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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.


Sign Up Your Service Animal to Receive A Free Eye Exam

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views 

Poodle getting a free eye exam. (Photo credit: ACVO.)

Poodle getting a free eye exam. (Photo credit: ACVO.)

Service animals, which include guide, handicapped assistance, detection, military, search and rescue, and registered therapy animals, are being honored for their work with free eye exams from the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO). Registration runs from April 1-30, and the exams will be scheduled throughout the month of May.

More than 250 board certified veterinary ophthalmologists throughout the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico will donate their time and resources to provide free eye exam screenings to thousands of eligible service animals. Registration for service animal owners and handlers runs from April 1–30.

To qualify, animals must be “active working animals” that were certified by a formal training program or organization, or are currently enrolled in a formal training program. The certifying organization could be national, regional, or local in nature.  For more details, click here.

How to Save Money on Pet Meds

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Pet News and Views is offering Free Pet Discount Drug Cards that’s actually good for pet and human prescription medications.  A lot of the drugs prescribed for pets are the same meds that we take—just smaller doses.  The cards are accepted at over 80 percent of all pharmacies in the U.S. and its territories, from national chains to local drug stores. The card never expires and can be used over and over again.

You can print out this card to use for your pet’s prescriptions. Just take it with the prescription from your vet to your local pharmacy to receive the discount.

This is not pet insurance or health insurance for people. All health insurance coverage for people does not cover pet medications. And not all pet health insurance plans include prescription drugs for pets. I hope you never have to use it, and that your pet will live a long and happy life. However, it is good to have on hand.

How It Works
With this card you can save up to 55% on generics and up to 15% on brand-name medications.  Subscribe to Pet News and Views and send me an e-mail (michele@petnewsandviews.com) with your name and full address saying you subscribed and want a free card. Once you get the card in the mail, take it with a prescription from your veterinarian to a participating pharmacy to receive the discount. You can use it for your own medications too! If you don’t wish to subscribe, you can just print out a copy of the card from this post and take that to your local pharmacy with a prescription from your pet’s veterinarian or from your own doctor.

For information about pet insurance, click here.

Student Petitions Big Tobacco Company to Stop Animal Testing

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Animals don't smoke, and neither should people.

Animals don’t smoke, and neither should people.


Jordan Turner, a 19-year old student and animal protection advocate from Watertown, WI, is taking on Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, to ban animal testing. He started his Change.org petition days after the third largest tobacco company in the United States, Lorillard, announced a ban on animal testing. In his petition, Jordan writes about Philip Morris’s alleged involvement in tests where rats have been forced to inhale smoke for hours at a time during experiments lasting for weeks.

“There’s no excuse for cruel animal testing for tobacco products,” says Jordon, “and I hope Philip Morris listens to the 108,000 people who have signed my petition on Change.org asking them to stop just like Lorillard has done already.”

Philip Morris USA’s parent companies, Altria Group, and Philip Morris International, both have made public statements which leave the door open for limited animal experiments in the future, while Lorillard’s updated policy says it will “not use animals unless necessary to meet regulatory requirements.”

In Pet News and Views’ opinion, these tests make no sense. We know the affects that smoking has on all of us.

For more information, and to sign the petition, click here.

The Olympics and Strays


By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

In just a few days people from all over the world will be watching the Olympic Games. The host city of Sochi in Russia is trying to put its best face forward in hopes of boosting tourism throughout the city and the country.

According to Andrew Rowan, CEO of Humane Society International (HSI), the city of Sochi hired a company to kill stray animals before the crowds descend. Rowan is urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the culling. “Killing street dogs, whether through poisoning, shooting, or other means, is not only inhumane, but ineffective,” says Rowan.

HSI, the global arm of The Humane Society of the United States, has been implementing street dog programs throughout the world for nearly two decades. According to Rowan, HSI’s programs include mass sterilization, vaccination, and community education. “It’s the only effective approach to solve the street dog issue long term,” he says.

In a letter delivered to President Putin, HSI describes its collaboration with governments from around the world to implement programs to humanely and effectively control street dog populations. These programs, which are in place in India and Bhutan, among other countries, have resulted in fewer dogs on the street; a reduction in the rate of dog attacks, and substantial reduction in the number of dog bites requiring treatment; and an improved human-dog relationship that benefits both people and dogs.

