at the local prison have been dismantling mattresses that would have otherwise ended up in area landfills.

The steel from the springs and the cotton batting in the mattresses are recycled, generating money for prison operations. Wood from the mattresses has been fashioned into flower boxes and benches. Through recycling, the metal and cotton from old mattresses has made more than $49,000 for the prison's general fee fund, said Steve Schneider, spokesman at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility.

And now, inmates are using the foam and material from the mattresses to make dog beds.

The beds are being donated to animal shelters and sold in a Topeka veterinary clinic to sustain the Hutchinson Correctional Facility's dog training programs, according to Beth Mechler, a program consultant for the Kansas Department of Corrections.

"It helps subsidize the programs and helps the community," Mechler said of the dog beds. "Every part of the mattresses is being recycled, which is awesome."

The dog beds made from recycled mattress materials are already being used by the Lucky Dog program, where inmates train dogs and prepare them for adoption, and by the prison's Canine Assistance Rehabilitation, Education and Services program, where dogs are trained to be service dogs, said Chandy Wylie, activities specialist who coordinates the two dog programs at Hutchinson Correctional Facility.

So far, only a few inmates at the Hutchinson prison have been working to make the beds, which they started doing about three months ago.

Using a donated sewing machine, inmate Steven Chritzer was busy Wednesday making water-resistant covers for the foam beds. He also makes a thinner dog bed made of the old mattress material and said two inmates help him measure and cut the material.

According to Wylie, Chritzer is the only one who has been charged with the sewing. In the past three months, nearly 150 beds have been made, she said. It takes at least six hours to make the larger dog bed and about 30 minutes for a smaller, thinner one, Wylie said.

About 30 beds were shipped to a Department of Corrections dog program in Topeka that involves female inmates, she said.

"All of the funds from these beds will go to take care of the dogs," Wylie said, noting the program might buy treats and leashes for the dog training.

Topeka Veterinarian Mike Esau, an Inman native, watched inmates working Wednesday in the C.A.R.E.S. program at the Hutchinson prison. Esau, a veterinarian for Mechler's dog, said Mechler contacted him and he agreed to display and sell the dog beds at his clinic to aid the prison's dog programs.

On Wednesday, the C.A.R.E.S. building at HCF was filled with inmates guiding and training dogs - from terriers to Labradors and Great Danes.

Chritzer said he prefers his new job making dog beds over the job he once had in the prison's print shop. He said he previously sewed leather clothing at the prison in El Dorado and worked in a garment factory in a Florida state prison.

Warden Sam Cline, who watched as the inmates worked with the dogs, said he was pleased to see mattresses that would have otherwise been thrown away being used for recycling efforts and "something positive" for inmates and the community.

"We hope to use any resources we have efficiently, especially since it offsets costs required of taxpayers," he said.

Cline said the prison's dog training programs helps the inmates "feel a sense of responsibility, similar to a family setting, since they're the caretaker of the dog."

"It brings out a humanness in some that they were unable to experience before," he said.

Beach Going to the Dogs?
By Kevin Herrera -

Local group renews effort to create dog beach in Santa Monica

WALK THIS WAY: People walk their dogs along Santa Monica Beach during the Best Friends Animal Society ‘Strut Your Mutt’ fundraising walk last year. These dogs were allowed on the beach for a special event, but there is a movement afoot to create a dog park on the beach. photo by Brandon Wise.

Click here to read story.

Daily Home & Garden Tip: Gardening with Dogs
By The Oregonian

Let's not forget the sheer decorative quality of dogs in the garden -- as with basset hound Beamer and the planter that West Linn artist Ann Munson modeled after him.

Think you have to choose between having a beautiful garden or an outdoor playground for your dog? Not so. Once you understand your dog's natural preferences, you can train it to be garden-friendly --and design your garden to be dog-friendly at the same time.

Designers Sarah Smith of The Gardensmith and Amy Whitworth of Plan-It Earth Design, along with the Eastside Study Group of the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers, offered these tips a few years back for dog-friendly gardening.

• Some dogs may never stop digging completely. In that case, consider training your dogs to dig only in specified areas: bury their favorite bone or toy there. Always redirect them to their assigned "digging spot" if they try to "help" you garden in other areas.

• Insert short, thick stakes in the ground, 6 inches apart, to keep dogs from trampling new plants or from digging in new mulch. (Make sure the stakes aren't sharp enough to injure the pet.) Installing hardware cloth or bird netting just under the soil or mulch also works.

• Does your dog like to patrol the perimeter, perch on a high spot to survey the area or nap under a shady shrub? Whenever possible, accommodate its natural tendencies -- by building circular paths, for example, or by strategically placing leafy shrubs in its nap zone.

• Large or extremely active dogs might need a dog run or agility/fitness area in addition to daily walks. A decorative fence can separate the special dog area without segmenting the garden too severely.

Sharing your turf

• You probably won't have a golf-course-quality lawn if you have a dog, but you can keep it presentable. Give your dog plenty of drinking water; it dilutes urine, which makes it less damaging to lawns. When possible, rinse fresh urine spots off your lawn promptly.

• Plant a low-growing orchard-grass mixture that includes wildflowers to help hide urine spots.

• Aerate your lawn every year to keep it from getting compacted by running dogs (and kids).

Take care with fertilizer

Organic fertilizers are supposed to be safe if animals accidentally ingest them. However, some pets -- probably drawn by the bone meal in the mix -- think the organic stuff is yummy. Keep pets out of your garden for several hours after spreading and watering in your fertilizer. Also, use the techniques already discussed to prevent digging. Don't leave rhododendron leaves (they're poisonous to dogs) or other debris on the ground with fertilizer sprinkled on it. Fido might nibble the leaves to get the fertilizer and could get sick.

Pet Photography —
Four Simple Tips For Amazing Pet Photographs

Author’s Intro: This is a guest post from Roxy. Roxy is a writer who loves to share ideas on photography, art and printing. Whether it is for personal or business needs, she can provide useful tips especially on creating postcard printing.

Photography is one of the most exciting and fun-filled activities or hobbies that anyone could like. You can easily fall in love with photography especially if you like capturing every great moments that pass by.

This art takes various forms and styles which can involve nature, people and even animals. Yes, your dearest pet can be the heart of what is known as the pet photography.

Pet photography is and can be done by anyone. You do not have to be a professional artist to get the right shots. You just need to be creative and enjoy the task with your huggable pets.

Before you start the session, here is a quick guide that can help you capture your buddy’s amazing moments.

1. Find The Right Location
The best of the bunch of tips and advice you get for pet photography is to select the ideal place for your pet’s photo shoot. A good location is a must for impressive pet shots.

Shooting in the places with abundance of natural light gives you an opportunity to effectively photograph the fine details like skin textures, feathery furs, sharp eyes and shiny hairs while keeping the problems like red eye effect at the bay. If it is not possible to shoot in such a place, you can always use a room with a big window or hold the photo shoot outdoors. This contributes in creating the mood while adding vibrancy to your pet’s color.

