Airport Dogs

Cat Plunges 19 Stories from High-Rise,
and Walks Away
By Miranda Leitsinger,

Sugar the cat, left, survived a 19-story fall from her owner's home in Boston, center. At right is the spot where she landed.

Sugar, a white furry cat who is deaf, plunged 19 floors from a window in a high-rise building in Boston and – aided by her fall into a tiny mulch patch and the feline’s ability to glide a la the "flying squirrel" – lived to walk another day, animal rescue officials say.

A woman in the West End building said she saw a “white streak” go by her window early Wednesday afternoon and then saw Sugar after she hit the ground, said Mike Brammer, assistant manager of the animal rescue services department at the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

“You could see the impact crater where she actually did hit the ground and she actually lost some fur in the hole, too," Brammer said.

The cat's small landing spot is surrounded by brick and concrete.

“Whether cats can sometimes aim, so if it did it itself or if it was a combination of luck or both … it managed to hit that small patch of mulch, so it was very soft ground,” he said.

After bouncing up from her fall of 150-200 feet, Sugar ran near the building, rather than out onto the nearby highway.

“Instead of, you know, being scared and just running out into traffic, she somehow hit the best spot and stayed near the building,” he added. “So it was very fortuitous on many different levels.”

Sugar, who was tended to by the building concierge before rescue officials arrived, suffered a small cut on her lip and a little bruising, including some to her lungs.

“Considering what she had been through, she was in really good shape,” he said.

The feline, about 4.5 years old, was aided in her fall by dynamics akin to the “flying squirrel” phenomenon, Brammer said.

“You notice where their legs attach to the body, they have … the extra fur right there,” he said. If they put their legs out, “they’re able to glide a little bit and control … where they are going, and then I guess supposedly they can use their tail and move their body as a rudder to kind of control where they want to go.”

And ironically, the height may have helped her, he added, noting that a rescue league veterinarian shared information about a study on cats falling from tall heights.

“What happens is that the higher up, they reach terminal velocity and so I guess the sensation isn’t that they’re still falling. It kind of levels out so they don’t feel as stressed and they relax a little bit,” he said.

The Animal Rescue League was able to track the owner through the microchip and with help from the building.

Sugar's owner, Brittney Kirk, a 32-year-old registered nurse, said at first she didn't think her cat had made it. She had left the window open due to the warm weather because she didn't want Sugar to be in a hot apartment.

"It just seemed so unreal … my thought was obviously that she didn’t make it," she said. "I was definitely relieved and kind of in disbelief … if there were a cat to fall 19 stories and to be fine, I think it would definitely be Sugar, because she’s a pretty special cat."

When It Comes to Easter Bunnies,
Don't Go for an Impulse Pet
Sara Wuillermin Moreno -

A Rabbit can mean a 10-year commitment, and shouldn't be a hastily-decided easter gift.

With Easter quickly approaching, many families seek the perfect gift to give their loved ones and children. An appealing option always seems to be a pet rabbit—what better way to celebrate the Easter Bunny than a fluffy friend of your very own?

Unfortunately, many times the decision to purchase a rabbit is done in haste and new owners realize quickly these animals (whose lifespan is generally six to ten years) take more care and attention than most new owners are willing to give.

It is estimated that the amount of rabbits abandoned at shelters greatly increases following the Easter holiday.

This ends up leading to an influx of rabbits being neglected, improperly cared for, left at animal shelters, or, worst of all — let out into the wild, an inevitable death sentence for domestic rabbits.

Rabbits, like any other pet, need proper care and love in order to remain healthy and happy. A proper diet includes fresh water and plenty of timothy hay and greens, with pellets and carrots to only be given sparingly.

Because they are prey animals, and sensitive to changes in temperature, it is best to keep rabbits inside at all times with a cage that comfortably accommodates their size.

Rabbits can easily be litter trained and spaying and neutering has been known to deter aggressive or instinctive behavior such as digging or biting.

Instead of visiting a pet store to purchase a rabbit, consider a shelter or rabbit rescue. There are several shelters across southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania that have rabbits available for adoption (being that rabbits are the third most commonly found animals in shelters), many of which are already spayed or neutered, and are waiting to meet their new owners!

Or, if this long-term commitment is not one your family is ready to make—why not purchase a chocolate bunny instead?

Dog Saves Girl From Sex Offender Attack
The Huffington Post - By Hilary Tuttle

On National Puppy Day it seems all too appropriate that one Florida shelter dog is being lauded for her heroic efforts as woman's best friend.

When a 17-year-old girl left St. Petersburg's Friends of Strays animal shelter to walk a dog, she never imagined her volunteer work would lead her to be the one in need. But as Fox News reported, when she walked on a path behind the building with Mabeline, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, that's exactly what happened.

According to local television station WTSP, registered sexual predator Michael Bacon chased the girl, grabbing her hair and pinning her to the ground. The 38-pound dog began barking, scaring the attacker off enough that the volunteer was able to flee, People reported.

The brave puppy has since been adopted by Mary Callahan, who did not know about her new pet's valiant actions until notified by WTSP.

"I looked at my dog and I thought, 'You are a hero,'" Callahan told the broadcaster.

Bacon has been arrested, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and hopefully Mabeline will be rewarded with her own slice of bacon.

Montana Man Charged with Getting Small Dog
 So Drunk It Couldn’t Stand Up

HELENA, Mont. — A Montana man has been charged with animal cruelty after his 20-pound dog was found so intoxicated it couldn’t stand up.

Todd Harold Schrier, 49, was charged after East Helena police responded to a report of an intoxicated dog at a bar March 1. Officers found Arly II, a Pomeranian or Pomeranian cross that couldn’t walk, the Independent Record reported Thursday.

Court records say an intoxicated person who claimed part ownership of Arly told officers that Schrier had given the dog about a “to-go cup of vodka.”

The dog drank in a vehicle outside Smith’s Bar, not inside, and customers and staff of the bar cared for the dog and called police, the bar’s owner told the newspaper.

Police took Arly II to a veterinarian, where the dog’s blood-alcohol level was found to be 0.348 percent. An alcohol level of 0.4 percent can be fatal in humans.

“I had never seen a dog with acute alcohol poisoning,” said veterinarian Michelle Richardson, who has been practicing for 20 years.

She said she was aware of cases in which dogs ate vodka-laced Jell-O shots or lapped up beer from cups at a barbecue, but had never seen a case of intentional intoxication.

“I hope it’s rare,” Richardson said.

The dog stayed at the animal hospital for days and is now at the Lewis and Clark Humane Society pending the outcome of the case.

Officers caught up with Schrier at another East Helena bar that night. Court records show he also faces a drug charge after police found a bag of hydrocodone pills on the ground outside the bar where he had been smoking.

KFBB-TV in Great Falls reports Schrier, of Helena, pleaded not guilty Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, the public defender’s office said Schrier had not yet applied for representation

Parents Talk: How Do You Explain the Death of a Pet?
By Jody Gifford -

Last week, my brother and his family had to euthanize their beloved Dachshund, Annie. She was 18 years-old.

That dog was as much a part of their family as their two sons. In the days before they had children, Annie went everywhere with them. I have photos of her at family gatherings, barbecues and birthday parties. She was spoiled.

That's what made it a little harder to take when I got the news that they had to put her to sleep. She'd been in poor health for some time. She'd lost her eyesight, couldn't move her back legs and was just generally shutting down. The decision, according to my sister-in-law, was one of the hardest they've ever had to make.

How do you explain the death of a pet? Have you had to put a pet to sleep or explain the sudden death of an animal to your son or daughter? How did you do it? What did you say? Tell us in the comments.

After hearing the news, I wondered about my nephew. Not yet a teenager, he's always been a tough cookie, but I just knew this would come as a big blow to him. That dog was as much his as it was my brother and sister-in-law's. They were siblings. They were buddies.

All of this got me thinking, how do you explain the loss of a pet to a child? We have a cat who's 17 and it's inevitable that sometime soon, we may have to make a similar decision. I can't even begin to know where to start.

How do you explain the death of a pet? Have you had to put a pet to sleep or explain the sudden death of an animal to your son or daughter? How did you do it?

Airport Dog Finds Illegal Food Stowed in Luggage

Izzy, an agricultural detector beagle whose nose is highly sensitive to food odors, searches for illegal food stowed in luggage arriving from international flights. (AP)

On a recent busy afternoon at Kennedy Airport, a beagle with plaintive-looking eyes was lying on the floor of Terminal 4, oblivious to the chaos of rolling luggage and human activity teeming all around her.

There was no prying this dog off the ground — despite the best attempts of Officer Meghan Caffery, her closest companion and partner.

"Izzy," Caffery said, a note of exasperation in her voice. "You've only been here an hour."

The 6-year-old beagle, who works for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, can't be faulted for taking a break. She spends most of her time trotting briskly around the baggage carousels with Caffery in tow, searching for illegal food stowed in luggage arriving from international flights. Thousands of bags stream through this terminal every hour, and Izzy is the first line of defense against food or plants that could wreak havoc on American agriculture.

