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.

Follow Amy D. Shojai, CABC on Twitter:

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.”

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