Dog Portrait

2. Capture the sleeping or lazy moments
One of the most fascinating moments for pet photography is when your furry friend is asleep or just acting plain lazy. Just strike the right position (the pose when your subject looks adorable) and take the shot to capture the charming qualities of your pets.

Sleepy Time For Baby Kitten

3. Create mood with your pet’s eyes
Capturing your pet’s eyes on photographic frame can be enchanting. You can portray a lot of emotions and mood in just one photo. So try to take the close-up photos of your pets — dog or cat. Be sure that you have the right amount of light to avoid over or under exposure. Try playing with your digital camera’s Macro setting which would be perfect for shots like these. Also, be smart enough to turn off the flash before the shoot.

Focus on the eyes

4. Take a shot of the playful times
Nothing beats the laughter or smile that your pets show. Carry your camera with you and be ready to take the shot when they are out there playing. You never know when they would pose for that perfect pose — those goofy and lively faces.

Playful pets

With these simple to follow tips, you will definitely get your desired photos. Hang on a sec! One more important thing — order the prints and share them with your friends and family. These pictures will definitely brighten their day! You can even turn these into custom postcards for using them for personal mailing. You can also investing on the postcard printing so that the quality stays the same.

So, enjoy capturing your shared moments with your pets and don’t forget to share the joy!

About Author: Roxy is a writer who loves to share ideas on photography, art and printing. Whether it is for personal or business needs, she can provide useful tips especially on creating postcard printing.

Turtles Use the Earth’s Magnetic Field
as a Global GPS

In 1996, a loggerhead turtle called Adelita swam across 9,000 miles from Mexico to Japan, crossing the entire Pacific on her way. Wallace J. Nichols tracked this epic journey with a satellite tag. But Adelita herself had no such technology at her disposal. How did she steer a route across two oceans to find her destination?

Nathan Putman has the answer. By testing hatchling turtles in a special tank, he has found that they can use the Earth’s magnetic field as their own Global Positioning System (GPS). By sensing the field, they can work out both their latitude and longitude and head in the right direction.
Click here to read article.

Five Tips for Proper Pet Dental Hygiene

September is Pet Smile Month, a time to remember the importance of proper pet dental hygiene. Studies reveal that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three(1). In fact, oral disease is the number one health problem diagnosed in both dogs and cats. Dental health is about proper maintenance, yet few pet parents follow their veterinarian's instructions. has pulled together the following recommendations for keeping pets' teeth healthy and clean.

1. Give Them a Yearly Checkup

Unfortunately, dental checkups are something most people don't think about as part of the yearly trip to the veterinarian. But, just like people, pets suffer from dental issues that if left unchecked can lead to serious health problems.

2. Grab a Toothbrush

Believe it or not, you can brush your pet's teeth. However, according to a recent petMD poll, fewer than 4 in 10 pet parents ever pick up a toothbrush. Fortunately, it's not too late. There are a variety of toothbrushes and toothpastes specially made for pets. Dog toothpaste and cat toothpaste even come in flavors they'll enjoy. Do NOT, however, try to brush their teeth with "people" toothpaste; they could ingest it and become ill.

3. Stimulate Their Gums

Don't forget to massage their gums regularly. Not only will this promote healing should your pet have an oral malady, it will strengthen their gums and make them less susceptible to problems like gingivitis and tooth decay.

4. To Treat or Not to Treat?

Dental treats for dogs and cats are okay in moderation, but they're not sufficient to effectively clean your pet's teeth. If, however, you regularly clean their teeth, special pet supplements and treats are a good addition. Try giving your dog or cat a chew or treat as a reward for good behavior while getting them used to having their teeth cleaned.

5. Don't Wait Until It's Too Late

Tooth decay and gum disease have been linked to heart, kidney, and other serious chronic illnesses. Don't wait until your dog or cat shows signs of distress to have their teeth checked out; your pet won't show signs of discomfort until they're in considerable pain. Preventative care, annual checkups and a well-balanced diet can ensure your pet stays happy and healthy.

Gary Bogue:
New Cat Toy is Called 'Da Bird'
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

There are no ordinary cats.

-- Colette

Dear Gary:

Some time back, you wrote about a cat toy. You didn't know the name but you described it. It is called "Da Bird." The toy is a cluster of feathers at the end of an elastic cord, on the end of a 4-foot plastic rod.

My cats and I have had so much fun with this toy. (I don't know who has more fun, me or the cats.) I play with two of them at the same time. I whip it from side to side and each cat leaps into the air. It is like a circus show!

This toy cost me about $10. Don't get a cheap one; they fall apart too fast.

When I am not playing with them, I shove the stick down between the couch cushions, alongside the arm.

It is a great stress reliever, too (for the human).

Toni Mathues,


Dear Toni:

I still call mine "The Thing" and it's basically like yours, with some little modifications. No feathers, just a 6-foot piece of inch-wide colored flannel cloth that I can lash around on the end of a plastic rod like a whip.

The cats love it! Jasmine grabs the cloth out of the air with her claws and we have a tug-of-war.

You're right, it's a stress reliever for all of us ... and GREAT exercise for indoor cats (and their couch potato humans), like my Newman, who spends way too much time snoozing on the couch.

Jasmine sits and glares at me every night while I'm drying the dinner dishes, waiting for me to finish and go get The Thing. She's very impatient.

Dear Gary:

My calico kitty, Callie, is very agile and loves to catch bugs. If a fly gets her attention buzzing on the deck doors, it's history! She will catch it, play with it and ultimately dispatch it by -- yes -- eating it. She seems quite pleased with herself and really seems to enjoy the "hunt"!

Is her health at risk from eating these unpleasant creatures?

Rod from Berkeley

Dear Rod:

Those creatures may be unpleasant to you, but to Callie, and I suspect every other predatory house cat in the country, they're fun and games.

My Jasmine likes the occasional fly, but spiders are her thing. She'll leap two feet into the air when she finds one. And when she gets tired of chasing, they're gone in a munch.

No, I don't think eating bugs will hurt Callie (unless she swallows a bee!).

Pets & hot cars

Even when it's just warm, your car will still be too hot inside for your pet to stay there, even for "just a minute while I run into the store." So please leave your dog at home when you go shopping. It's also against the law to leave pets in hot cars. Thanks for caring.

Tiny dog, tiny mouth

I am one of many volunteers at Contra Costa Animal Services, in Martinez. I walk and play with dogs.

It is nice to have some kind of toy for the dogs when we take them out, like a ball. We have tennis balls, but nearly 70 percent of our dogs are Chihuahuas and tennis balls are too big. If any of your readers has smaller balls to spare, we could really use them. About the SIZE of a ping-pong ball. Not ping-pong balls themselves, because the dogs would destroy them.