"Some flights are, you know, just apples or sandwiches that people had from the plane they forgot in their bags," said Caffery, an agriculture specialist canine handler. "Some flights are notorious for bringing in sausages or fresh fruits."

Izzy is among a small cadre of luggage-inspecting beagles who live and work at the airport, though federal officials won't disclose the exact number of canines employed. Technically called a "passive response dog," she is trained to sit whenever she smells one of several odors: fruit, meat, plant, seed or vegetable.

With just one sniff, Izzy can determine whether a bag is worth searching — a seconds-long appraisal that would take human officers hours to do, given that about 1 million travelers pass through Kennedy Airport in a single month. During her three years of employment, she's found everything from duck tongues to pigs' heads and feet. The agricultural products vary according to the time of year.

On average, about 28 pounds of food are collected every day, most of it from people who are trying to sneak in food from their native countries.

"We pulled a four-foot fig tree out of a bag one day," Caffery said. "The roots and soil and everything, like it was just dug right out of the ground."

Her nose never fails to spot a trace of food, sometimes even picking up the scent of a snack that was removed from a bag hours before. During one lap around a carousel, as they wove in and out of startled passengers, Izzy paused before a pile of bags, tail wagging.

Caffery looked around and called out: "Whose bags are these?"

The young man who claimed them acknowledged, upon further questioning, that there were indeed an apple and a banana inside. Caffery marked down the items on a blue Customs declaration form.

Izzy stayed put, waiting for a piece of food to emerge from Caffery's pocket: Her reward for a successful find.

"She'll eat just about anything," Caffery said.

Sometimes it's a bit of a struggle to keep Izzy moving after she's found something. Caffery was forced to drag her along the floor a couple of times, urging her to keep going.

"Come on, find it," she said. "Come on, you can't lay down."

Passengers often take great pains to hide their loot, stuffing it in soda bottles or coffee cans or sewing it into their coats. Some even tape food directly to their bodies. Though a piece of fruit may seem harmless enough, officials say each item is potentially dangerous.

"Something as simple as an apple could carry the larva of a Mediterranean fruit fly," said Officer James Armstrong, who supervises the agricultural searches, "which, if it got loose in our citrus crops in the United States, could cost billions of dollars."

Confiscated items are brought to the airport's grinding room, which has a long steel table piled with rotting food. That day's haul included sausages, barley, burlap, curry, beets and an assortment of fruits and vegetables, among other things. Officers send out samples to a lab for analysis and then crush the remainder through a hole in the table that acts like a garbage disposal.

"This is discovery. You know, this is neat," Armstrong said, waving a gloved hand across the table. "This is where you open it up and you find an insect or a larva or something and it kind of completes the mission, you know? That's what it's all about."

Throughout the day, Caffery and Izzy are affectionate with one another, and during a lull in flight arrivals, they can invariably be found hugging or cuddling.

"I'm with her more than I'm with my family, for the most part," Caffery said. "It's constant."

Luckily for these two, they'll never have to be separated. Izzy will continue working at the airport for several more years. After that, she gets to start a new career: as Caffery's personal pet.

5 Healthy Habits Dogs Can Teach Us

Believe it or not, you can learn a thing or two from your four-legged best friend.

Dr. Emma Raizman, a pediatrician at the Cleveland Clinic, said dogs can teach humans a few healthy habits.

Raizman said the first thing dogs can teach us is to “get out and play.”

“If you look at your dogs they want to be let out all of the time,” Raizman said. They want to run, they want to use their legs and build their muscles, build their endurance and get all of that energy out.”

Raizman added that you can learn portion control from Fido – as you typically feed him the same amount of food at every serving – you should do the same for yourself.

Pay attention to your dog’s sleeping habits. He makes sleeping a priority, so you should, too.

And you can even learn empathy from a dog, Raizman said.

Dogs are quick to forgive, and studies show that people who forgive easily have less anger and less stress.

Canines show appreciation, and humans should mirror that trait, Raizman said, adding that doing so can help your mental health and build stronger relationships.

“You know when you come home your dog is wagging their tail, they’re happy to see you, and they don’t hold it in,” Raizman said. “They just let all of their emotions show.”

Pet Scoop:
Dog Helps Ashley Judd Deal With The Blues,
Ex-Marine Can Adopt Military Dog

Ashley Judd Brings Her "Psychological Support" Dog On Set

Shug, a registered "psychological support" dog, joined actress Ashley Judd for an interview on ABC's "Nightline." Judd says that the pup has helped her to cope with depression, and Shug stays on the set with her during the filming of her new show, "Missing". According to Judd, it "just adds to quality of life." -- Read it at ABC News and watch the interview

Plus: Sharing the set with animals doesn't feel quite as natural for actress Sofia Vergara. The "Modern Family" star admits to People that she's unnerved by the French Bulldog who plays Stella on the sitcom -- but Ed O'Neill, who plays her on-screen husband, is in love with the dog. -- Read it at People Pets

Bird Recordings Scare Pigeons From NYC Subway Station

After trying plenty of other tactics, New York's transit authority has a novel way of clearing its Roosevelt Island subway station of pigeons: A birdcall system emits predatory sounds every two to 10 minutes. A spokesman says that it seems to be working. -- Read it at The New York Times

Military Dog Will Be Reunited With Former Handler

There's a happy ending to the story we brought you last week: Sergeant Rex -- a 10-year-old, bomb-sniffing German Shepherd -- has been found suitable for adoption, and will be reunited with former Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey. "We wish Rex all the best in his coming years of relaxation with Megan," said Capt. Barry Edwards. -- Read it at ABC News

Capybara Babies Debut at British Zoo

Three adorable capybaras, who were born earlier this month, were out and about exploring their new habitat at Twycross Zoo in England this week. Capybaras, which are native to South America, weigh just two pounds at birth.

Jogging with Your Cat??

World's Ugliest Mutt Dies at 15

June 24, 2011: A judge evaluates Yoda during the 2011 "World's Ugliest Dog" Contest in Petaluma, Calif. The 14-year-old Chinese Crested and Chihuahua mix took top honors winning $1000 and a plethora of pet perks at the Sonoma-Marin Fair. The 1.8-pound female Chinese crested-Chihuahua mix owned by Terry Schumacher of Hanford, died in her sleep Saturday, March 10, 2012. She was 15. (AP)

Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but Yoda was certainly known for lack thereof.

When a beloved pet dies, good manners usually dictate saying something nice about the departed companion.

And for Yoda, it was a compliment to say she sure was ugly.

Westminster Dog Show Welcomes Xolo, the Latest Dog Rock Star

Yoda won the 2011 “World's Ugliest Dog” contest at the Sonoma Marin Fair for her short tufts of hair, protruding tongue, and long, seemingly hairless legs.

The Chinese crested and Chihuahua mix died in her sleep Saturday. She was 15.

The 1.8-pound pooch had lived a rough life before Terry Schumacher found her abandoned behind an apartment building and mistook her for a rat.

The dog went on to bag $1,000 and a trophy 15 times her size when she won the contest held in Petaluma, Calif., last June. Yoda and Schumacher became famous, appearing on national television.

Contest producer Vicki DeArmon said Yoda will keep the title until a new ugliest dog is crowned in June.

Schumacher, of Hanford, Calif., told the Hanford Sentinel that she will miss "her funny little ways."

But Schumacher said she was "comforted knowing she will be joining my Mom and Dad, who loved her so much. Her memories will live on forever."

Another dog that made headlines recently was the The xoloitzcuintli or Xolo for it’s rare and bizarre looking features.

The Xolo was the star at the Westminster Dog Show (think Martha Stewart’s Chow Chow.)

The xoloitzcuintli, one of six new breeds welcomed at the 136th Westminster Kennel Club dog show, managed to steal the spotlight at a dog show all about frills. Mostly because of its name.

"They are exotic," said Jose Barrera a jewelry designer to the stars who is showing off another gem at the dog show: his tiny, trembling xolo called Alma Dulce.

Akron Men Steal Couple's Dog, Demand Ransom

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Two Akron men slapped with charges after stealing a couple's dog and demanding ransom.

Around 7PM Friday night, a resident in the 300 block of Upland Avenue reported his dog, a Dalmatian/Pit bull mix, missing. The resident stated the dog was missing from his back yard between Tuesday night and Friday night. The victim's wife put up fliers throughout the neighborhood.

On Friday night between 5PM-9PM, the victim started receiving harassing phone calls about the missing dog. The caller demanded $500 for the dog to be returned to the victim. The owners offered $40 for the dog to be returned. After the suspect refused the $40, he called the police.

A team of officers, including undercover officers, followed up on the phone calls and made arrangements to meet the suspect(s) at Emerling Park with the money. As officers were waiting in a vehicle at Emerling Park, three men approached the vehicle. Officers jumped out and arrested one man right away, then after a brief foot chase, the other two men were apprehended.

