Thursday, March 31, 2011

Special Achievers: Denver Explosive Detection Canine Unit

By Linda Cole

Bomb sniffing dogs and their handlers are one of our most reliable defenses against hidden explosive devices. These highly trained canines and handlers help keep our airports, borders and cities safe. I recently had the honor of talking with Officer Armando Cruz of the Denver Police Department Explosive Detection Canine Unit. Officer Cruz and his dog, Masc, are both skilled in the art of bomb sniffing – well, Masc does the sniffing – and Officer Cruz and Masc are stationed at the Denver International Airport along with seven other canine teams. CANIDAE is proud to sponsor this Explosive Detection Canine Unit through its Special Achievers program.

The DPD K-9 unit has three Labs, four German Shepherds and one Belgian Malinois. Along with their duties at the Denver airport, they also respond to calls in the Denver area and other jurisdictions when asked. The mission of the DPD Explosive Detection Canine Unit is to detect and prevent criminals from being able to use explosive devices by finding them before they can cause damage or injuries. Established in 1972, the dog teams are a proven and reliable balance to the DPD's counter-sabotage program, and they help prevent terrorist attacks.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kitty Wigs, Puppy Tweets and Other Funny Pet Products

By Julia Williams

It’s impossible to know just how many pet lovers there are in the world. The Pet Food Institute estimates there are around 75 million pet dogs and 85 million pet cats in the U.S. alone. Our penchant for pets did not go unnoticed by inventors either, as evidenced by the staggering number of pet-related products available today. Many of them are useful and necessary, while others are just plain dumb. Here are a few of my favorite funny pet products.

Kitty Wigs are colorful hairpieces created for fashionable cats. Technically, one might argue these are really wigs for cat owners, especially those who don’t mind their bodies being used as scratching posts. Or as one cat said on a pet blog I read, “If the Human ever put one of those wigs on me, she'd need a transfusion.” Kitty Wigs cost $60 and come in four colors. Founder Julie Jackson says “the wigs are NOT toys but a way to spend some fun time with your cat….especially fun for photo sessions.” Don’t laugh – with more than 5,ooo fans on Facebook and a selling-like-hotcakes book (Glamourpuss: The Enchanting World of Kitty Wigs) it seems there are legions of people who love Kitty Wigs. My take: they’re cute, but I like my limbs scratch-free, thank you very much. 

Fur Ever Keepsakes are made from your pet’s hair! You brush your pet, send in your fur and receive the handspun yarn back, or you can have it custom-made into a scarf, mittens, hat, photo frame, pillow, stuffed bear, bookmark and more. VIP Fibers claims to have spun over 1,858 pounds of pet fiber to date, producing nearly 2 million yards of keepsake yarn. My take: gives new meaning to pet owners who want Fluffy and Fido to be with them “furever.” 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What is the Best Way to Feed Your Pet?

By the Drs4Pets Team

There really isn’t a single “best” way to feed every pet. It is important to make adjustments to your feeding regimen to fit the lifestyle that you and your pet lead, as well as taking into account any health needs that your pet might have.

Figuring out just the right amount of food to feed our pets can be a real challenge. While pet food packaging provides a detailed feeding guideline in most cases, it is important to realize that this really is just a suggestion, a place to start. Work with your vet to determine your pet’s ideal weight and body condition, and adjust the amount you feed up or down as needed to maintain this “ideal.” Puppies and kittens have higher energy requirements to support their rapid growth and development. Very young pets may need 2- 3 times the amount of food that an adult at the same weight would need.

Monday, March 28, 2011

When Can Children Be Responsible Pet Owners?

By Linda Cole

Most kids are drawn to pets like a moth is to light. We've all seen the cute videos of kids playing with dogs or being overrun by a litter of puppies. Screams of delight erupt from the child as they’re covered in puppy kisses and wiggling bodies. Kids can and do accept caring for pets all the time, but like anything that's learned, taking good care of a pet depends on the age and personality of the child.

I'll never forget the night my mom brought home my first puppy. I was only about 3 years old, but I remember that night as if it was yesterday. My mom wore a cream colored winter coat with huge, deep pockets. It was a cold night, and the smell of fresh winter air clung to her coat. She called my brother, sister and me into the kitchen. Grinning, she dug down inside her pocket. As she withdrew her hand, tucked inside her palm was a pure black, purebred Rat Terrier puppy with eyes that sparkled like stars. We named the puppy Susie and she, along with four wild kittens that came three years later from my Grandma's house, taught me how to be a responsible pet owner.

Children have a lot on their minds; growing up is hard to do after all. Being a responsible pet owner isn't usually on their agenda. But it is for some kids. Susie wasn't the best dog breed for small children and she put up with a lot from my siblings and me when we were little. But as I grew older, I started to learn who Susie was as an individual dog and discovered the joy of interacting with her. Taming four wild kittens taught me how to be patient and gentle.

Being a responsible pet owner means making a commitment to a pet to attend to their needs, care for them in sickness and health, and love them. Some children embrace responsible pet ownership from the day an animal enters the home, even if they don't realize it. However, most children need a chance to mature before they're ready to assume a responsible role in the care of a pet. Kids become responsible pet owners when they are ready to understand what the needs of a pet are.

