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Spoil Your Cat Day

This is Stanley, the spokescat for the CATalyst Council. You can find his advice for cats at http://catalystcouncil.org/.

This is Stanley, the spokescat for the CATalyst Council.

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Dogs aren’t the only ones celebrating Take Your Dog to Work Day.  Cats have been looking forward to this day for a whole year!

“While Friday isn’t Take Your Cat to Work Day, why not make it your very own Spoil Your Cat After Work Day, with extra playtime or a special treat when you get home from work?” asks Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council.

To see how cats everywhere will be celebrating click here.

10 Tips on Finding the Perfect Pet Sitter

By Diane Pomerance, PhD, Rescue Dog Specialist & Pet Expert for Pet News and Views

Many people would not dream of taking a vacation without their pets. However it is not always practical or possible to bring our pets with us. In order for us to be happy on our vacation we want to be sure our pets are happy, healthy and safe while we are away.

Before you go on vacation make sure your dog and your pet sitter spend time together.

As creatures of habit, our animal companions fare best when adhering to their regular daily routines regarding diet, exercise and sleep. An experienced and reliable pet sitter can keep our pets happy and healthy while we’re away. But just how do we go about finding this magical being to be entrusted with the care of our beloved pets? Following are 10 tips to find the perfect pet sitter:

1) Make a list of everything you need in a sitter and a list of the needs of your pet. Will the pet sitter simply need to exercise, feed, provide fresh water and play with your pet? Does your pet require any medications? Do you have plants that need to be watered, mail and newspapers to be taken in and other household duties that need to be discussed?

2) Get recommendations from friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Ask what functions they have their pet sitter perform while they are away. Are these consistent with what you will require?

3) Seek recommendations from your veterinarian and vet techs. Some provide pet sitting services or they may be able to recommend a reputable pet sitter.

4) Contact NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters) for referrals. NAPPS offers a certification program for qualified prospective pet sitters.

Make sure your pet sitter spends time with your playful kitten or cat.

5) Speak with employees of your local pet store for recommendations. They may offer dog socialization and obedience classes, and the trainers themselves may be available to pet sit or know of qualified people to do the job.

6) Your local animal welfare or rescue organization may know of capable, caring, professional people who pet sit.

7) Meet with a potential pet sitter before you go on vacation. Familiarize him with the pet(s) he will be caring for as well as your home. Watch how the pet sitter takes to your pet and how your pet takes to him or her.

8) Write down detailed information about his responsibilities so that he can refer to them whenever necessary. Also provide him with contact information, phone numbers and addresses of your vet, friends and neighbors who can help out if necessary.

9) Make sure he is licensed and bonded and has excellent references and experience.

10) Make certain he is able to handle an emergency and is aware of the phone number and location of the nearest veterinary emergency hospital as well as your vet’s office.

Animal Behavior Expert Diane Pomerance, PhD, is author of thebook, Our Rescue Dog Family Album. She works closely with the SPCA of Texas, K-9 Friends Visiting Therapy Dogs of GTDOG, and the Alaskan Malamute Assistance League.

 

Service Dog Keeps Child Safe

By Michele C. Hollow for Pet News and Views

Imagine how scared Destiny O’Brien’s parents were when they witnessed their child’s first seizure. At age 6, Destiny was diagnosed with Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that effects children ages 6 to puberty.

Destiny and her best pal Salsa.

Tests from Destiny’s first hospital visit showed that she had multiple seizures. The severity varies from simple to violent. Destiny was having both. After her diagnosis, she was on a lot of medications.

Her mom works in a school right next door to Destiny’s elementary school in Tennessee. “I was afraid to leave her alone,” says Rachel, Destiny’s mom. “The seizures happen suddenly.”

Destiny, now age 11, has friends who come over to her house. Her parents understandably don’t want to leave her with people who won’t know how to react to her seizures. Over the course of the last 5 years, Destiny has had a series of seizures. She spent two weeks in the hospital where doctors removed four inches of her brain, a small part of her skull, and put in six clamps, which will eventually come out. The clamps are helping to reform her brain.

When Destiny was first admitted, her doctor suggested she get put on a list for a therapy dog. It took 5 years, and now Salsa, a 2-year old Golden Retriever is always at Destiny’s side. “Salsa is my SBFFE,” says Destiny, which her mom translated to: ‘Super Best Friend Forever and Ever.'”

Training Service Dogs
Salsa was trained by Meghan Hopkins, who works with Canine Assistants, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs for people with physical disabilities and seizure disorders. “We start training the dogs from the time they are a few days old and they graduate when they are between 18 months and 2 years of age,” says Meghan.