Please drop them off at our shelter, 4800 Imhoff Place, Martinez. Office hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (open until 7 p.m. Wednesday); closed Sunday and Monday. Thanks! (Beverly the Volunteer)

A final note

Gary: It's about time someone stuck up for Wile E. Coyote. He, like the wolf, has been given a bad rap, and we know what happened to the wolf. Thanks. (Carole from Livermore)

Sara Pauff:
A Birthday Goes to the Dogs

Last month, my youngest sister invited me and my parents to a birthday celebration for a close friend of hers, Dunkin.

Plans were simple and included a dinner at an outdoor restaurant and a trip to the park with all his friends. The celebration was canceled due to work schedules, but Dunkin still got a “Happy Birthday!” greeting from my dad on Facebook and I’m pretty sure there’s a box of treats in the mail with his name on it.

In case you haven’t figured this out already, Dunkin is a dog. He’s a well-behaved, loyal and slightly clingy two-year-old yellow lab who follows my sister almost everywhere. There are so many Facebook pictures of him, I’m surprised he doesn’t have his own profile yet. If dogs (instead of Dawgs) were allowed in Sanford Stadium, he would have an invitation to her college graduation in May.

I often roll my eyes at people talk about their pets like their human beings, but secretly I’m jealous. I’m one of the few people in my small circle of friends and co-workers who doesn’t have a pet to talk about.

When you live in a small apartment by yourself and spend most of your day at work, it’s hard to find the right kind of animal. Dogs need attention and exercise, and depending on their breed and temperament, can be rather high maintenance. I’d feel bad leaving it at home alone all day without a yard to run around in. Cats aren’t an option either, since I’m mildly allergic. Also -- hairballs? Ew.

When I was growing up, I had rabbits, three of them in succession -- Snowball, PJ, and Tibbar (which is ‘rabbit’ spelled backwards). I like rabbits. They’re quiet, relatively clean and I know how to care for one, so that could be the pet for me, right? But I don’t really know where I’d keep a rabbit hutch and if let loose inside unsupervised, rabbits will gnaw on anything. I can just imagine turning my back for a second to find that Fluffy had scampered off and chewed through my computer cord.

Maybe I should start small and just get a fish. No one ever brags about their cute and awesome pet fish, but a fish is a relatively low maintenance animal. You don’t have to pay a pet fee or vet bills, just remember to feed remembered to feed it, right? You forgot again? Poor Flounder gets a burial at sea.

And therein lies my problem: I don’t know if I’m ready for the costs and responsibility of a pet. When I was a kid, my parents and sisters were always around to feed it, walk it and clean up after it if I forgot. I’ve never had to take care of an animal by myself before, so I second guess my desires for something cute and fluffy every time I pass a pet store. Instead, I dog-sit for my parents when they go out of town and of course, play with Dunkin when my sister visits. He’s an entertaining dog. Too bad I missed his birthday -- I’ll bet it was a blast.

Crazy Pet Insurance Claims

Dog's Disobedience Saved His Life
by Barbara Leader -

Active duty Marines Crystal and Andy Stephenson, a young married couple were both working on Sept. 11, 2001 — one in New York and one in South Carolina — when time stopped and the world changed.

Andy, a military bomb dog handler from Rayville, and Crystal, who is from Pennsylvania, were stationed in South Carolina but Andy was on loan to the United States Secret Service. He was working in New York City on an advance team for the United Nations General Assembly.

His base of operations was the World Trade Center, towers 7 and 2 somewhere around the 85th floor. Tower 2 was the second tower hit by a hijacked aircraft shortly after 9 a.m. Sept. 11.

Andy was to be at work at 9 a.m., but something that he says still defies explanation delayed his arrival.

"It was 8:15 or 8:20, and I decided to take Sheila (his bomb detecting dog) down to Central Park, the only patch of grass we could find in New York City," he said.

Sheila was a highly trained bomb detection dog who easily responded to hand and voice commands. But, when Andy decided to go back to the hotel, Sheila refused to come.

"She was chasing pigeons, she wouldn't come when I called her," he said. "She would lay down, and when I would try to get close to her, she would take off running. Here I was, someone who was supposed to be able to control his dog and I couldn't. I felt like a fool. Thank goodness I wasn't in uniform."

For 15 minutes, Andy chased and coerced Sheila before gaining control and returning to the hotel.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "She's never acted that way before, and she never acted that way again."

At the hotel, he met up with three other Marines and left to catch the E train to the subway stop at the World Trade Mart. They missed the train and had to wait another seven minutes for the next.

Meanwhile, Crystal heard about a plane crashing into the first tower of the World Trade Center through a phone call from Andy's sister who didn't know Andy was in New York. "I said, 'Andy's there' and I hung up," Crystal said. "Right then, Andy called."

Andy had emerged from the subway to find one of the towers burning. Like many others, it took him a few seconds to realize the magnitude of what had happened. When he did, he immediately called Crystal to let her know he was not in the building and that he was OK.

Crystal was six months pregnant with their daughter.

"You could hear the fear in her voice," Andy said.

The whole scenario unfolded as Andy watched. He saw children being led from a day care center hand in hand away from the World Trade Center area.
He was watching what he thought was paper falling out of the tower when he realized it was much worse.

"It was actually people jumping out, hand in hand," he said.

While the couple was on the phone, another plane hit the second tower and they lost their phone connection.

"I actually fell down, and somebody caught me," Crystal said. "My knees got weak."

Crystal went to her office to watch television with her co-workers. She feared that Andy had gone into the tower to help with the rescue effort.
"I remember everybody turned around and looked at me," she said. "I must have been crying hysterically, someone said: 'Get her out of here.'"

Crystal said she asked to go home where she could be near her home phone and her cell phone.

"I watched the towers fall," she said. "I watched one fall and then I watched the other fall. All I could think about was how I was going to have to be able to explain to our daughter who her father was."

Hours passed before she reconnected with Andy.

In New York City, Andy offered his assistance but was moved away from the scene with others in the effort to evacuate the area.

As he left the area, he stopped to buy a disposable camera to capture the scene. He posed with his fellow Marine, Sgt. Christian Blue, as the towers burned in the background. During the days that followed, Andy was called to work with Sheila to secure areas for visits by former President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.

"What I'll always remember about that day is that after a city was humbled and brought to its knees, there was this huge sense of togetherness and patriotism," Andy said.

Less than a month later, Andy and Crystal, impacted by the events of Sept. 11, re-enlisted in the Marines for another four years.

Crystal is a member of the National Guard and has served a tour of duty in Iraq. Andy is a Louisiana State Police trooper on patrol with his narcotic detecting dog, Senda.

"I believe some people are meant for the military and some aren't," Crystal said. "Some can bear the weight and some can't. Those of us that can, should ... and we did."