The letter also describes how HSI has closely monitored the street dog problem in Russia for the past two decades, observing that street dog programs implemented by local governments have suffered from lack of resources and commitment.

HSI became involved in Sochi last summer when city officials announced a plan to kill 2,000 dogs ahead of the Winter Olympics. The international outcry forced city officials to abandon that plan. HSI stands ready to help Russian authorities address street dogs, saying in the letter that: “While it is too late for many dogs in Sochi, we again offer to provide advice and expertise on how to manage dog populations humanely.”

A full copy of the letter to President Putin is available here. You can sign this letter to President Putin urging him to find a better way to manage the street dog problem in Russia.

A Love Story

Quesadilla, or Casey, which is a more dignified name. (Photo from David Groves.)

Quesadilla, or Casey, which is a more dignified name. (Photo from David Groves.)

By David Groves for Pet News and Views

My longtime companion Claire has many assets, but strength isn’t one of them.  She comes from a long line of quiet skinny people.  Skinny looks great in a short dress, but it doesn’t help much when you have to hang up on a telemarketer.

When we take our walk, I quickly leave her in the dust.  When we return home, I’m invigorated by the exercise, but she’s always depleted.

Once, a woman made overtures towards being her friend by inviting her to a party, and Claire responded happily.  Soon, however, it became clear that the woman was only interested in converting her to a Chinese cult religion.

“Call her up and tell her not to pick you up, that you’re not going,” I said.

Claire hesitated.  I could see the conflict in her eyes, which let me know what she was thinking: I don’t want to be mean to her.

“Do you want to become a member of that cult?” I said.


“Then call her up and tell her you’re not going.”

So just before Claire’s father died in 2011, he made Claire promise something.

“Promise me you’ll be strong,” he said.

“I promise, Dad,” she said.


Claire has a lot of compassion. (Photo by David Groves.)

Claire has a lot of compassion. (Photo by David Groves.)

 Although she’s not naturally a strong one, Claire has other assets.  Over the years, I have slowly discovered this.  Early on in the relationship, I was waffling on whether she was a good long-term partner, because strength is important.  I wondered whether she would be able to stand up to the challenges that face a couple.  I didn’t want somebody who would fold at every confrontation, either with a stranger or even with myself.

Compassion and gentleness, though, she’s got that market cornered.  It was pointed out to me most clearly in 2008, when Claire and I visited an animal shelter, looking for a bunny to use in my magic shows.  There were many to choose from, but one stood out above all others.  He was ash grey and a year old.  When Claire put her hand near his face, he turned his face into it.  That settled it. That was the bunny for us.

We called him Quesadilla.  He was another in a long line of bunnies that I had had since 1990, when I first started doing magic.  There was Snowball, my first bunny, who was white.

Then I started giving them funny names so that the kids would laugh.  I named the next one Count Chocula, and he lasted an amazing 14 years.  A vet once told me that he had never heard of a bunny living that long.  When he passed on, we wrapped him in a plastic bag and buried him in the backyard, placing a cross on top.  But it wasn’t deep enough for the coyotes, who dug him up that night.

So when it came to this bunny in 2008, I named him Quesadilla.  The name made the kids laugh, but Claire could call him a serious name, Casey, for short.

“Because he deserves a serious name,” she said.

I used him in all my shows and all the kids loved him. “Are all rabbits this calm?” they would say, petting him.

“No, there are good ones and bad ones, just like people,” I said.  “This is a good one.”

When you petted his cheek, he would close his eyes and get into it like it was a piece of lovely music.  In fact, it was like a piece of music, in that it was a melody that was being played between the two of us. 

Rabbits are simple creatures, and since they’re so far down on the food chain, they’re always a little bit scared.  But it seemed that while we were petting his cheek, or between his ears, or his shoulders, that he wasn’t scared for just a little while.

But Casey tended to flee from me, even after I got to know him.  Perhaps it was because I treated him straightforwardly.  I grabbed him whenever I needed him for a show.  When he bit me territorially, I gave him a rap on the nose. 

When he didn’t seem to want to be with me, I walked away.  Perhaps it was also because Claire, for the most part, was the one who fed him.