Meghan, a former school teacher, explains, “Destiny’s service dog, Salsa, was born and raised at our facilities in Milton, GA. She was trained to help people with physical disabilities and seizure disorders so she learned how to do things such as picking up dropped items, opening and closing doors, turning lights on and off, and going to get help. When Destiny has a seizure, Salsa can go get Destiny’s mom. She can bring her medication or the phone and will lay next to Destiny. Salsa has also begun to alert Destiny to her seizures about 15 minutes before she seizes. This isn’t something we can train the dogs to do; we aren’t even really sure what they are picking up on. It could be a sense of smell but we can’t guarantee that the dogs will do this.”

Detecting Seizures before they Occur
Shortly after Salsa came to live with Destiny, she woke up the entire house around 1 a.m. “Salsa sleeps in Destiny’s room,” says Rachel. “She was acting strange, jumping on and off the bed. We let her out because we thought she needed the potty. That wasn’t it. She just kept on jumping on and off the bed. Finally, she got tired of us not knowing what she wanted to tell us, and she jumped on the bed and lay across Destiny. Then Destiny said, ‘Mom, I think I’m going to have a seizure.’ I rushed and got her medicine, and she was fine.”

Since Salsa has entered Destiny’s life, Destiny takes less meds and has had fewer seizures. Her parents hope that she grows out of this entirely. Some children with this rare form of epilepsy do grow out of it when they reach early adulthood. Her parents don’t know what the future holds, but they are a lot calmer having Salsa around.

Service Dog Goes to School
Salsa sits quietly at Destiny’s side at school. When she is working the other children in the class leave her alone. “We let people play with her during play dates at our home,” says Rachel. “In school, she is working, and shouldn’t be a distraction.”

However, one day at school, Salsa acted out of the ordinary. She left Destiny’s side and lay across the teacher’s legs. Salsa didn’t want to leave the teacher. Later that day, the teacher had her first seizure. “I got a call from the teacher’s husband, and he said his wife had a seizure, and that Salsa picked up on it,” says Rachel.

Love at First Sight
Destiny, her parents, and her 9-year old brother, Devon, got to meet Salsa a few weeks before she came to live with them. “Destiny and Salsa seemed to have an instant connection,” says Meghan. “Destiny came to one of our training camps where she worked with a few different dogs. Salsa pretty much picked her out; they loved each other right away! The camp is 10 days long and the recipients are matched with their new dogs on the second day. We teach them our training methodology and show them how to get the dogs to work for them.”

Destiny always loved animals. Her family owns 5 horses, 3 cats, and another dog.

8 Pit Bull Myths

By Mary L. Harwelik of The Real Pit Bull, Inc, Guest Blogger

Editor’s Note: The American Pit Bull Terrier, a highly intelligent and quite loyal dog, has been villainized as being overly aggressive and dangerous. Mary Harwelik, founder of the Real Pit Bull, a 501(c)3 volunteer-driven nonprofit in central NJ that focuses on educating the public about this lovable breed, debunks 8 myths about this often maligned breed.

Myth 1) Pit Bulls have locking jaws. The jaws of the Pit Bull are functionally the same as the jaws of any other breed. “There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of locking mechanism unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier,” says Dr I. Lerh Brisbin of the University of Georgia.(From the American Dog Breeders Association’s booklet, Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier.)

Myth 2) Pit Bulls chew with their back teeth while gripping with their front teeth. As stated above, the Pit Bull’s jaws are, functionally speaking, the same as all other breeds.

Myth 3) Pit Bulls don’t feel pain. Pit Bulls have the same nervous system of any other breed, and they can and do feel pain. Historically, those dogs that would tolerate or ignore discomfort and pain and finish the task they were required to perform were the dogs that were bred and the sort of dogs breeders strove to produce. This is the trait that so many breed fanciers speak of, which may be defined as, “The desire to continue on and/or complete despite pain and discomfort.”

Myth 4) Pit Bulls have more bit pressure per square inch than any other breed. There could not be any conclusive testing done to measure something like strongest breed bite pressure per square inch. A reason for this lies in the fact that dogs bite with varying pressure depending upon the situation. A dog cannot be instructed to bite down on a measuring device as hard as possible, so a tester could have no way of knowing whether or not a particular dog being tested is actually using its jaws to capacity in any given testing phase. There are also size and strength variations among breeds. A very large Pit Bull may bite harder than a small Rottweiler, German Shepherd or other breed, while a standard sized Pit Bull may not have as much jaw power as a larger, typical sized Rottweiler. If one breed is to claim “highest bite pressure,” all breeds would have to be compared. And there are hundreds of breeds.