Cat Survives Month Sealed in B.C. School Roof
By James Weldon,

Lana Simon of the Pacific Animal Foundation holds Carson the cat at North Vancouver’s Mosquito Creek Veterinary Hospital Thursday. Photo by Cindy Goodman

VANCOUVER — A seven-year-old cat, rake-thin and filthy, is doing well after surviving for as long as a month inside the roof of a North Vancouver secondary school.

The trapped feline was rescued by builders last week after a crew working on a new wing of the building heard mewing from an adjoining structure.

They found the cat stuck inside a drainage, unable or unwilling to extract itself. After firefighters tried unsuccessfully to get it out, the workers tore off flashing until they exposed it.

The lost pet, initially dubbed Carson, was taken to a veterinary hospital where staff have been nursing it carefully back to health in the days since.

"She was certainly starving," said veterinarian Janice Crook, "and she was completely covered in dirt, but she was purring."

The cat, renamed Fiona by the clinic's staff, was suffering from liver failure, a condition that sets in in felines after they haven't eaten for five days or more. It appears the cat must have had access to a source of water despite dry weather, however, or it would not have survived as long as it did, said Crook.

Initially, the vet gave Fiona a 50-50 chance of survival. But over the weekend, a staff member took the animal home, feeding it every half hour and watching it closely, and within a few days had brought it back from the brink.

"(The cat) couldn't hold her head up; my tech didn't think she'd live," said Crook. "Now . . . she's eating on her own, and she's coming in to talk to us."

The liver condition has also started to reverse, she said.

It's not clear how long the cat had been trapped, but Crook pegged its ordeal at a month.

Now, the veterinarian is hoping to return Fiona to its owners.

The cat has a tattoo in one ear, suggesting it had had a proper home before it got trapped in the school. The number is only partially legible, however, so the clinic has not been able to determine who the animal is registered to.

"I'm sure there is a family out there wondering what happened to this cat," said Crook.

The veterinarian is asking anyone who recognizes Fiona to contact her office. Anyone claiming to be the owner will be asked to provide information relating to the ear tattoo, she said.

The vet can be reached at

Odd Couple:
Cats and Dogs Can Live Together Peacefully
By Ann Tatko-Peterson - Contra Costa Times

A dachshund named Corky, left, plays with Puff Dad the cat in Antioch.

Bianca had lived peacefully with her English setter sister for years. So, Toni Mayer of El Cerrito assumed her cat would do fine with another dog, 11-month-old Genie.

Wrong. Within two weeks, Bianca defected to the neighbor's house and never returned home. Genie was forlorn without the cat, and mice quickly overran the Mayer home. Back to the shelter Mayer went. This time she returned with a kitten she named Harry.

Mayer rubbed Genie with a towel and then held it out to Harry to introduce him to the dog's scent, but the first actual meeting was an anxious one. Genie approached with curiosity; Harry charged. And yet, a few days later, "they were playfully chasing each other through the house," Mayer recalls, "and Harry was attacking and ambushing Genie's plumy tail. They've been close for almost 12 years. They nuzzle each other in greeting, and when I take them to the groomer, they keep each other company in the same cage."

As with humans, individual personalities make it hard to predict compatibility in a blended family of dogs and cats. Sometimes the adage "fighting like cats and dogs" comes to pass, while other times, the different animals learn to live harmoniously, even lovingly, under the same roof.

In the United States, 17.8 million households have at least one dog and one cat living together, according to an American Pet Product Manufacturers Association survey. Clearly, cohabitation works -- if owners properly introduce their pets, provide a safe environment for everyone and respect their pets' ability, or inability, to tolerate a member of the opposite species.

Even the most docile dogs and cats need time to adjust to a new family member, especially if they are unaccustomed to living with a different species. Experts agree that owners first must assess the animals they hope to bring together.

At the Peninsula Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in San Mateo, staff members check an animal's background before putting it up for adoption; sometimes a pet is surrendered because it fails to get along with another animal.

Staff also ask owners to evaluate pets living at home: Shy or skittish cats will not fare well with dogs, while aggressive dogs with a history of chasing small animals such as squirrels may have issues bunking with cats, explains Maria Eguren, behavior training manager at the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA.

When bringing the animals together, gradual introductions work best, often starting with familiarizing them through scent and working up to face-to-face meetings in a very controlled setting (see sidebar for full details).

Marilyn Krieger, world renowned Cat Coach, says success depends on having a well-trained dog, because of the harm it can do physically to a cat; providing cats with a sanctuary and plenty of vertical space, so they can escape if frightened; and always supervising the interactions.

"People need to remember that cats and dogs speak different languages," says Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant and author based in Redwood City. "For example, a wagging tail for cats means they are upset or agitated, whereas dogs wagging their tails are happy. The two have to learn each other's language. That's why they need time to get to know each other."

Building relationships

After the introduction period, once the animals are comfortable with each other, most owners prefer to let their pets dictate whether theirs is a relationship of sibling rivalry or revelry.

Mary Steele of Antioch used baby gates initially to separate her long-haired dachshund Doxie from her two 5-week-old kittens, Patchy and Bunny. Doxie would watch from the other side of the gate as Steele petted the kittens. But even as the young cats ventured beyond the gate, Steele says, Doxie still viewed them as something with which to play.

"Patchy would run and let Doxie chase her," Steele says. "Bunny wanted no part of that, and Doxie never tried to chase her. It was as if they knew among themselves what was acceptable."

In the Burgdorf household — which at one time had three dogs, two cats and eight chickens -- a 17-year-old, 11-pound orange tiger-striped cat nicknamed Punky decides what is acceptable. He clearly rules the roost, says Cindy Burgdorf of San Mateo.

Once when Pepper, a black standard poodle, was a puppy, he walked past the kitchen chair where Punky sat.

"Punky reached out and swatted him on the head," Burgdorf recalls. "Pepper has been afraid of him ever since. Never mind that he is nine times the cat's size and is aggressive to other dogs."

Just because a relationship starts off rocky doesn't mean a dog and cat always will be at odds.

When Jeanie Surges of Martinez first brought home 9-week-old golden retriever Phoebe, her tuxedo cat, Billings, refused to acknowledge her. Ambivalence eventually turned to spitting, growling and showing his claws. Then, as Phoebe grew in age and size, Billings began to thaw.

"At first they would lie on the floor across the room from each other," Surges says. "Gradually, they got closer and finally would be touching each other. ... Over the years I would often find them lying together giving each other baths."

Close bonds

Even experts cannot pinpoint exactly why some dogs and cats become bosom housemates.

Sometimes when a family with a dog wants to adopt a cat, the Peninsula Humane Society will gauge the dog's reaction by introducing it to one of the society's resident cats.

"Our cats get along with anyone," Eguren says, "maybe because they are constantly around other animals. Or maybe because that's just how they are naturally."

Are certain dogs and cats predisposed to bond with one another? Owners don't need research to answer that question or validate what they see firsthand.