The missing dog was located in the 1400 block of Andrus Street and returned to the owners.

Officers charged two men, 18-year-old Pierre L. Cabell and 56-year-old Gilbert D. Dickson. Cabell was charged with Receiving Stolen Property, Theft and Telephone harassment. Dickson was charged with Receiving Stolen Property, Obstructing Official Business and Disorderly Conduct. They were booked into the Summit County Jail.

Cats Aren't the Best Jogging Companions
Written by Lindsey Tugman -

LAFAYETTE, CO (CNN/KUSA) -- A teenager in Colorado is in trouble with the law after taking his cat for jog. Yep, you heard right. This teenager walks and runs with his cat. While that may be a little unusual, it's what he did when the kitty couldn't keep up that's landed him in hot water.

They say a dog is a man's best friend, but Seth Franco's willing to make an exception. He says, "Her name is Stella! With an exclamation point. I'm more of a dog person but this cat is so cool that I just took her in and take care of her. I love her."

Franco found Stella in a sad situation. He says, "She was tied up to a tree behind Boulder high school with a note that said I need a new home."

Six months later, the two are almost inseparable. He says, "I just care a lot about her. I guess more than the average person does."

Franco wanted Stella to enjoy the beautiful weather. He says, "So I thought, hmm, maybe before work I can go run the lake and the cat can come with me."

So Wednesday afternoon they went "jogging" in a loop around the lake. He says, "She ran about 45-percent of the way and then it was so hot she started panting real bad."

This is where he tethered Stella so he could keep going. He says, "Put her by a rock, under a shady tree."

Franco didn't know that kind of tethering is against Lafayette city ordinance. Someone called the police and said Stella was being attacked by birds. Franco says, "There were no birds going at her. There were crows crowing at her."

Some passing joggers scared the crows away as Franco finished up his run. He says, "And they were yelling at me. Telling me I abuse my animal. I did not intentionally abuse my animal. If anything I just take care of it."

He got a summons to appear in court on a charge of "animal cruelty." He says, "And they kind of just told me it was common sense to not tie an animal up."

Franco hopes others learn from his mistake. He says, "Don't abandon or hurt or abuse your animals. Or leave them tied up. While you go jogging. Cause you'll get in trouble."

Franco is due in court in May.

Sorry, Toto – Kansas Won’t Get
a State Dog This Year
By Beccy Tanner - The Wichita Eagle

Better luck next time, Toto.

A proposal to name the cairn terrier – the breed that played Toto in “The Wizard of Oz” – the official state dog has fizzled.

The House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources declined to hear House Bill 251, effectively killing the bill for the current session. State Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, who introduced the bill, said he plans on re-introducing it again next year.

“That’s what we will probably do,” Trimmer said Monday.

“We had great responses from kids. And, I think this will give me a chance to go into the classrooms and visit with them, let them know this is part of the learning process and sometimes when you ask the first time, and the answer is no, you have to learn how to ask again. If it is something you want, you have to be persistent.”

He said he hopes more school children and their classes will become involved in the project. After all, it was Kansas school children who helped name the state reptile (the ornate box turtle), the state bird (the Western meadowlark), the state insect (the honeybee) and the state amphibian (the barred tiger salamander).

When the state dog proposal was first announced in late January, stories appeared in numerous newspapers including the New York Times, major blogs such as the Huffington Post, television networks and NPR.

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also weighed in, saying it opposed to the action, fearing it would add to Kansas’ puppy mill problems.

Brenda Moore, obedience chairwoman with the South Central Kansas Kennel Club, originally contacted Trimmer about the proposal. She said she plans to conduct a statewide campaign this summer to help raise awareness for a state dog.

“I intend to pick this up,” Moore said.

“I don’t think PETA made a dent in what we are doing. I just think it had more to do that this is an election year.”

She said she wants to create a petition drive and collect signatures from Kansans to present to state politicians; she also wants to raise awareness for existing state laws that have created stiffer penalties for puppy mill operations.

“Over the last six years, we have cleaned up a lot of the nasty people,” Moore said. “Most of the breeders are on the up and up.

“We want people to know that dog breeders are responsible people and that if we do get a state dog, we will not capitalize on it. I don’t think Kansas should be labeled a puppy mill state anymore.

“There are a lot of dog lovers out there who would like to see Kansas have a state dog.”

Critter Corner: Teddy Bear Hamsters
By Soraya Gutierrez -

Teddy bear hamsters are naturally solitary creatures and are likely to fight cagemates if they have them. Credit: Carolyn McKeone/Courtesy of Pet Paradise, London, Ontario, Canada

The teddy bear hamster, a long-haired version of the classic Syrian hamster, can be an appealing pet for small-mammal enthusiasts who are looking for a low-maintenance furry friend. It’s up to retailers, however, to help customers realize that keeping this critter content involves more than a cage, food and exercise wheel.

Informing customers about the care requirements—such as a nutritious diet, adequate housing and exercise toys—offers a good starting point when it comes to making a potential match between a new owner and pet. In addition, it’s helpful to provide tips about grooming, normal behavior and keeping teddy bears in good health.

Originally found in Syria and southeastern Europe, teddy bear hamsters became sought-after pets for their similarity in appearance to toy teddy bears. Their plush coats come in different shades of golden brown.

Retailers can be prepared to answer questions from customers about the teddy bear hamster’s average size and life expectancy, as well as about sexing. These animals—also known as Angora hamsters—grow to 4 to 5 inches long, or about the size of a mouse (without the long tail).

Teddy bear hamsters are known as low-key pets because of their size and temperament. On average, they live to be about 2 to 3 years old when properly cared for.

To show a customer the difference between males and females of this hamster type, retailers can check the underside and determine the space between two visible openings found on both sexes. The openings represent the genitals and the anus, and males have a wider distance between the two. Males also have longer fur, especially around their faces, necks and backsides.

It’s necessary for retailers to differentiate correctly between males and females because of certain behavioral problems that may arise. These naturally solitary creatures prefer to dwell in their own spaces, and if they have cage mates, fights are likely to occur.

Fighting between teddy bear hamsters can result in death. Owners can prevent these altercations by keeping the adults in separate habitats, regardless of sex.

The appeal of teddy bear hamsters as pets also lies in the fact that they make for relatively economical animal companions. A new owner can expect to be entertained simply by watching these critters in their habitats as they do what they do best: play.

Part of keeping teddy bears healthy includes providing plenty of stimulating exercise toys. For example, retailers can suggest products that encourage physical activity.

Exercise wheels are staple items in many hamster habitats; however, retailers can also carry the following toys: clear hamster balls, chew toys, tunnels and playgrounds. All promote hamster health and keep them on the move.

These animals may be small; still, it’s important for retailers to display them in the largest habitats possible. This way, customers can see how much space they need to keep teddy bears as house pets.

A small cage does not provide adequate room for these hamsters to comfortably play and exercise, since these pets love to run, chew, store food in their mouths and crawl through tunnels.

These unique behavioral traits are not only to be expected, but they are also signs that a teddy bear hamster is healthy. The chewing, for example, keeps the incisor teeth from overgrowing. Retailers can suggest giving chew sticks to keep these teeth in check. This chewing option also helps prevent the animals from gnawing their cages.

Another distinct behavior—the collecting of food inside large cheek pouches—enables teddy bear hamsters to store food for later. They also tend to carry food in their cheeks and hide it around their homes.

Appropriate hamster habitats can be made out of glass, plastic or metal. It’s important to ensure enclosures prevent teddy bear hamsters from escaping and getting lost.

For ways to keep teddy bear hamsters happy in their dwellings, retailers can sell quality hamster food in prepackaged varieties, as well as advise customers to give their pets fresh vegetables, fruit, grains and clean water on a daily basis.

In addition, new buyers might want to know about bedding materials. According to Audrey Pavia in the article “Hamster Bedding and Litter” on, the best bedding is nontoxic, clean and absorbent, and it gives off little dust.

Retailers can stock their shelves with a variety of premade bedding package selections for customers to choose from.

Teddy bear hamsters’ coats get easily dirty or matted. Therefore, while bathing these pets is not necessary, owners can groom them with a clean toothbrush if needed.

Teddy bear hamsters need to be handled with care. It’s best to leave these nocturnal animals alone during the day.

These hamsters may bite people who wake or otherwise disturb them. Educating potential owners as well as pet store staff about this risk can prevent an attack.

These animals are otherwise friendly and easy to scoop up with the hands, as long as it’s late in the afternoon or evening. Letting teddy bear hamsters roam outside their habitats in secure rooms can prevent boredom and excessive weight gain. This is when hamster balls may come into play.

Teddy bear hamsters make good companions for first-time pet owners, whether they are children or adults. With daily interaction and supervision, these pets provide plenty of enjoyment.

Cats May Purr to Your Heart's Content

We know that pets are beneficial to our health - they can lower a person's blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and provide opportunities for exercise and socialization.