That’s when I started noticing how Claire’s gentleness could accomplish things that my straightforwardness could not.  First thing in the morning, Casey would be waiting by the balcony sliding-glass door for her.  She would feed him baby carrots and cilantro, or whatever green leafy vegetable was in season.  She would kneel down on the floor and coax him inside, waiting as long as ten minutes, if that’s what it took.  Then she would stroke his face, his head, his body, in a gentle and loving manner.  She discovered the love within him and nurtured it.

In the evenings, Claire would come back from teaching an English composition class at the college, and first thing, she would ask me.

“Have you fed Casey yet?”

And if I hadn’t, she would go out there with another bowl and her gentle ways.  Every night, she would spend ten minutes saying goodnight to him. Claire believed that Casey had feelings.  When we went away on vacation, she would get down on her hands and knees and talk with him.

“David and Claire are going away,” she would say.  “Katherine will take care of you.”

Claire believed that he understood the word away.  

A couple weeks ago, Casey got sick.  It was the heat.  Bunnies don’t withstand the heat well.  He had been out in the sun too long, and when he got into the shade, he was lethargic and unwell.  We both tended to him.  Claire waited for him to indicate what he wanted, but I knew that you had to force some things on him, so I placed the water dish directly under his mouth and prodded him to drink.  He responded, drinking more than I’ve ever seen him drink.

We were worried.  We had never seen him like this.  We tried to feed him fresh carrots and cilantro, but for three days, he wasn’t interested.

On Tuesday, I flew to Kansas to chase down my ancestors. Tuesday night, Claire had a dream.  She was talking with her father, who had died two years ago.

“Be strong for me,” he had said.

In the morning, when Claire came out to see Casey with a bowl of carrots and cilantro–three days’ worth had already been refused–it turned out that Casey had passed away during the night.  His small body was laid out on the balcony, still warm. I’m sure she gasped.

Claire promptly left a voicemail message for me in a shaky voice. “Call me right away.”

When I heard it, I was hoping that my mother or sister hadn’t died.  But Casey was a part of our family, too.

“Can you put him in a plastic bag?” I asked.  “Can you call the city to pick him up?”

And that’s when she told me about the dream.  Yes, she would be strong.  She had promised her father that she would.  But I love her all the more because she wasn’t.

David Groves works as a writer and magician. Check out his website, which has videos of him performing magic.



Black Dog Syndrome

When I first heard about Black Dog Syndrome, I thought it was an Internet hoax. A trainer who rescued a black Labrador retriever told me that the shelter workers where she adopted her black Lab from were thrilled that she chose a black dog.

Black Labs are so handsome. It is inconceivable that they are often overlooked at shelters.

In case you don’t know, Black Dog Syndrome is when people don’t adopt dogs with black fur. I grew up with a German Shepherd/Collie/Beagle mix who was mostly black and dark brown. He was extremely handsome, and quite intelligent, which made me think that Black Dog Syndrome just couldn’t exist.

Yet, I kept on hearing about it on chat rooms, on the Internet, from friends who do rescue work, and from people who work at animal shelters. One person told me that when she was looking to adopt a Labrador retriever, she was astounded at the disparity between available yellow dogs versus black dogs. The wait for a yellow lab from a rescue group could be months or years, while there were plenty of black labs available.

Many shelters are showing black dogs with colorful collars.

Why Black Dogs are Overlooked
When you place a bunch of black dogs in a shelter amongst tan, red, yellow, mixed and other colors, people’s gaze goes towards the lighter or brighter animals. “As a brand marketing professional, I can tell you color is a powerful perception tool,” says Steven Vena, owner of The Nimble Group, Inc., a brand marketing and advertising agency. “If I am walking down the street, I would bet more people would pet the tan dog versus the black dog.”

I was able to see his point–even though I didn’t like it. I grew up in New York, and have a lot of black clothes in my closet. I remember attending an expo at the Javits Center; the majority of men dressed in black suits and the women wore black dresses. I came along in a bright orange blazer, and got lots of comments. Many people thanked me for wearing a sunny color.

Still when it comes to fur or skin color, I think black is more interesting because it’s not just black. Look at a cat, dog, or person with black coloring and you will see reds, browns, and a nice mix of other tones thrown in. Maybe because I’m extremely fair skinned, I appreciate other colors. I was thankful for my freckles; otherwise I would have a ghostlike complexion!