Myth 5) Pit Bulls attack more people than any other breed. Bite statistics are difficult to obtain accurately. Dogs that are referred to as Pit Bulls in statistical reports actually are a variety of breeds and mixes. Also many people have a difficult time identifying a true Pit Bull. Considering these facts, the actual number of attacks attributable to American Pit Bull Terriers is considerably lower than represented.

Myth 6) The brains of Pit Bulls swell and cause them to go crazy. Prior to the boom in Pit Bull popularity, the Doberman Pinscher was rumored to suffer from an affliction in which, as the dog grew, the skull became too small to accommodate the brain. This would, according to the rumor, cause the Doberman to go crazy or just snap. This rumor could never be proven, and indeed had no merit whatsoever. Now that the Doberman fad has run its course, the Pit Bull has inherited the swelling brain myth.

Myth 7) Pit Bulls turn on their guardians. Dogs, as a species, do not perform behaviors just because. There are always reasons for behavior, and when aggression becomes a problem the reasons can be such things as improper handling, lack of socialization or training, a misreading of dog behavior by the guardian, or disease. Aggression, when it presents in dogs, follows specific patterns. First come the warning signs, then more warning signs, and finally, using its teeth. When a guardian is startled by a sudden, aggressive outburst, it is because they have been unaware of problems that were brewing. This is true of all dogs, not just Pit Bulls.

Myth 8) The only thing Pit Bulls are good for is dog fighting. Unfortunately, a large amount of attention has been brought to the fact that the Pit Bull was originally created for fighting other dogs in the pit. The truth of the matter is that the Pit Bull is one of the most versatile of canines, capable of excelling at just about any task its guardian asks it to complete. This breed is routinely used for: obedience trialing, conformation showing, weight pull, agility and has even been know to participate in herding trials, search and rescue work, and a variety of other tasks including police and armed services work. But fanciers will argue that the task this breed performs best of all is that of a beloved companion.

Quiz: Where to Meet Single Animal Lovers

(Photo courtesy of PetSmart Charities.)

(Photo courtesy of PetSmart Charities.)

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

When you think about desirable qualities in a mate, it’s likely that “loves pets” is on the top of your list.

If that’s true, you’re in good company. A recent survey conducted by Match and PetSmart Charities found that 4 out of 5 singles are pet lovers. And, more than 80 percent said they have or like pets.

So where can you go to meet all of these single pet people? Take the quiz to find out.

1.  How do you take your coffee?

a. With two sugars

b. Black, no sugar or cream

c. Make it a cappuccino, please

d. With one cream

2. What is your dream vacation?

a. Anywhere on the beach

b. African safari

c. Backpacking across Europe

d. Touring America’s state parks

 3How would your best friends describe you?

a. Warm and giving

b. Active and fun

c. Adventurous and silly

d. Reliable and hard-working

 4What would you most likely pick as your dream job?

a. Head of a nonprofit organization

b. Professional athlete

c. Astronaut

d. Teacher

 5. What activity would you prefer to do your day off?

a. Volunteering with a local charity I love

b. Hiking, biking or swimming

c. Checking out an art museum

d. Working on a DIY project

6. What best describes your pet’s personality?

a. Shy but lovable

b. Extremely active

c. Chill and friendly

d. Always making me laugh

 7. What best describes where you live?

a. Small town

b. Open, woodsy area

c. Big city

d. Near a lake or ocean

 8.   What’s your favorite sport to play?

a. Golf

b. Running

c. Tennis

d. Basketball

Results

Mostly A’s – Volunteer at your local animal shelter: You’re likely giving and considerate and no stranger to volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about. A local animal shelter is a great way to meet other pet lovers who enjoy volunteering, too.  

Mostly B’s – Visit a dog park or walking trail: You’re an active, fun-loving person who loves to be outside any chance you get. Working out and enjoying the outdoors with your pet is a great way to meet other singles. You may even find a new workout buddy!

Mostly C’s – Check out a nearby pet-friendly restaurant or café: You’re probably an adventurous person who is up for anything – whether it’s the newest cuisine or latest fashion trend.  You should seek out a pet-friendly restaurant or café and grab a cup of coffee with your pet to meet someone special.

Mostly D’s – Do some weekend shopping at the farmer’s market: You’re the friend who everyone can always count on. You can probably be found working on a cool DIY project, trying out a new recipe, or getting the best deals during a sale. Why not check out your local farmer’s market to meet your new match? You never know – your soul mate could be right around the corner.

Michele C. Hollow writes about pets and wildlife for parade and other publications. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Working with Animals.  You can connect with her on Twitter.