In some cases, the source of the benefits is obvious. You walk a dog for two miles, you'll be in better shape. But some of the reported benefits are baffling.

A 10-year study at the University of Minnesota Stroke Center found that cat owners were 40 percent less likely to have heart attacks than non-cat owners.

Could a cat's purr be the reason?

"Cats will purr when they're content, but also they'll purr when they're about to be euthanized. It's thought they purr to communicate with their kittens," says author and animal behavior consultant Steve Dale. "It's thought to be a calming mechanism.

"If that's the case ... maybe they calm themselves or other cats, but maybe there's a fallout and there's another mammal species, us, that's impacted."
In another study, conducted at Kean University in New Jersey, subjects watched a "Lassie" movie. Their levels of cortisol - a chemical associated with stress - were checked before and after the film, and showed a decline after the movie.

This animal connection, Dale explained, "alters our neurochemistry. Not just the physiology, the blood pressure change, which is significant, but also the neurochemistry. The scientists are discovering there really is a difference here."

Bow Wow Wow:
ASI Unleashes 2012's Top Pet Gifts

Dog hoodie, collapsible water bowl and dog biscuit mix hit annual list

Tails are wagging as the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) today released its annual list of the hottest gifts for man's best friend.

"With 62% of U.S. households now caring for a pet, catering to the growing pet market is a smart choice for pet stores, vets, kennels, pet insurance companies, dog groomers and municipal dog parks looking to advertise or reward clients," said Timothy M. Andrews, ASI president and CEO. "It's clear this market reaches far beyond pooper scoopers and water bowls."
Premium treats, natural food and fashion-forward accessories helped push U.S. pet industry sales to $58 billion in 2011, with sales expected to reach $74 billion in 2015, according to research firm Packaged Facts. Sales of logoed promotional products hit $18.5 billion in 2011.

2012 Top Pet Gifts:

--Dog hoodie, from American Apparel. Zip-up fleece includes a pouch pocket for treats and a notch to attach leash to collar. Great advertising for dog walkers.

--Zippered water bowl, collapsible water bowl and waste bags, from Handy Products Line. Portable bowls include a clip for hanging from a leash, backpack or belt loop and funky trash bag container keeps bags handy.

--Dog biscuit mix, from Ingredients Corp. of America. Owners can bake cookies – and their own dog biscuits. Rewarding gift from groomers and pet stores.

--Leash, collar and ball toy, from Promopet. Kennel clubs and boarding kennels can advertise via heavy-duty leash, collar and logoed tennis ball.

--Wrapped biscuits, from A La Carte. USA-made individually wrapped treat includes all-natural ingredients, perfect as booth giveaway during pet-related trade show.

--Pet first-aid kit, from Ready 4 Kits. Includes essentials like tweezers for plucking ticks and thorns, antiseptic wipes, rubber gloves. Great thanks from vets and pet insurance companies.

--Paw balm and training treats, from Solar Advertising. Balm soothes and heals, making it a handy client gift or for municipal dog parks. Treats come in recycled, biodegradable tube.

Miranda Kerr Takes Her Dog Frankie
For a Walk in NYC

Considering how handsome her husband and son are, it’s only natural that Miranda Kerr would have an equally adorable little dog.

The supermodel was spotted taking her little Yorkie, Frankie, out for a walk in New York City on Monday. Naturally, she looked better than ever in a printed coat, jeans and effortless straight hair. We like!

Why Cats, Other Carnivores
Don't Taste Sweets
By Emily Sohn -

Lions like the taste of flesh, but sweets? Not so much.

With no need for carbohydrates, many carnivorous animals have lost the ability to detect sweet flavors.

Lions and Asian otters don't care for sweets but raccoons and spectacled bears will eat almost anything. Now a new study helps explain why.

Independently and fairly recently, genetic mutations have made various carnivores unable to taste sweet foods.

Probably because these species were already subsisting off of meat-only diets that lacked sweet flavors when the mutations first occurred, they did just fine after losing their sweet receptors -- giving rise to entire species of animals that lack appreciation for cookies or fruit.

For omnivorous creatures that chew their food, on the other hand, the ability to taste carbohydrates remains a matter survival, and their sweet receptors remain intact.

Besides offering a window into the unique sensory worlds of other animals, the research adds to our understanding of the complexity of taste perception. By better understanding how the system works, this and research like it could lead to a variety of applications, including the development of better artificial sweeteners or sweet enhancers.

For decades, scientists have known that cats show no preference for sweets. Then in 2005, researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia published research showing that domestic cats have a mutation rendering their taste receptors unable to bind to sweet molecules. The same was true of their wild cousins, including lions, tigers and jaguars.

"When we first published the data on cats, it got a tremendous amount of publicity and a lot of people saying, 'My cat likes sweets and you're wrong,'" said biologist Gary Beauchamp, director of the Monell Center. "But invariably they liked ice cream or cake, and sweetness was confounded with fat and other things."

"In retrospect it seems obvious," he added. "But it was to my surprise when we found out that this [loss of sweet taste] has happened repeatedly and independently in many species."

To investigate whether other animals might share the finicky cat's lack of appreciation for desserts, Beauchamp and colleagues analyzed taste receptor genes of a dozen species of carnivores. All of the animals have taste perception systems that are similar to the human system, with specific known genes that code for receptors for each of the five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami.

Using computer algorithms, the researchers could then scan each gene in each species to see if it contained any sequences that would make it unable to produce the proteins needed to sense each taste quality.

Of the 12 animals studied, seven had mutations that made them unable to taste sweets, the researchers report today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. All seven of those eat meat and only meat, and some inhale their food without even chewing. The list included bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, spotted hyenas and fossas (a cat-like carnivore).

Dolphins and sea lions also appear unable to taste the savory flavor umami, and dolphins might also be missing the ability to detect bitter flavors.

On the other hand, sweet-sensing genes were still functional in aardwolfs (a member of the hyena family), Canadian otters, red wolves, spectacled bears, and raccoons. The last three are meat-eaters who also eat fruits and other foods.

In a follow-up experiment that used behavior to back up the genetics, Asian otters showed no particular preference for water laced with sugar or artificial sweeteners, while spectacled bears almost unanimously chose the sweetened liquid.

When the researchers looked more closely at the genes, they saw that, for the most part, different mutations independently disabled sweet receptors in different species -- suggesting that taste receptor mutations have popped relatively recently in the scheme of evolution.

And an animal's diet, it appears, determines whether a mutation will disappear or stick around.

Understanding from a genetic perspective what animals can and cannot taste could help zookeepers and other handlers design desirable diets for creatures in captivity, said Thomas Finger, a neurobiologist who studies taste and smell at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

On a deeper level, the study offers insights into how life on Earth is constantly evolving.

"Nature's always tossing the dice and mutating genes all over the place," Finger said. "This says that losing a taste gene in an environment where nutrition doesn't depend on it doesn't matter. That loss will persist, because there's no reason for it to be eliminated."

TV Star Lets Her Doggies Rub
Their Bare Butts on Restaurant Table

O'Day and her pooches at Toast

Hooray, Los Angeles County now allows restaurants to decide if they want to let dogs on their patios! Boo, one TV star recently let her puppies rubs their butts on a restaurant table and the health inspector had to come in.

The "doggy-style" incident happened last week at Toast, and involved "Celebrity Apprentice" star Aubrey O'Day and her doggies.

O'Day "let her puppies wag their naked asses all over her table at Toast for several minutes ... before finally putting the poochies on the ground," reports TMZ.

Having dogs on the table is in direct violation of the newly modified code that lets restaurants welcome pets on their patios--pets are not permitted on chairs, seats, benches, or tables.

Toast was not cited, but a rep tells TMZ the popular restaurant intends to be "extremely vigilant" about dog heinies on their dining surfaces.

Pets: Silenced Songbird Could Have Mites
By Jeff Kahler -

Romeo is a 2-year-old songbird whose cage hangs from a stand in an atrium in Margret's house. The echo provided by the atrium's glass walls sends his song throughout the house.

A singing canary is a wonderful gift, and I can imagine the sadness Margret felt when Romeo stopped singing. Actually, according to Margret, Romeo began to sing less frequently about two weeks ago and is to the point now where he does not sing at all. He still appears to be eating, but it is obvious to Margret that he does not have his former zest for life.

Canaries, like many types of birds, are flock animals. They live in large social groups for mostly survival reasons. A flock can forage for food with greater success than an individual bird, and a flock provides protection. When presented with a flock of birds, a predator can become confused and find difficulty in singling out any one victim. A flock can also act together in defense against a predator. As good as the flock strategy can be for survival, however, it can also be ruthless to an individual bird that might become debilitated for any reason.

When a member of a flock becomes ill or injured, it will stand out from the rest. It becomes an easier target for a predator and, indeed, attracts unwanted attention to the flock. These individuals will be forced out of the flock for these very reasons. It is this flock mentality that causes individual birds to hide their disease symptoms.