No fur flies in the Alamo home of Dennis and Kathleen Lassle, where 13-year-old Doberman mix Fawn is the lone dog in a family that includes three cats. Fawn is especially close to 4-year-old Maine coon Pixie, who cleans her canine sister's face, sleeps with her and "herds" her, as age has made Fawn unsteady on her feet.

"I really don't know why (all four) are best friends," Kathleen Lassle says. "My only guess is that as each came into the household over the years, they saw that everyone got along and there was no reason to be afraid. I think they just learned from each other."

Betty Enoch of Castro Valley credits nature for the way her mixed breed dog, Candi, has taken to kittens. At one time, Enoch had five kittens, but she wisely never left much larger Candi alone with them.

Eventually, only one kitten, Frankie, remained. Enoch's two female cats ignored him when Enoch uncaged him; Candi, however, immediately started taking care of him.

"She has a maternal instinct," Enoch says. "She saw this helpless little baby and had to take care of him. I've heard stories of different species taking care of different species when they're babies. I think Candi would mother anything."

In the end, there is really only one factor in explaining cohabitation success stories such as these.

"Whether or not it works" Krieger says, "really depends on the animals."

--72.9 million U.S. households own at least one pet (62 percent of U.S. homes)

--38.9 percent of U.S. households own a cat

--46.3 percent of U.S. households own a dog

--17.8 million U.S. households own both a cat and a dog (15.1 percent of U.S. homes)

Black Cat Makes Appearance at Mets-Marlins Game
By 'Duk -

Holy 1969! Was that a black cat that ran onto the field during Tuesday's game between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium?

Indeed it was, though the terrified look on that woman's face suggests it was a gigantic mountain panther rather than a common baseball-loving stray. (Also, is it just me or does her seatmate bear a slight resemblance to Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria?)

Anyway, it's a bit strange that the black cat showed up at another Mets game, given that one of his or her famous descendants helped the Amazins' chase down the Chicago Cubs by crossing Ron Santo's path at Shea Stadium. These 2011 Mets aren't above benefitting from feline-inspired fortune, either: They won Tuesday's game 7-4 in 12 innings.

Man, Service Dog Thrown Out
 of Clearfield Restaurant
By Jasen Asay - Standard-Examiner

CLINTON -- Don Smith says he cannot function in society without his dog.

His psychologist agrees, he said, which is why Smith registered his dog as a service dog in Davis County.

But when Smith recently was told he had to leave one of his favorite restaurants because of his dog, Smith felt humiliated.

"I rescued him when he was a puppy, and now he rewards me the rest of his life by helping me function in society," Smith said, holding back tears. "He's given back to me more than I could ever give to him."

Smith has an anxiety disorder. When his psychologist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City encouraged him to think about something that makes him happy whenever his anxiety attacks occur, Smith said he would think about his dog, Junior P. Smith.

The doctor thought that was such a good idea, Smith said, she helped him register Junior as a service animal so he could bring the dog with him everywhere he goes.

So Smith takes Junior, who wears a badge identifying him as a service animal, to the grocery store and to restaurants. Whenever he starts to feel anxious, he just reaches down and pets Junior, and that anxiety goes away.

"My wife, Tempie, always jokes that we have to take the dog everywhere," Smith said.

Smith and the Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix went to the Star Cafe in Clearfield to meet Smith's friend for breakfast Tuesday morning. Smith said he had been in the cafe several times before with his dog, but on Tuesday, it was different.

When Smith entered, the owner quickly approached him and told him he could not bring his dog inside the restaurant.

"I was upset, so I told him I'm allowed to have him with me under the Americans With Disabilities Act," Smith said. "He didn't care. He said, 'I want you and your dog to leave.' "

Smith said Junior was always on a leash and stayed under a table while in the restaurant.

The Americans With Disabilities Act classifies a service animal as "any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."

A disability, defined by the ADA, is "a mental or physical condition which substantially limits a major life activity such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working."

Litung Liu, the owner of Star Cafe, said he did not know if he was breaking the law by asking Smith to leave with his dog. The cafe owner just said allowing a dog in his restaurant does not make sense, especially when the dog annoys other customers.

"The first time he comes in, the dog just runs around and goes anywhere, even when I tell (Smith) not to allow it," Liu said.

"We are a restaurant, and people are eating here. If the dog is quiet, it's OK. If the dog goes around and plays around with other people, that is not OK."

Not wanting to leave, Smith called the police. When the Clearfield officer arrived, the officer told Smith that he had to leave.

Clearfield Police Assistant Chief Mike Stenquist confirmed that, according to the officer's report, the officer asked Smith to leave at the request of the owner.

"We'll have to review on our end (to see) if that was appropriate," Stenquist said.

Smith said, in the future, he will have to go to the places that accept Junior.

"I can't go back to a place where I've been humiliated," Smith said. "It was a good place, but the owner humiliated me so much in front of my friend."

10 Tips for Creating a Dog-Friendly Tailgate Party

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa.-- With the NFL regular season kicking off and college football rivalries heating up around the country, would like to encourage football fans to create fun and safe tailgate parties for their dogs. Here are ten tips to make your dog-friendly tailgate the best on your block.

Verify that the area is dog-friendly - Not all college campuses or NFL stadium parking lots will allow dogs. It's best to confirm this beforehand so that your furry fanatic can partake of the fun too. If not, your backyard is a great place to host a pet-friendly game day BBQ. Also, if you plan on attending the game after the tailgate, arrange for your dog to stay with family or friends. Under no circumstances should you leave your dog in a car.

Pre-approve the guest list - No, we don't mean the annoying friend who brings all those tortilla chips but "forgets" to bring the salsa or guacamole. We're talking about vetting the dogs. Some dogs are able to become fast pals, while others can't seem to even look at each other for more than a minute. You want the rivalries to take place on the gridiron, not at the tailgate.

Keep dogs leashed - This is for their own safety. There are just too many moving cars and people around to take such a chance, and you never know when something might accidentally spook a dog.

Have a first aid kit easily accessible - Some basic supplies can help save a life if something should go wrong. A kit should include items such as gauze, nonstick bandages, towels, clean cloth, adhesive tape, hydrogen peroxide, milk of magnesia, activated charcoal, digital thermometer, eye dropper and muzzle. Also, keep the phone number for your veterinarian or the nearest animal emergency hospital and copies of your dog's identification and vaccination papers in the kit.

Bring the best dog food and dog treats you can find - There are plenty of organic dog treats and healthy "human" foods you can offer the dogs at your tailgate. Extra lean meats, strawberries, bananas, carrots and unsalted, unbuttered popcorn are all on the "okay" list for dogs. Foods dogs should not eat include grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, avocado, nuts and fruits with pits, which can present a choking hazard. It's also important that any foods given to dogs be properly cooked and cut up into smaller pieces.

Scoop the poop - That's right, you must be ready and willing to go on pooper scooper duty and dispose of the excrement properly. Not only is it unsanitary to leave doggy "business" lying around, it is a party foul of the highest order. And you don't want people thinking you can't throw great tailgate parties, do you?