Maine Moose Tours this Summer

By Michele C. Hollow for Pet News and Views

Moose Standing in Water

The signs along the road alerted us to watch out for moose. It was dark, and we were weary. After driving almost four hours on I-95 from the Sebago Lake region of Maine, we reached the town of Millinocket, a base for visitors to Baxter State Park. With one more mile to go, a moose appeared about a foot in front of our car. It calmly looked at us, while we perked up. Gently trotting in front, it led us to a fork in the road with a sign pointing to Twin Pines Cabins–our destination. It looked at the sign, looked at us, turned her head toward the cabins, and then gave us one last look before departing in the opposite direction.

We reached our cabin giddy from our first moose sighting. The animal was slightly bigger than a full-grown deer. Moose can be as long as 10 feet and reach up to 7 feet at the shoulder. This one didn’t have antlers, so we guessed it was a she. (Only the males have antlers.)

The moose are used to seeing people and don’t seem to mind having their picture taken. Still, our guides warned us that the animals can be skittish. When they get nervous, their eyes will move in different directions–one clockwise, the other counterclockwise. They have terrible vision, but their hearing and sense of smell are excellent.

Our moose tour was organized by the New England Outdoor Center (NEOC). We were scheduled to take a three-hour trip via pontoon, a flat-bottomed boat. Unfortunately, it was raining, so we went by air-conditioned van, which picked us up at Twin Pines (the boat and van hold up to 12 people). Our guides, Mark and Nick, are from the area and know it inside out. NEOC also runs six-hour and overnight wildlife tours, but with an 8-year-old, my husband and I thought three hours would be just fine.

Moose sightings are guaranteed. NEOC’s web site states that “if you don’t see a moose, the next tour is on us.” Nick had eagle eyes and could spot moose across a lake or hidden in the bush. Our first sighting on the tour was of two heads bobbing up and down in the Penobscot River. The rain started to let up as we got out of the van to view the moose taking a swim.

Most of Maine’s moose–there are approximately 40,000 of them–are less than 14 years old, but some live up to 25 years. The moose we saw were kind of scruffy-looking, since they were still shedding their winter coats. Most are a rich dark-chocolate color.

The best months for moose-spotting are May, June, September, October and December. In July and August, prime sightings are likely to be early in the morning or late in the evening. September and October are the best months to see full-antlered males. They shed their antlers in November and December, in preparation for growing new ones in the spring, and according to our guides, many hikers come to Maine to search for the castoffs. Some antlers have even been sold on eBay. Antlers are large and impressive. They’re made of bone–not horn–and are as distinctive as our fingerprints. They can have up to 30 tines (spikes), which are showy and useful for attracting mates.

Moving onward, we saw other moose in the distance, and were lucky to encounter one up close by the side of the road. We stood silently, just a few feet away. My son asked a few questions; the moose looked up, and, sensing that we weren’t a threat, went back to his supper. We watched him eat for a while, amazed at his size and shape: long, curved nose, bulky body and long, thin legs that hardly seem able to support all that weight (males average 850 to nearly 1,200 pounds; females, 600 to 800 pounds).

As we toured the area, our guides stopped to show us some rapids (NEOC also hosts rafting and fishing tours). In addition to telling us a bit about the area, they suggested that to blend in with the locals, we should talk like Mainers: “Tell everyone you rolled the roads for swamp donkey.” That’s local for “I went on a moose tour by van.”

If Your Go
Our log cabin at Twin Pines was large and equipped with a wood-burning stove, a small kitchen, full bathroom, two full-size beds and bunk beds. NEOC’s moose tour leaves from Twin Pines. For more information, call 1-800-766-7238.

Dogs Left Inside Cars

(Courtesy of Pets Best.)

(Courtesy of Pets Best.)

 

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

I know that Pet News and Views’ readers would never leave their dogs or cats inside a car.  It could be life threatening for your pet.

According to Pets Best Insurance Services, today is National Heat Awareness Day.  If it is 68 degrees outside, the inside temperature of your car can jump to 81 within 10 minutes, and reach up to 115 degrees in an hour.

Please copy and share this infographic, and place it on cars. If you do see a dog or cat in a car even with the windows cracked, please call animal control.

Michele C. Hollow writes a pets/wildlife column for Parade. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Working with Animals (Adams Media).

Teaching Kids about Animals

While most kids are indoors playing video games, 9-year old Enzo Monfre can be found outdoors observing bugs, hedgehogs, and other critters that are native to his Texas backyard. It’s not that Enzo doesn’t like video games; on the contrary, he enjoys them. He just prefers to be among nature.