You might now ask what this has to do with Romeo. My point is that Romeo has likely been sick for a while and has instinctively hidden his symptoms to avoid being excluded from the flock. He no longer can hide his symptoms and Margret has become aware Romeo is having a problem.

There are many possible disease processes that could be causing Romeo's decreased auditory performance and generalized decrease in activity. We do not have time to cover them all, but I will share one distinct possibility based on my experience working with both breeding colonies of canaries, as well as individual companion canaries.

The key focus is that Romeo has stopped singing. This once-prolific crooner has become silent and that is likely a symptom of a respiratory problem. There are many causes for respiratory problems in canaries, including bacterial and viral infections. The most common cause I have seen is air sac mites.

Air sac mites are tiny little bugs from the arachnid group, the same group that contains ticks, spiders and various mange mites we see in dogs, cats and other mammals. These little pests get into the canary's air sacs, part of their considerably complex respiratory system, through the trachea, and multiply to the point where they become obstructive to airflow. This obviously compromises the bird's ability to breath and, as Romeo has demonstrated, results in no singing and decreased activity.

Diagnosing air sac mites in canaries can be fairly straightforward. Romeo can be examined by his avian veterinarian and with the use of a powerful pinpoint light source it is often possible to see the mites crawling inside the bird's trachea. The beauty of this disease, if that is not too much of an oxymoron, is that it is very treatable. An injection or application of a topically absorbed parasiticide will kill the little invaders and, if my diagnosis is correct, Romeo will be back on concert tour in no time.

Along with treatment, Romeo's cage environment needs to be thoroughly cleaned. He should have one or maybe two more treatments of the paraciticide to account for any new mites that may have hatched from eggs in Romeo's environment, each of these treatments should be accompanied by cage cleaning.

Hopefully, Romeo has a simple case of air sac mites and he can soon return to serenading Margret and filling her house with his beautiful gift.

Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.

6 Ways to Make Your Pet Famous on Facebook
by Julie Seguss -

Your pet could be famous on Facebook. Here are tips on how to build your pet a Facebook profile!

You’ve probably heard of Boo, “The World’s Cutest Dog.” Maybe you’ve even oohed and ahhed during one of his national TV appearances, read his book or snuggled with his plush toy clone. Boo’s rise to fame all started with a simple just-for-fun Facebook page that went viral, and now the puff ball Pomeranian has more than 3 million likes!

Yes, Boo is pretty stinkin’ cute, but isn’t your pet equally adorable? We discovered the social media secrets behind the success of Boo and a few other top dogs of Facebook. Follow our tips to make your dog famous - or at least get him few fans.

Getting Started
Creating a Facebook fan page for your pet is easy. Go to your account settings and then click on the link for “Create a Page” at the bottom of the screen. Select “Artist, Band or Public Figure.” Then choose a category - most pet pages are listed as entertainers, public figures or comedians. You’ll also want to pick a name for your pet. You could use your pet’s real name, but you might want to get more creative. For example, Kristin Moon created a page for her four black and white French bulldogs cleverly called The Moon Pieds.

Next, add a profile picture for your pet. This is your chance to show off a cute close-up of your furball’s face, so choose wisely. You can also fill out the info page with location, birthday, awards and a description of your pet. Now it’s time for your first wall post.

Be Authentic
When you post on your pet’s page, remember that you’re writing from your furball’s perspective, not yours. Give him his own voice and personality.

“People love that Boo’s posts seem genuinely from him, with a clear voice and simple text,” says April Whitney, the Chronicle Book’s publicist for Boo: The Life of the World’s Cutest Dog.

Making Your Pet Famous on Facebook: Focus on Cuteness and Captions

Not surprisingly, most fans of pet pages respond best to wall posts that include photos and videos of your pet.

“Boo fans want cute pictures with brief captions,” says Whitney. “Those posts get vastly more Likes and Shares than product announcements, charity posts or links to outside entities.”

And while quick cell phone snaps are okay, when you use a better camera your photos will be clearer, more adorable and more powerful. As for captions – if you’re funny, go for it. Everyone likes to laugh.

Post for a Cause
Many of the most popular pups on Facebook also post for a cause. Depending on your goals, you may want to go this route.

Take Stacey Mae, a Great Swiss Mountain Dog for example. Her fan page started out slowly, but once the therapy dog started a special Teddy Bear Project, her number of likes grew dramatically. She now has over 15,000 fans and the program, which helps channel stuffed animal and blanket donations to the elderly in nursing homes and kids in hospitals, is a big success.

“Stacey's page is about being a therapy dog," says owner Maria Mandel. "People really like hearing stories about Stacey helping others and bringing joy."

If you don’t want to start your own charity project, you can promote others. Moon says fans are very sympathetic and offer up a lot of supportive comments whenever The Moon Pieds ask for healing vibes for a sick pet friend or good thoughts for one who has passed. You could also link to local dog rescue organizations or pets that need to be rescued form high-kill shelters.

Add Something Unique
The Moon Pieds, who have more than 1,000 fans, started a special daily feature called Skipper’s Sit of the Day. Moon says Skipper likes to sit in unusual positions and she frequently captures them candidly and posts one each day. Now she also features friend-submitted photos on “Skipper’s Guest Star Sit of the Day,” which got an overwhelming response. There is currently about an 8-week wait from when photos are submitted until they are featured.

Build Your Fan Base
While you can’t control whether or not your page goes viral in a big way like Boo’s did, there are a few things you can do to start building up your following. First, ask your Facebook friends to “like” it. If you participate in any other pet communities, ask friends there to follow you on Facebook. Moon also suggests reaching out to other pet pages that have large numbers of fans and tell them that you’re looking for friends, enter Facebook photo contests that will link back to your page, comment on other dogs’ pages, post on dog related pages such as magazines or favorite brands, or post videos on YouTube with a link back to your page. Good luck!

The 10 Biggest Dog Obedience Training Tips

Bringing a dog into your home is a big commitment. Committing yourself to a training plan for your new friend will ensure that your relationship with “Rover” is a rewarding one.

When making a training plan for your pet there are some fundamental rules to consider:

1. Decide outright what kind of behavior you expect from your dog across the board and make a plan that reinforces those behaviors. Setting out to train a dog without considering what you want them to learn before hand can lead to confusing and frustrating consequences for you both.

2. Be consistent! If possible, one person should be primarily responsible for the dog’s training in the beginning. Once the dog has learned the basics from one person, you can start incorporating others into the dog’s world. If, however, training must be a family affair from the beginning, make sure that every person who deals with the dog is using the same commands and gestures and has consistent expectations.

3. Use a dog crate. Dog crates are an important piece of training because they provide the dog with a place to go to have “down time” and keep him safe when no one is around to supervise his activities. While it may take some time for the dog to get used to the crate, in the end, he will learn to appreciate it as his own space and, over time, will go to the crate himself when he wants to rest. Dogs by nature like the feeling of a “den”, and the crate provides this for them. The dog should sleep in the crate and go into the crate whenever there is no one available to supervise him.

4. Play with your dog before you start a training session. Basically, what you are trying to do with this play session is get rid of any excess energy that he may have so that he is better equipped to give you his undivided attention during training.

5. Training sessions should be no more than 10 minutes long. Just like a child, your new dog has a short attention span and long training sessions can turn frustrating, which will create negative feelings associated with training. This is something you do not want. Training will be most effective when it is fun and rewarding for you and the dog, and the best way to ensure that is to make is short.

6. Work with the dog several times a day. 5-6 10-minute training sessions throughout the day will serve your goals well. You will be surprised how quickly your dog learns the basics.

7. Reward your dog with healthful treats. When the dog does something right, give him a small snack, and a lot of praise. Your new friend wants, more than anything, to make you happy…that along with treats.

8. Be Firm! When you ask the dog to perform a function, say it once and then gently force them to perform the function. For example, tell your dog to “sit” and then place him in a sitting position. Do not stand over him and ask him to sit 10 times. Once is all it should take, and if you expect that, over time he will learn.

9. Repeat yourself. When you ask the dog to perform a function and they do it, repeat the command along with praise. For example, you ask the dog to “sit”, they sit, and then you tell them “good sit…good sit”. This reinforces the command and helps your dog understand what you expect. Even if you have to place him is a sitting position, repeat the command once he is in the position.

10. Have fun. Owning a dog is a big commitment, but one that can become one of the most rewarding relationships of your life. Enjoy the time you spend training your dog. If done correctly, it will lay the foundations for a lovely friendship.

Dog Art

Marine and Dog Bonded by War,
Divided by Red Tape
By Kari Huus,

Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey with Sgt. Rex, a dog trained to detect explosives, contraband and bombs. The photo was taken in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006.

Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey gave a lot for her country, and so has her favorite comrade — Sgt. Rex.

The dog handler and the bomb-sniffing German shepherd Rex served together for more than three years and through two deployments until a roadside bomb blast in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006 took them out of commission. Leavey, now recovered and discharged from the Marines, is battling to adopt her old canine-in-arms.