Clean up the trash - Dogs are notorious for scarfing up just about anything off the floor. Avoid a bad case of indigestion in dogs or worse by making sure that all your guests properly dispose of all trash and scraps in garbage bags. These bags should be placed in areas that are inaccessible to dogs.

Toys and games make everything better - Can't stand to watch your team go down by another touchdown? How about you play some fetch with the dogs. Balls, sticks and flying discs are some of the best dog toys to have around. You can even get your friends involved and make a game of it.

Provide plenty of shade and water - Dogs are great at running around and having a good time, but they aren't always keen on letting you know when they're just doggone tired. And unlike humans, dogs eliminate heat by panting. When panting isn't enough, their body temperature rises. This can be fatal if not corrected quickly. To prevent such a dog emergency, make sure all your four-legged partygoers are provided with sufficient water and an area to cool off or hide away when their favorite team is losing.

Dress up your dog in team colors - You and your friends will be dressing up in team colors, so why shouldn't your dog. If your dog isn't much for wearing doggy jerseys or t-shirts, then try a bandana. Remember, it's game day. It's time for you and your furry pal to show some team spirit!

Are These the World's Dumbest Animals?
Contenders for Craziest Pet Insurance Claim

From the pug ate 100 rocks to the Chihuahua who survived being kidnapped by a hungry owl, to Moose the mastiff, who was kicked in the head by an angry mule - these pet insurance claims are in a league all their own.

Meet the nominees for the Hambone Award - for the most ridiculous claim filed at Veterinary Pet Insurance.

Bosses at VPI narrowed down the list to 12 after reviewing tens of thousands of quirky claims that come in each month over the course of a year.

For Chico the Chihuahua, being nominated came at the cost of almost becoming dinner.

The three-year-old pooch's owner Dana Kalomiris describes on the contest website how her husband took the dog out for a walk on a snowy January morning near their home in Crystal Lake, Illinois, when suddenly Chico began to whimper.

Out of the darkness, a Great Horned Owl silently swooped down and snatched Chico in its talons, dragging him through the snow.

Fortunately, George Kalomiris kept a firm hold on the leash, and spooked the menacing bird away.

The owl’s talons caused a small puncture wound just behind Chico's right foreleg; luckily, he made a full recovery.

Then there is Harley, a pug from Manville, Rhode Island who has an interest in eating things he shouldn't, according to the website.

His owner, Lori Lavediere, describes how during a boarding stay at his veterinarian's office, Harley ate 100 rocks in less than ten minutes.

'When we got home, I took him for a walk and he started pooping out rocks. Nothing else, just rocks,' she said.

Harley was taken to an emergency animal hospital where doctors took X-rays of his stomach, which showed his intestines were packed with pebbles. Fortunately, they were small enough for Harley to pass without surgery.

Cathy Timmons thought that pet insurance would be a good idea when her Labrador Stella ate a rock and needed surgery at six months old. It turned out be a good decision when Stella got her lower jaw stuck in a can of green beans in April.

'I was more panicked than she was,' Ms Timmons said. 'I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to breathe, but she was staring back at me like nothing was wrong. I tried to take the can off, but I was worried that the lid would dig into her skin, so we went to the veterinarian.'

But the Hambone Award isn't all for the dogs.

Sherri Johnson of Belmont, Massachusetts had concerns about how her cats would handle the wood stove in her New Hampshire vacation home, according to VPI. Her husband assured her that Eddy and Bella would sense the heat from the stove and stay away, and he was right - until the flies came.

Her husband caught their cats Eddy and Bella chasing a fly around the house, and worried one of them might fall over the railing so he shooed the bug into the livingroom. Eddy followed the fly, jumped in the air and came down with all four paws right on top of the hot wood stove, burning at a scalding 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

The next day, Eddy’s paws were covered in blisters; he received bandages on all four paws and antibiotics to prevent infection of any broken blisters.

'He was walking like a mummy for about a week, but he’s doing better now,' Mrs Johnson said.

Then there is Harley the dachshund, who was attacked by a seagull in Ventura California; Gus, the two-year-old Labrador who downed one-eighth of his weight - a total of five pounds - of chocolate and cookies while his owners were away; and Sadie, a three-year-old Golden retriever was bitten on her nose by a 20lb otter in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

Balboa the three-year-old pug was nearly blinded after he was sprayed with venom from a Southern Walking Stick after sneaking into a bush in Metarie, Louisiana; Tobey, a seven year-old Labrador retriever, accidentally swallowed a sprinkler head after a botched attempt to slurp a mouthful of water; Keryn Anderson's Jack Russell terrier, 15-year-old Teuer, landed at his veterinarian's office after his attempt to dodge under a closing garage door ended with the pooch pinned to the ground; Lindsay and Anna King's five -year-old English mastiff Moose was kicked in the head when he got too close to a mule.

Howie the toy poodle is a regular at his veterinarian’s office, according to VPI. His latest visit came courtesy of an acorn in his owner's backyard - after he scooped it up, tilted his head back, and let the acorn slide down his throat, it obstructed his airway. Heather Skinner of Monroe, New York remembered: 'My husband is a police officer and knows the Heimlich maneuver. He tried it on Howie, but it didn’t work.'
All nominees considered for the award are pets that have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

But the 12 contenders have quite the legend to live up to.

The Hambone Award is named in honour of a VPI-insured dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while waiting for someone to find him, according to the company website.

The dog was eventually found, with a licked-clean ham bone and a mild case of hypothermia. He also recovered.

The top pick will receive VPI’s Hambone Award and designation as the most unusual claim of the year.

Boo: The Life of the World's Cutest Dog

Empty Nest Syndrome Affects Pets, Too
Christina Capatides -

As kids across the country head back to school and away to college this week, most Americans are sensitive to the fact that some parents may experience a form of “empty nest syndrome”: a range of symptoms and behaviorisms associated with separation anxiety. So, that explains the scratches on the back door and the shredded throw pillows in the living room, right?

Well, not exactly.

That damage is a product of someone in your household experiencing empty nest syndrome, but it’s definitely not your mom.

What people may not initially realize is that household pets are also extremely susceptible to separation anxiety.

“Your dog probably knows the difference between the shoes you wear to work and the shoes you wear to take him for a walk,” says Dr. Debra Horwitz, a board certified veterinary behaviorist. “They’re very observant and they use those kinds of cues to determine what’s going to happen in their day. So, when everyone is home all summer and then, boom, they’re not anymore, that change in routine can be anxiety provoking for certain individuals and trigger a distress response, when the dog is home alone and separated from the ones that he or she is most attached to.”

In fact, animals may even be more shaken by a child’s sudden departure than parents because they have no way of being explicitly notified.