Photos of Black Dogs and Cats
Take a look at photos of adoptable dogs and cats on line; the black ones are often blurry. Thankfully, many shelters are using professional photographers to show off these dogs and cats. Some are showing black dogs and cats with colorful collars to make them stand out.

Black Cats
Black cats also have a hard time getting adopted. A lot of that has to do with superstitions. Personally, I had a black cat, and everyone loved him. He was the sweetest, and had a playful personality. His green eyes stood out against his expressive face.

Even half asleep, this black cat is incredibly beautiful.

I have trouble understanding this, but there are some people who regard black cats as witches’ familiars. It has gotten so bad that shelters won’t adopt out a black cat around Halloween time. It seems that people want to use black cats for rituals around that time. So a good number of shelters refuse to adopt out their black cats from the end of September to the beginning of November.

And I know this is going to sound screwy, but some people believe that vampires transform themselves into black dogs as a way of traveling unnoticed at night. (I just don’t get some people.) So unfortunately, black cats and dogs are the last, if at all, to be adopted.

Black Dog and Black Cat Syndrome are real. The next time you are looking to adopt a dog or cat, take personality into account. Talk to the shelter workers or the volunteers at the rescue group, and make an informed decision.

To My Readers: Thanks for alerting me to Black Dog and Black Cat Syndrome. Many of you have posted stories on LinkedIn and at other sites regarding this topic. I appreciate the many e-mails you have sent me. If you want to write about your experience with a black dog or black cat or with Black Dog/Cat Syndrome, please do so in the comments section of this post. And keep your story suggestions coming! I really appreciate all of you!

Why do cats do the things they do?

By Michele C. Hollow for Pet News and Views

Karma and Chai at 14 weeks.

Karma and Chai at 14 weeks.

Every once in a while my cats, Chai and Karma, make mad dashes around the house. It usually happens at night. We have three floors in our house, and they practically fly up and down the steps.  If you ever wondered why cats get the night crazes, why they rub up against you, and why they exhibit other somewhat strange behaviors, read on.

Racing around the house often starts in the early evening, and can go on all hours of the night till morning. It stems from instinct, when all kinds of cats–from lions to pumas to house cats–are on the hunt. They run, dive, and chase prey. Yes, I know there is no prey in your house, but it’s their instinct.

Why Do Cats Purr? Kittens purr to let their mother’s know that everything is all right. Cats purr when they feel safe and happy.

Why Do Cats Caterwaul? Caterwauling and random meowing often occurs at night. The loud, sometimes distressing, sound is a mating call. Doesn’t sound romantic to you, but it does catch the attention of other cats. A caterwaul is the cry of a cat in heat. Okay, your cat is fixed, and she still does it. This is a way to communicate with you. Yes, I know it is 2 a.m. Cats are nocturnal creatures, and when they are in close contact with humans, they talk more. Cats in the wild rarely speak. They use body language and scent to communicate. You can invite you cat to sleep in your room. This sometimes curtails this habit.

Why Do Cats Lick Themselves? In addition to keeping clean and smooth, licking cools a cat off in hot weather. Licking also helps cats stay warm; they fluff up their fur with their tongues, and that creates a blanket effect.

Why Do Cat’s Tongues Feel Rough? Ever been licked by a cat? A cat’s tongue is rough to the touch,”kind of like fine sandpaper. Cats use their tongues to brush their fur.

Why Do Cats Arch their Backs and Puff Up? When a cat puffs up and arches his back, he looks bigger and tough. Actually, he is scared or angry. This is a way to keep others at a safe distance.

Why Do Cats Knead? This up and down kneading action stems from nursing. Kittens press against their mother with one paw and then the other. When adult cats knead, it reminds her of her mother when she was a kitten.

How Can A Cat’s Whiskers Help Them? Cats have 24 whiskers–12 on each side. Cats use their whiskers to see if they can get through tight spaces. If their whiskers can fit through an opening, then the rest of their body can too.

Why Do Cats Rub Up Against Your Legs? This is a way of sharing their scent with you. It’s a bonding experience that lets other cats know that you are owned by a cat!