"Rex is my partner; I love him," said Leavey, 28, who lives with her father in Rockport, New York, and works as a dog handler. "We have been through so much together … I’ve spent day and night with this dog. It’s a very strong bond."

But the dog's discharge has proved more complicated than her own. Leavey first applied to adopt Sgt. Rex as she was completing her Marine Corps service in 2007. She did all the paperwork, she said, but the military determined the dog had recovered completely and was still fit for work, and has continued up to now.

Sgt. Rex has become something of a celebrity along the way, featured in a 2011 book by his first handler, Mike Dowling, called "Sgt. Rex: The Unbreakable Bond between a Marine and his Military Working Dog."

But Leavey kept tabs on her old friend, receiving regular updates and pictures from personnel working at the kennels at Camp Pendleton, Calif. About a month ago, she said, they let her know that Sgt. Rex, now 10, had developed facial palsy, which was affecting his equilibrium.

"Now he is ready to be retired," said Leavey, who quickly filed her paperwork to adopt the dog.

But that determination — like most things in the military — is subject to some procedures.

"An official request for retirement has been submitted," said Matthew Stines, press officer for the Air Force, which has jurisdiction over the Military Working Dog Program, when reached on Friday. He said that action on that request is expected to take about two weeks.

Then the dog will be evaluated for "adoptability" at Camp Pendleton. If he is approved, the final determination for his release would then be made after consideration at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Stines said he did not know what would happen if the dog was determined to be unsuitable for adoption, nor how long these evaluations were expected to take, though he promised to look into it.

"(Rex) is just hanging out in his kennel," Leavey said. "I know the Marine Corp has other more important issues. But it’s important to me. And he deserves it."

Frustrated by the bureaucracy, Leavey has recruited a high-powered champion — Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who wrote to Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley to urge expeditious handling.

"Marine Corporal Leavey and Rex are true American heroes who saved countless American lives uncovering roadside bombs and booby traps in Iraq," Schumer said in a statement issued Friday. "I’m strongly urging the Air Force to do the right thing, cross the T’s and dot the I’s so that Rex gets the home he deserves, and Corporal Leavey can be reunited with her faithful companion."

Dog Reunited with Owner After 53 Days in Nevada Desert
By Erin Skarda -

This Feb. 18, 2012 photo provided by Shannon Sustacha shows Barbara Bagley and her Shetland Sheepdog Dooley after the two were reunited, east of Battle Mountain, Nev.

After a devastating car accident left Barbara Bagley’s husband and one of her dogs dead, she held to hope that her other Sheltland Sheepdog, Dooley, was still out there, somehow surviving in the unforgiving Nevada desert. Fifty-three days later, Dooley was recovered — scared and skinny, but safe — just five miles from the crash scene.

The December accident happened in a remote area of Nevada, sending both Bagley and her husband, Brad Vom Baur, to the hospital with severe injuries. Their other dog, Delaney, was found dead at the scene, but 4-year-old Dooley had vanished.

While Bagley, 48, suffered a concussion, two punctured lungs, broken ribs and a broken wrist, as soon as she was able, she organized a search for her lost pup using Facebook. But before volunteers could even get started, the search was called off, after remains of a dog were found along the interstate where the accident occurred. That same day, Bagley’s husband succumbed to his injuries and passed away.

“It was a horrible day for me,” Bagley told the Associated Press. “But something inside me told me Dooley was still alive out there.”

Her instinct was right. Over the next month, a dog matching Dooley’s description was spotted in the area numerous times. While Dooley slyly evaded rescuers on a few occassions, eventually he was cornered and taken to be reunited with his long-lost companion.

Dooley survived on eating roadkill and drinking from different water sources, but besides dropping 20 pounds and needing a bird bone removed from his throat, the Sheltie was no worse for the wear. Dooley and Bagley are now recovering together.

Tornado Survivors Find Pets Through Facebook
The Huffington Post - Dominique Mosbergen

In the wake of the devastating spate of storms that swept through the South and Midwest last week, many beloved pets are missing.

Once an animal is lost, the odds of finding it are relatively low. According to the American Humane Association, only about 17 percent of dogs and 2 percent of cats find their way back from shelters to their original owners.

After last year's Joplin, Mo. tornado, for instance, over 900 pets were rescued but fewer than 300 were reunited with their families.

Fortunately, as Pet-Zet reports, technology and social media can help improve those odds.

Over the last few days, several Facebook pages have cropped up in an effort to reunite pets with their families, sharing word of both lost and found animals.

The pages are inevitably bittersweet. But each reunion brings joy and hope to recovering communities.

Sherill Metz from Huntsville, Ala., has one such happy story.

Last Wednesday, as a storm approached, Metz went to her backyard to bring in her two dogs. Her 2-year-old Chorky, Lola, was nowhere to be found.

Lola, a tiny 3-pounder who had never run away before, had escaped through a small hole in the fence.

"The first thing I did was come in and go on Facebook. I wanted friends and people in my neighborhood to know," Metz, 43, told The Huffington Post.

Her story went viral overnight. Hundreds of people contacted her on Facebook, expressing their support and cross-posting her notice on those newly-established lost and found pages. Metz said she was "very, very shocked" by the response she received. "I couldn't even keep up with all the comments I was getting," she said.

But when six tornadoes hit Huntsville on Friday and Lola remained missing through the weekend, Metz began to lose hope.

Finally, on Monday night, Metz got a call from a family who had found Lola -- mud-soaked, bedraggled and miles from home -- the week before. They found Metz's contact details through Facebook.

Reunited with her beloved dog, Metz promptly posted a photo and note on the social media site. She received hundreds of congratulatory comments.

"People all over the country were praying for me and thinking about me," she said. "It was so nice, even when I started to lose hope, I was receiving constant encouragement."

Similarly, Twitter and Facebook played vital roles last year in connecting displaced families in the aftermath of natural disasters, such as the Japan tsunami and earthquakes.

"If you've lost an animal," said Metz, when asked what advice she would give other tornado survivors, "I would get it out there on social media and keep looking. Even though I gave up hope, I'm a true believer now."

Oshawa House Filled with Tarantulas,
Snakes, Marsupials Probed by Investigators
Kate Allen -

Debbie Grills, seen holding a rescued ferret, is co-owner of D &D Exotics in Oshawa. Rick Eglinton/Toronto Star

A screeching Nanday Conure parrot mimics the rising indignation in Debbie Grills’ voice as she speaks from her Oshawa pet store on Friday.

“They went through all of my kitchen cupboards. They threatened to lift up the lids on our incubators. They treated us like criminals,” says Grills, co-owner of D & D Exotics along with her husband Doug.

The “they” in question are the investigators who descended on the Grills’ home Thursday to execute a search warrant.

The “us” is Grills and her husband. But it could very well extend to their menagerie of beloved, exotic — and in Oshawa, prohibited — pets: 200 baby tarantulas being raised in individual Dixie cups, a dozen sugar gliders, and Tigger, a 5.5-metre-long reticulated python, among many others.

“They found everything,” says Grills.

Thursday’s raid was the latest skirmish in a battle with deceptively dull origins. For years, the couple has been fighting Oshawa’s Responsible Pet Owner by-law.

In Toronto, non-venomous snakes like boas and pythons are allowed as pets, provided they don’t grow longer than 3 metres. Sugar gliders, a type of marsupial, are also permitted. Ajax, Pickering, and Scugog, Oshawa’s neighbours in Durham Region, have similar rules — Scugog allows some types of tarantulas, for example.

Oshawa is stricter. All pythons and boas are prohibited, no matter the length. Sugar gliders and tarantulas are both banned.

D & D Exotics, one of the largest exotic pet stores in Durham region, was operating under a council-approved exemption to the by-law.

Besides their business selling regular animals, the couple also takes in rescued snakes, spiders, and other non-dog-or-cat creatures picked up by Durham authorities. Some of those animals are prohibited in Oshawa, like the 200 baby tarantulas Doug Grills nurtured from an egg sac found on a mature spider.

“What can I say,” says Grills. “We’re fascinated (by) every aspect of it.”

In January, the Grills’ received a letter from the city saying they had violated their exemption by “purchasing, selling, trading or releasing prohibited exotics.” Debbie Grills admits they have bought prohibited animals, but she says after fighting the by-law unsuccessfully, her “hands were tied.”

“(The city is) hurting my business, because people from Oshawa are not not buying these animals,” says Grills. “They’re going outside our community to Ajax, Pickering, Toronto. . . and bringing them back.”

Jerry Conlin, Oshawa's director of Municipal Law Enforcement and Licensing Services, disagrees.

“That position – the Grills’ – is not the same position of the city,” he says. “The by-law requires compliance with the standards that are approved by council. And presently, they are not complying with them.”

In January, the Grills told media they would spirit their hundreds of prohibited animals to “safe houses.” In fact, there was only ever one safe house: their own.