Enzo and capybara on Enzoology

“Animals are really cool, and some are weird in a cool way,” he explains. A few of his favorites are insects, snakes–such as pythons, constrictors, and anacondas–and hedgehogs. Enzo prefers playing with his pet hedgehog over the game Sonic the Hedgehog. According to his dad, Pete, “Enzo has been, some say, obsessed with science ever since he was three.”

Exotic Pets
He grew up with dogs, fish, and frogs. He describes his pet hedgehog, Spike, as sweet and cuddly. “There’s a difference between cuddly and furry,” says Enzo. “Spike is almost a year old, and if you hold him right and are wearing gloves, you can cuddle with him.”

His other pet is furry. Rosie’s a Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula. “It’s one of the most common types of tarantulas,” says Enzo. “It gets its name from its home and from its color.”

Home Schooling Allows Time for Teaching
Enzo, who is home schooled by his parents Heidi and Pete, loves teaching others about animals. He currently has an online TV show called Enzoology that’s both entertaining and educational. He got the idea a few years ago while watching a praying mantis in his backyard. “Our yard opens up to the woods,” he says. “We have a ton of creatures back here. A few night’s ago, I saw a fox. We get visits from possums, raccoons, lizards, and other creatures. I saw one that looked like an alien. It was a praying mantis. I picked it up and started talking about it like I was on TV. My dad grabbed the camcorder, and that was our first show.”

Sharing A Love for Animals
In addition to having his own online show, Enzo gives talks with live animals to children at schools, museums, and community centers. “Most of his knowledge comes from watching shows on National Geographic or Discovery Channel,” says Pete. “He also has an extensive library of reference books, and Heidi and I have been reading to him since an early age. We also use the Internet to fill in any gaps in knowledge and to check facts. Recently the University of Texas and NASA has started working with Enzoology to provide even more science and research.”

“He’s not a genius,” says Pete. “It’s just that he has an enormous appetite for this kind of knowledge. He’s a bright kid who works really hard. He definitely surprised John Abbott, PhD and the curator of Entomology at the University of Texas, with his knowledge. There was an event with all these entomology people, and John was there. He was quite impressed with Enzo.”

So now the University of Texas’ entomology department (along with Herpeton Exotic Pets, The Dallas Zoo, and Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge) loans Enzo insects and other animals for his show. The other animals are caught (and later released) in Enzo’s backyard. “We also have friends who happen to own large snakes and other folks who simply love Enzoology and offer to have us feature their critters,” says Pete.

Enzo’s goal is to spread the word about animals and nature, and has plans to be an astronaut/entomologist when he grows up. In the meantime, Enzo hopes to get more kids interested in science and animals by continuing to tour and talk about animals and by recording more episodes of Enzoology.

Enzo with Rosie, his pet tarantula

Check on Pets in Foreclosed Homes

If you have a neighbor with pets who is moving or traveling, keep your eyes and ears open. While I find this hard to believe, some families intentionally abandon their animals, and when it comes to foreclosed homes, banks don’t always inspect all of the properties. “Often people will leave a pet behind without food or water,” says Anna Nirva, founder of Sunbear Squad. “On too many occasions, some families think that arrangements were made for care, but miscommunication can cause days or even weeks of starvation and dehydration.”

“There is a group of volunteer realtors in Arizona who check foreclosed-upon homes to look for abandoned animals,” says Nirva. “I wish there were more of these groups.”

If you live in a neighborhood with many foreclosed properties, check on those homes. Call out near windows and doors. Do you hear cats or dogs call back? If you do hear an animal inside, call your local no-kill shelter. By doing this you may save a life.

Sunbear Squad’s name comes from the dog who was abandoned in a home. The Sunbear Squad website inspires those who want to help animals in need.

For the Birds and Butterflies

Migration takes place in Cape May now through mid November

By Michele C. Hollow of  Pet News and Views

Crested Terns in Jarvis Sound, Cape May. (Photo by Steven M. Hollow.)

We are hot-wired to tune out excessive sights and sounds. If we did see and hear everything around us, our brains would go on overload. So, when I went birding at Cape May, NJ, I was awe-struck by the number of birders who would spot a spec in the sky and call out “Tern,” “Kingfisher,” or “Kestrel.” Each time they got it right.

I don’t have 20/20, but my eyes aren’t that bad. Even with binoculars, I had trouble identifying the types of birds that soared high in the sky. After, a day, with the experts, I started spotting birds in marshes and in trees. I still didn’t know all of their names, but each time one came into view, I would shout out an “Oh, wow!” To read the rest of the article, which I wrote for the NY Daily News, click here.