“Just because you know there’s going to be a change and you’re ready for it, doesn’t mean your pet does,” explains Dr. Horwitz. “The end of summer vacation often means that we can no longer sleep in or take leisurely morning walks with our pets. We have to get up, get ready and go straight to work instead. We don’t like those changes either, but we know they’re coming and we’re prepared for them.”

Pets, for their part, will exhibit this anxiety through a range of behavioral signs, including panting, pacing, whining, barking and destruction. In severe cases, Horwitz says, pets may experience a loss of appetite, even when their people are home.

However, the severity of the distress response really depends on the flexibility of the individual pet.

“Some people are really flexible,” says Horwitz. “Things will happen to them at work and they will simply say, ‘O.K.,’ and adapt to them. Other people will see that their pencil box has been moved and scream, ‘Who was at my desk?!’ Animals are like that too. It is a part of the normal variation.”

Roseanna Salonia, a New Jersey native, says that her four-year-old Chihuahua Lulu always displays signs of distress when her son leaves for college.

“Lulu definitely notices all the packing and ‘getting ready’ when he goes off to college,” Salonia says. “Then, once he’s gone, she sleeps outside his bedroom door every night. And when I let her into his room, she runs under his bed or likes to sleep on one of his pillows … she mopes around for a while every time he leaves, but it is most severe when he goes back to school after the summer.”

Depending on the flexibility of the pet, veterinary behaviorists recommend several behavioral and pharmaceutical interventions that can help him or her cope with the situation.

It is best to take preventative measures, before the actual change occurs. So, if you can, professionals recommend starting to wake up a bit earlier, packing a back pack or scheduling brief departures of about an hour, in the closing weeks of summer. These changes can help ease your pet into the upcoming transition.

Otherwise, it often helps to wake up a little early and either conduct a play session or take your dog for a morning walk, before you leave for work. This way, the dog is mentally stimulated and will spend more time resting when you are gone. Additionally, it is important to make departures low-key and matter of fact, rather than prolonging the act of actually walking out the door.

“Sometimes it also helps to leave a food-enhanced toy,” suggests Horwitz.

For dogs, this can take the form of a toy with a bit of peanut butter smeared on it. For cats, it is often helpful to hide treats throughout the house with varying degrees of discovery difficulty.

And for severe cases, there are two approved medications – Reconcile and Clomicalm – proven to be effective for the treatment of animals with separation anxiety, when combined with other behavioral modifications.

“These animals are not being spiteful or mad,” explains Horwitz. “They are anxious and they are really worried. And all the destructive things they might do are based on this stress and anxiety. It is our job to address that as quickly and humanely as we can.”

Gary Bogue:
Is It Normal for a Squirrel
to Eat a Dead Goldfinch?
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

August breeze

spider webs bend into domes

marked with dust

-- haiku by Jerry Ball, Walnut Creek

Dear Gary:

This week I noticed a dead goldfinch on my deck and before I could remove it, a squirrel came along and ate part of it before running off with the remains.

Is this normal behavior?

Never knew a squirrel would eat a bird.

Marilyn, cyberspace

Dear Marilyn:

Squirrels and other rodents periodically need to add some animal protein to their diets.

Squirrels usually get their protein from eating insects, bird eggs, the occasional baby bird found in a nest (that's why parent birds sometimes can be seen screaming at and "attacking" squirrels), and cat kibble when someone leaves a dish on the patio.

But if they come across a dead goldfinch on your deck, or the carcass of a roadkill as they cross a street, they'll probably take advantage of it. I get a lot of email from shocked drivers wondering why a live squirrel was eating a dead squirrel on the road.

Dear Gary:

Read your column this morning and walked out front here on Ch√Ęteau Way in Livermore to be greeted by a turkey on my neighbor's roof. She sat up there for about a half-hour until a second turkey strolled by ... she then flew down, joined the second turkey and they sauntered down the street!

Yes, Virginia, turkeys can fly!

Mickey & Melanie

Miller, Livermore

Dear Mickey & Melanie:

It's kind of creepy listening to wild turkeys walking around on your roof!

Thud! Thud! Thud! Thud!

My indoor cats didn't know which way to run.

Dear Gary:

I have recently noticed a number of bluebirds in our neighborhood. These are not blue jays but smaller birds with blue on their backs and wings, and an orange-colored chest.

Are these types of birds normally found in this area?

Lynda Sanchas,


Dear Lynda:

The bird you describe is a Western bluebird.

Yes, they are normally found throughout the Bay Area, and all around California. They nest in tree hollows, abandoned woodpecker holes and bird houses designed for bluebirds.

Google "Western bluebird bird houses" and find out everything you wanted to know about bluebirds, including how to make a bluebird house for your backyard. Go for it!

Dear Gary:

We had the same problem as Going Batty (Sept. 6 column, "Bats: How do we get them to relocate?") several years ago.

We solved the problem by placing netting under the eaves which the bats were using for their evening rest stops. As bats use echolocation for landing purposes, the netting discourages visitation.

I don't think a bat house will be as effective, as the bats are looking for a short term resting stop only while foraging at night.

Serious sleep takes place during the daytime for bats.

Martha Mahuron,


Dear Martha:

The netting is an excellent idea! It's a gentle way of "asking" the bats to relocate their nap spot.

Pet Talk:
Your Pet Will Eat Anything
By Anne Divine - Leavenworth Times

Leavenworth, Kan. — Dogs and cats commonly eat things they shouldn’t. It is one thing if they devour a steak or loaf of bread off the kitchen table. You can take the family out to eat. Other animal’s feces and dead “mystery” carcasses are disgusting but relatively harmless in most cases.

Within my own family circle, we have experienced a dog who ate 26 rubber knobs off a toy ball on one occasion and another time consumed corn cobs. She was assisted by her companion who specialized in toppling trash cans…he was smart enough not to eat the trash.

Both incidents resulted in expensive emergency surgery. My son had a dog who ate a large stick and in spite of immediate vet care, sadly, he perished from peritonitis. Remote controls, pens and hearing aids have also been family pet favorites. In the case of hearing aids and pens, it is another instance of pet teamwork making it happen. The cat knocks these items off the table, plays hockey with them for a while and then the dog gets her turn at the prize.

The problem is that many of these illicitly ingested items cannot be digested or passed through the intestine and result in an obstruction. This is a serious emergency and often requires immediate surgery in order to save the pet’s life. If you suspect that your dog or cat might be obstructed from swallowing a foreign object, seek help from a veterinarian without delay. Significant symptoms of obstruction are: lethargy, vomiting and loss of appetite.

There was a cat who ate 42 (count them!) hair bands. They accumulated in her stomach over a period of time and caused vomiting.
Surgery and removal of the obstruction relieved her problem and relieved her owners of $1400. Many cats cannot be trusted with string, ribbon or similar items.

A Basset hound named Barney was seen by his vet for a foot laceration and was otherwise asymptomatic. During his exam the vet became concerned after palpating his stomach and suggested an X-Ray. It revealed the presence of 7 tennis balls in his stomach. The owners commented that his tennis balls did seem to disappear a lot! Surgery was done to remove the items and Barney went on to live a long healthy life with no further access to tennis balls.