Oshawa by-law officers, investigators from the Ministry of Natural Resources, and Durham Regional Police officers — present in order to “keep the peace,” says Conlin — searched the Grills’ residence Thursday morning, taking photo and video evidence.

The couple could be facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and lost profits. But Debbie Grills is equally as concerned for her animals. The expert biologist who was brought in, she claims, exposed the nocturnal sugar gliders to daylight.

“Now they have diarrhea from the stress,” she says.

Conlin says investigators will be combing over the evidence captured yesterday and deciding how to proceed.

Spotted: Angelina Jolie's Kids Walking Their Dog
By: Noelle Talmon -

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are spending time at their home in New Orleans, and we spotted three of their children walking their bulldog Jacques yesterday.

Their oldest child, Maddox, 10, spent time talking on his cell phone while his sister Shiloh, 5, wore a trendy Ramones t-shirt and camouflage pants. Zahara, 7, looked dainty in red shorts and matching flipflops.

Meanwhile, we spotted their dad Brad zooming around town on his custom-made motorcycle.

Angelina and Brad are also parents to Pax, 8, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 3.

Abandoned Dog Gets a New Home;
Bereft Couple Gets a New Pet
By JaNae Francis - Standard-Examiner

OGDEN — Sometimes one happy ending can resolve two sad stories at once. That was the case Thursday when Matt and Joanne Townsend adopted a 2-year-old Shih Tzu they named Buster.

The dog was in the news earlier this week when it was rescued after being abandoned and locked inside a foreclosed house in North Ogden for nearly two weeks.

Adopting the dog seemed like the perfect answer for the Townsends. The Ogden couple were saddened recently by the death of a dog they’d had for 16 years.

“He’s so good,” Joanne said of Buster after her husband brought him home. “He’s so wonderful. He follows me everywhere.”

The dog owner said she didn’t expect Buster to feel so at home so quickly. He even made quick friends with the couple’s other dog, a 6-year-old English foxhound.

“They said it would take time for him to trust us,” she said. “But he just right away loosened up. I think he’s just happy to have a home.”

Animal control officials said they believe the problem of pet owners leaving their animals behind when they move is an infrequent one, especially for dogs.

Other pet and owner issues are far more pressing matters, they said.

Jim Barker, president of the Utah Animal Control Officers Association, said neighbors calling about abandoned animals are far more common than actual abandonment cases.

“When we get calls on that, if we leave a door hanger on the door giving them 24 hours to call us, they usually call us within 12 hours,” he said.

“The majority of the time, it’s overanxious neighbors. (The dog owners) say they are moving their stuff and they want the dog there to protect it.”

And Barker said police have to have evidence an animal is being abused or abandoned before they can enter a residence to check on the animal.

Barker, a Springville police officer, said there aren’t a lot of cases in which dogs are actually abandoned.

Another longtime member of the Animal Control Association of Utah said real knowledge of how often animals are left behind would have to come from a survey of landlords.

A lot of times, he said, the landlords just take animals to a shelter without notifying officials.

Weber County Sheriff’s Lt. Chad Ferrin, who oversees Weber County Animal Control Services, said he remembers only two cases in the last year in which animals were abandoned when someone moved.

“There are rare occasions,” he said, adding that sometimes people are served with warrants and taken to jail, then they can’t get back to their animals.

“Typically, people are fairly responsible with their pets,” Ferrin said.

Barker said cats fare far worse when it comes to owner abandonment.

“It probably happens more with cats than with dogs. They are easier to replace. There are people giving them out all the time at Walmarts and everything.”

And cats probably aren’t as noticeable when left behind.

“A lot of times with cats, the owners will just turn them loose and leave them running around the neighborhood,” Barker said.

And the people who leave cats behind often are hard to track down later. He said often they are people who slip in and out of their residences quietly.

Shawn Janke, president of the Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors, said he doesn’t know of any instance when an agent has dealt with people abandoning an animal.

“It’s not really an issue,” he said. “Normally, they let the agents know. … We help them get rid of their animals.”

On occasion, Janke said, he will see an email with a picture of a dog. “It will say, ‘My seller is looking for a home for his dog.’ ”

NM Hiker Missing for Almost a Month
Huddled with Cat in Sleeping Bag
When Temperatures Dipped

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Temperatures dropped below freezing almost every night, but somehow Margaret Page and her cat survived 3 1/2 weeks in an isolated and rugged region of a southwestern New Mexico national forest.

Tucked away in a blue sleeping bag for warmth and set up near a creek for drinking water, Page and her cat named Miya lived on just a handful of supplies, rescue workers said Friday. The nearest town — tiny Dusty, N.M. — was 10 miles away.

Family members reported her missing Feb 14. But for various reasons, authorities didn’t start searching for her until this week. The 41-year-old Page, who has a history of mental illness, was found Wednesday emaciated and malnourished but well-hydrated.

“Her cat was in better shape than she was,” New Mexico State Police Search and Rescue incident commander Marc Levesque said. “Her cat was also hunting. (Page) ran out of food a while back.”

Page apparently purposefully hiked off a trail between Feb. 10 and Feb. 12. A Forest Service law enforcement agent spotted her silver Chevy passenger car on Feb. 12, but didn’t think much of it because hikers leave vehicles near trails all the time, said Lt. Robert McDonald, a spokesman for the state police.

Another Forest Service agent noticed the car on Feb. 25 but didn’t contact state police until 10 days later. Members of the Grant County Search and Rescue and other crews began the search for Page on Tuesday after her family notified state police that Page’s car had been found at a campground.

She was found the following day about a mile up the Railroad Canyon Trail in an area known as the Black Range.

The area had seen average highs reach around 60 degrees with evening lows in the 20s. It didn’t see much rain or snow, but there were some high winds.

Authorities don’t believe Page intended to stay in the forest for as long as she did when she first set up camp, and they aren’t sure what she ate after she ran out of food.

“She is an experienced backpacker,” search crew leader Dave Kuthe said. “She had adequate shoes...she just took a bag of pretzels with her.”

Also, Page’s car was towed as crews began their search mission — something Robert Matulich, a field certified member of the Dona Ana County Search and Rescue team, said was unusual. Crews sometime use vehicles to give the search dogs a scent to use, he said.

“It looks to me like somebody dropped the ball on this one,” Matulich told the Silver City Sun-News ( “Why’d they tow the truck? Who towed the truck?”

Levesque said by the time Page arrived at Gila Regional Medical Center she was alert and articulate, even though she had lost about 20 to 25 pounds during the ordeal.

She checked herself out late Wednesday and spent the night in a Silver City hotel. And she’s been reunited with her cat.

Dog Art Fetches High Prices
Written by Sue Manning -

William Secord, president of William Secord Gallery, unpacks paintings in his New York gallery, the only one in the nation dedicated exclusively to dog art. "We have had an increase in visitors over past years, but also a substantial increase in sales compared to this time last year," said Secord, widely considered the world's foremost authority on 19th century dog paintings. / Richard Drew, The Associated Press

Dogs seem to be as popular on a canvas these days as they are on a leash, with paintings of dogs drawing big bucks and big crowds.

At the annual “dogs only” art auction held after the Westminster Dog Show, two price records were broken this year, said Alan Fausel, vice president and director of fine art at Bonhams, the auction house that runs the event.
“Dejeuner,” a painting that shows dogs and cats eating from a large dish, set a record for the artist, William Henry Hamilton Trood (1860-1899), when it sold for $194,500, Fausel said. That record was broken an hour later when Trood's “Hounds in a Kennel,” showing a half-dozen dogs staring at a bird outside their cage, sold for $212,500.

Bonhams' Dogs in Show & Field auction is the only one in the country devoted solely to dogs. It was the best auction in years, Fausel said, adding: “The dog art market is certainly turning a corner.”

The William Secord Gallery in Manhattan is the only gallery in the nation dedicated exclusively to dog art. “We have had an increase in visitors over past years, but also a substantial increase in sales compared to this time last year,” said Secord, widely considered the world's foremost authority on 19th century dog paintings. Through March 24, the gallery is exhibiting and selling 150 dog pieces that Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge bequeathed to St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J.

Secord has written six dog art books and has collected over 2,500 works dating to 1805. He is also the founding director of the only art museum in the country dedicated to dogs, the American Kennel Club's Museum of the Dog. Secord opened his gallery because he didn't want to move when the museum relocated from New York to St. Louis.

The museum has over 700 paintings, drawings, fine porcelains and bronzes on display, and gets about 12,000 visitors a year, a number that's been increasing steadily each year, said Barbara McNab, the museum's executive director.

Parents Can Cure Their Children's
Fear of Dogs If They Follow Experts' Advice
By Diane VanDyke - Reading Eagle

For some children, man's best friend becomes their biggest fear. Maybe it was a bad experience with an overly excited dog, the incessant barking and growling of a protective pet or simply the size of the larger breeds, but something about these typically beloved animals instilled an intimidating fear.