We wonder why our pets seem to have the desire to eat almost anything. Some conjecture that they use their mouths to explore their world…similar to the way an infant will put everything in their mouth. Another speculation is that they are inquisitive and since they don’t wear socks or underwear, they are curious about them! It is clear that bright and sensible as our pets are, they have no sense about controlling these urges no matter how noxious or unattractive the thing may be.

The top ten surgically removed items from pets stomachs are socks, underwear, panty hose, rocks, balls, chew toys, corn cobs, bones, hair ties/ribbons and sticks. The average cost varies from practice to practice but $1200 to $2200 is the usual range.

Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) is a large pet insurance company. Their data from 2010 shows that they provided coverage for around 2000 foreign body ingestions cases.

More than three million dollars was spent on these surgeries.
The consequences of foreign object ingestion can be expensive and devastating.

Pets, especially puppies, get into all kinds of things. It is important to monitor their activities and be alert to the possibility of intestinal obstruction.

Anne Divine is a long time member of LAWS and has volunteered at Animal Control for 18 years. She can be reached at:

3 Ways Your Pet Can Help You Heal
Amy D. Shojai -

Studies prove that pets provide physical health benefits, offer stress relief and detect or predict health challenges. Some pets now are used prior to health tests like MRIs to reduce patient fear. How can that be? Pets help keep us emotionally healthy.

They keep us connected to the world and other pet lovers, and offer a purpose to get out of bed in the morning. People who wouldn't go to the store for themselves will make the effort to get dog food or kitty litter.

Sure, walking the dog means people exercise, but studies also show that walking a dog offers more benefits than walking alone. There's a social and emotional benefit that has no equal.

Emotional Benefits Of Service Dogs
Service dogs have offered people assistance for many years as guides for the blind, ears for the deaf or even an extra pair of hands -- fetching everything from the phone and clothing, to turning lights on and off. While we mostly think of dogs, other critters including parrots, cats, lizards and even horses do this work. But service animals also boost emotional health in surprising ways.

Researcher Karen Allen conducted a two-year study looking at individuals with a variety of challenges who had used wheelchairs for a year or longer. She compared the group who received dogs to those who didn't. After a year, those with dogs showed dramatic improvement in areas such as self-esteem, psychological well-being and generally getting back into life. People were going out and having relationships, they made friends and a couple of people even got married.

This effect was also documented by researchers at the University of California Davis. They found people with pets were approached more often for conversation than when they were alone. Blind and wheelchair-bound kids with their dogs in public places were approached for social contact 10 times more frequently than without their dogs. Beside the day-to-day help service animals provide, they act as a social lubricant that emotionally heals.

When animals are present, Alzheimer patients are more responsive and more positive. But even healthy senior adults benefit emotionally from spending time with pets.

Pets Don't Judge
Healing includes the mending of broken hearts, lost dreams and painfully poisonous ideas and beliefs. Pets make things safe for emotions. You can express anything to your pet -- anger, sadness, joy, despair -- without being judged.

Humans suffering from trauma or illness, grief or depression, often withdraw from the world to find a safe and healing place. Kids who are lonely, dealing with death or illness in the family or other trauma have better coping skills when they have access to a pet. Families going through divorce also benefit from this pet effect. People caring for a pet are less likely to suffer from depression.

Psychiatric service dogs alert people when they need to take medication, eat on time or assure them the house and environment is safe and relieve their fears. And pets won't take no for an answer.

The Human-Animal Bond
The bond refers to feelings of love we have for pets -- and they for us -- and this biochemical process can actually be measured with blood tests. A study by South African professor Johannes Odendaal proved that the human-animal bond makes us feel good from the inside out. Pets feel it, too!

Our feelings, thoughts and attitudes are influenced by changes in brain chemistry. Odendaal measured blood levels and found that positive biochemicals phenylethalamine, dopamine, beta-endorphin, prolactin and oxytocin increased significantly for both the pets and people when bonding takes place.

People who interact with their own pets have even higher elevations. These chemicals stimulate feelings of elation, safety, tranquility, happiness, satisfaction and love -- it's more than simple contact, it's the individual animal and the bond we share.

Pets insist on being noticed, yet their presence is safe. They listen without judgment, and are silent without offering unasked advice. Animals know how to just sit and be with someone for as long as necessary. And pets don't turn away from tears and grief the way humans tend to do. Sometimes our beloved animal companions are the only bridge able to receive and return affection and show us the way home to emotional health.

Amy D. Shojai, CABC, is a certified animal behavior consultant and the award-winning author of 23 pet care books. She also writes for and and appears on Animal Planet's CATS-101 and DOGS-101. Check out Amy's latest book, "Pet Care in the New Century: Cutting-Edge Medicine for Dogs & Cats" and on Red Room, where you can read her blog.

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5 Tips For Protecting Your Pets From Wildlife

As communities grow and expand, wild animals are losing their natural habitat and are becoming acclimated to urban and suburban surroundings.

This encroachment of wild animals can be a problem for domesticated pets including cats and dogs. Wild animals can easily hurt, maim or even kill household pets that do not have the survival skills or temperament to defend themselves.

To help pet owners, Southeast Area Animal Control Authority has released a list of tips to help pet owners keep their pets safe from wild animals.

1. Don’t leave food outside
Wild animals can be expert foragers. Leaving food outside (leftovers, pet food, trash or anything else) can be an invitation to wild creatures

2. Get your pet vaccinated
Wild animals can be a mode of rabies transmittal. Ensure your pet is vaccinated just in case he or she is attacked and infected.

3. Notify the authorities
If you notice a wild animal or animal tracks near your home, immediately contact your local animal control or wildlife service agency. They have the resources and skills to handle these situations and make your environment safer for your pet.

4. Protect your home/ Clear your surroundings
Make sure wild animals cannot get into your home through open doors or windows, including dog doors. Many wild animals roam in the nighttime, when you and your pets are sleeping. Lock and secure your doors and windows before you go to bed.

Excessive debris, vegetation, fallen trees and hillside brush and shrubs can be enticing hiding places for snakes and other wild animals. Clear the areas around your home to avoid un-welcomed surprises for you and your pets.

5. Keep your pet on a leash/ Don’t let your pet roam outdoors alone
It is best to keep an eye on your pet when outdoors so that they do not become targets for wildlife. When hiking or walking trails with pets it is best to keep them on a leash. Excessively long leashes or no leashes at all, can allow your pet to explore hidden areas where they could possibly uncover snakes or other wild animals.

“As our population continues to grow and we encroach upon wildlife, we need to be extra vigilant about pet safety,” notes SEAACA Executive Director, Dan Morrison. “With a few smart precautions, we can protect our much-loved pets from dangerous encounters with wild animals.”