If children have an extreme fear of dogs, or cynophobia, they may require some therapy or counseling, and families should seek help from their doctors in those cases.

Otherwise, children can overcome their fear of dogs in most cases, with some guidance, education and training.

The first step, according to Dr. Shawn Achtel, a veterinarian at Exeter Veterinary Hospital, Exeter Township, is for parents to recognize that their child is afraid of dogs.

Some children's fear stems from the unknown and unexpected behaviors or actions by some dogs. Sometimes fear develops because children are not taught about or exposed to dogs.

"Children should be slowly introduced to dogs," said Achtel, in an email response. "Start with stories, pictures or television/movies with dogs, progressing to watching dogs at a park from a distance, eventually allowing the children to build up confidence to meet a dog up close."

When a child develops the confidence to meet a dog, parents should try to introduce them to a mature, calm dog rather than an excitable puppy with unpredictable behavior. Although puppies may be smaller and cute, their energy might perpetuate fear, especially if they jump, lick or chew, according to Achtel.

Prior to that first child-dog meeting, parents should teach their children that dogs will sniff and lick. They should explain that licking is the way dogs give kisses.

When teaching children how to approach a dog, parents should avoid phrases like "pet the dog under his chin or he will bite," since they imply that the dog could harm the child and evoke fear.

Usually such messages or an unpleasant incident with dogs is what triggers fear, said Steven Smith, trainer at Awesome Dawgs Dog Training LLC, Rockland Township. Awesome Dawgs teaches families how to build good relationships with dogs.

Smith recommends the following tips when working with dogs:

--Parental supervision is essential to help children understand what appropriate interaction with the dog looks like.

--Use a toy when children play with dogs so their attention can be on the toy and not the child's hands, feet and clothing.

--Don't overstimulate the dog. Take frequent breaks from play. This will give the dog a chance to relax or calm down, then return to play.

--Avoid close hugging and smoothing of the dog's head and face. This often causes a dog to feel threatened and could trigger a bad reaction.

--Avoid allowing infants to crawl around the dog unsupervised. They look, smell and sound too much like play toys.

--Realize not every other dog is like your pet dog. Always ask the owner if you can pet the dog. Always pet under the chin or on their chest and not over their head.

When developing relationships with dogs, children should be taught how to respect and treat them, Smith said. They should not run up to the dog or attempt to hug or squeeze it. When playing with dogs, children should know not to pull their tails, pick them up, hit or even yell or scream around them.

They also should not try to play with or pet dogs when they are eating, going to the bathroom or even chewing on a favorite bone or toy.

"It is important to remember there are always two ends of the leash and both parts need help understanding the other end," Smith said. "The best methods of helping children get over their fear of dogs will always include 1) parental supervision, 2) education, 3) planning and 4) training."

Following this advice, parents can help their children overcome their fear of dogs and develop long-lasting friendships, like the friendship Emma Yoder of Kutztown has with her dog.

Twelve-year-old Emma has been training her 3-year old Labrador retriever Tegan at Awesome Dawgs with the goal of teaching Tegan to be a therapy dog.

"Tegan is like a sister to me," said Emma, who is the daughter of two veterinarians, Drs. Sam and Annemarie Yoder, owners of Silver Maple Veterinarian Clinic Inc., Richmond Township. "I love her so much, and we trust each other. I am training her to be a therapy dog so children and older folks can have the same relationship I have with dogs."

Through training, Emma can show other people how to be friends with Tegan and not be scared of her. She also has learned how to socialize Tegan, so she is comfortable around people and new situations.

"I have never been afraid of dogs," Emma said. "I grew up with them, and they were always my friends."

Contact Diane VanDyke:

My Pet is Bigger Than Your Pet
By Diana Fisher

The Farmer bought me two beautiful Belgian horses for Valentine's Day, 2009. I have always wanted a horse of my own.

I imagined myself riding Ashley through the bush around our property, the Farmer by my side on Misty. So far, that dream has not come true. We lost Ashley, tragically, in 2010. Our busy lifestyle is not exactly conducive to horse training so our very large, very untrained horse Misty thinks she's a pet.

When Ashley, the older lead horse died, Misty was lost. She looked around and all she found was...Donkey. He is now her best friend, and she will follow him just about anywhere: through the gate that Donkey jimmied open, onto the front lawn to eat my daisies, down the road to visit the neighbours. He gets her into plenty of trouble and he is not a very good influence. Donkey taught Misty to chase my lambs and make them bleat in terror. It's one of his favourite games. I had to run down the field, a golf club in my hand, and rescue my lamb from under her huge dinner-plate hooves before she squashed it.

I'm sure she didn't mean any harm. She just heard a small animal making a very strange noise and it seemed a threat to her. From then on I kept the lambs separated from the horse until they were old enough to get away from her big feet.

Misty taps on the back window of the stable with her nose when she wants in. If no one responds, she pushes on the door. If that doesn't work, she goes back to the window and breaks a pane of glass for emphasis. Finally Donkey comes over and shows her how to lift the latch. He has also taught her to lift the freezer door and help herself to sweet feed and corn. But just because Donkey can squeeze through the gap in the barn door doesn't mean Misty can. She's twice his width.

When I enter the barnyard, Misty comes and stands still in front of me. She puts her head down and presses her nose to my chest. This is how she initiates a hug. When I put her in her stall with a load of hay and a bucket of water, she nods her massive head up and down until I fill her bowl with corn. Then she snorts a thank you at me. I do understand some of her language. We communicate a little.

Monty Roberts, the horse whisperer, says that you should not attempt to 'break' an untrained or 'green' horse as was common practice in the past. Even Monty's father believed you had to break a horse's will and tame his spirit in order to control him. Monty found his own way of communicating with the wild mustangs of Nevada, and discovered that if you invite the horse to 'join up' with you, training is a natural process. This man can actually approach a wild horse and go through a series of very patient and methodical steps to get it to trust, approach and follow him. I tried applying his steps in the barnyard with Misty.

Step one: introduce yourself by rubbing (not patting, I learned that lesson with the ram) the horse's head. Now move away and toward the hind end of the horse, keeping clear of the 'kick zone'.

Next, flick a long line (like a whip but not to be used as a whip) at the hind quarters. The horse will start moving around the pen.

When the horse retreats, you advance. Keep the pressure on. After a few rounds of the pen, try to turn the horse in the other direction by flicking the line again. Try to get the animal to canter five or six rounds one way, then in the other direction. Watch the horse.

If he tips his head down toward you, submissively, he is saying "I would like to take a break now." Turn slightly away from the horse and invite his approach.

If he does, you have won his trust. If he stands still but doesn't move, approach him slowly but indirectly, in circular, round-about movements.

I went through these steps with Misty. I didn't have her running around a pen but I walked her back and forth until she stopped and started chewing something on the ground, watching me with one eye and flicking her ear. I turned my back on her and she slowly approached, resting her chin on my shoulder. Maybe she is trainable after all.

Why Keep Gold Fish In Bowls? Misplaced Facts

You must have seen many gold fish kept in bowls in the houses of your friends and acquaintances. Please tell them that they are killing this beautiful animal and you at least do not repeat the same mistake when you are planning keep fish as pets. All fish need movement and even gold fish which is generally considered 'lazy', too needs to move around. But in a bowl do they really have the space to even turn around?

Gold fish kept in bowls or other wise are the most misunderstood fish ever. People use them more as decoration than real fish who are living beings. Here are some of the things that you probably did not know about this beautiful animal.

Gold Fish In Bowls: Misplaced Facts

1. Why In Bowls? Is there any particular reason why gold fish are kept in bowls while even smaller fish like mollies get an big aquarium just to themselves. It is just the mind set that gold fish look good in bowls. If you want to decorate your house then buy decorative show pieces. We have no right to cramp up a living breathing fish just for our entertainment.

2. Who Came First The Chicken Or The Egg? This is the eternal dilemma always haunting man kind. In fact it extends to fish kind too now. Gold fish have been termed as lazy and in active fish with no movement. Is it inactive because you have put in a bowl that does not allow it to move or have you kept it in a cramped up bowl because it doesn't move anyway? Tough one to answer.

3. They Die Too Soon: So why invest is it? If you have a problem with the longevity of the fish then why buy it all? Actually even this accusation does not stand against gold fish because they can live for very long time. It can in fact out live you if you die young! The oldest known gold fish named Trish, in the world lived for 43 fulfilling years. Your gold fish is probably dying young because it is stagnated. Fish need movement to live. If they are stagnant at one place they die.

4. Gold Fish Eat Too Much: Yes, they are greedy big mouths that is true but children are always greedy. Do you let your children overeat? The deal is that gold fish have no stomach at all. There is only temporary storage for their food in the digestive tracts. So your gold fish needs food in small amounts at regular intervals. If you overfeed it at once it will die. After all it is a big animal and needs to eat to support it's bulk, so do not starve it.

These pet care tips should be able explain why gold fish kept in bowls are leading an unhealthy life so give it some space.