Tamara Waters’ article, “How to Help Kids Learn Responsible Pet Ownership,” is filled with excellent suggestions for teaching kids about caring for a pet. All kids need a mentor to help them learn what it means to be responsible for another living being. It's up to parents to teach kids what it means to care for a pet as they embark on a journey to discover who their pet is. Caring for my pets was never a chore for me, because I wanted to play with them, and I loved to feed Susie because she did tricks. But just playing with a pet doesn't make someone a responsible pet owner. I had to learn about commitment, the proper way to teach a pet, and why it's important to treat them with respect.

When you love a pet or person, you want to protect them and make them happy. You learn to respect them as you earn theirs and a bond grows no matter which kind of relationship it is. Some kids are ready to be responsible pet owners at a fairly young age, while others may not be ready until they are older. It depends on the child and their level of understanding of what it means to be a responsible owner. It also depends on their ability to take the initiative to do something for the pet without having to be told.

A pet should never be brought into the home for the sole purpose of teaching a kid how to be responsible. Sit down with your child before getting a pet to make sure they are at least willing to learn how to care for a pet and take on some of the responsibility. If they are, then you can decide as a family what kind of pet to get.

Looking back, Susie and our four wild cats we tamed (Smoky, Cinnamon, Taffy and Coco) were my best friends. Learning how to be a responsible pet owner is a process we all have to go through. Some children learn at an earlier age than others. The important thing is moving from feeling like you're doing chores, to giving a pet what he needs without thinking about it. When it becomes an automatic reaction instead of a forced response to doing chores, this is when a child is on their way to becoming a responsible pet owner.

Photo by Sharon Lee

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Canine Care for Responsible Pet Owners

By Suzanne Alicie

Your canine friend is probably looking forward to warmer days as much as you are. He’s eager for longer walks and romping in the yard, visits to the dog park and the great outdoors. However, now that spring has arrived, there are some matters of canine care you should undertake as a responsible pet owner.

A vet checkup in the spring is always a good idea. You will get a general overview of your dog’s health and can also make sure he’s up to date on all his shots. By aligning these visits with the changing of the season, you are making it a routine that you will remember to keep up with.

Check your dog’s toys, leash, collar, harness and other equipment for signs of wear and tear. All of these things can present a danger to your dog when they break. Whether that means a loose dog running around the neighborhood or a choking hazard from a destroyed toy, either one is a problem for you and your pet. Make sure that everything is in good condition.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why Should You Foster a Pet?

By Linda Cole

My neighbor is a crazy cat lady, like me and my co-writer Julia Williams. We are proud of our label and would do anything to help a cat or dog. My neighbor is also a foster mom who nurses litters of kittens that have lost their mom. She gives pets a quiet place to mend a broken leg or heal from the abusive home they were rescued from. Working with our local animal shelter, my neighbor puts a lost soul back together so the pet can be adopted out to a forever home. If you love pets and have been searching for a way to help out your local shelter, opening up your home to animals in need is one of the best things you can do.

I recently wrote an article about an organization called Guardian Angels for Soldier's Pet. Instead of a soldier being forced to give up a family pet, this organization helps find foster homes to care for the soldier's pet while they serve our country overseas. Because of caring pet lovers who open up their homes to these temporary pets, shelters across the nation have fewer animals to care for. The soldier can deploy knowing their pet is being well cared for, and they don't have to wonder what happened to them.

Shelters have seen an increase in the number of pets surrendered to them across the country. An estimated 8 million pets end up in shelters every year and many healthy, adoptable animals are put to sleep because there just aren't enough people to adopt them. Friends, family and neighbors have all been caught up in an economic downturn that sometimes doesn’t leave them with a lot of choices when it comes to a family pet. I've been fostering a friend's dog to give my friend a chance to get back on his feet financially. It doesn't matter how long it takes; this is one dog that will not end up in a shelter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Kitty Cat Trivia Quiz, Just for Fun!

By Julia Williams

If you’re a “cat person” like me (now…don’t go calling me crazy just because I love cats!) then you probably know a lot about them. Test your knowledge of kitty cat trivia with this fun quiz. 

1. Calico cats are almost always:
A. Left pawed
B. Female
C. Friendly
D. Finicky

2. A group of cats is called a:
A. Clowder
B. Pack
C. Hoard
D. Nothing. Cats don’t congregate in groups.

3. Which of these is NOT a well known cat myth or saying?
A. Cats always land on their feet
B. Cats have nine lives
C. It’s raining cats and dogs
D. Don’t throw the cat out with the bath water

4. What is a cat doing when it’s “making biscuits?”
A. Playing with bread dough
B. Training to be a chef
C. Kneading with its paws
D. Auditing for a Food Network show

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is Your Border Collie Bored? Rent Some Sheep!

By Linda Cole

A Border Collie is a great dog to share your home with, as long as you can keep up with them. Because they are so smart, it's easy for them to dream up things that get them into trouble. They also need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. The Border Collie was born to herd, but if you don't have any livestock, what can you do? One option to consider is renting sheep. In fact, sheep rentals are on the rise as owners with bored Border Collies search for ways to entertain their dogs and give them some much needed exercise.

Dealing with any bored dog, regardless of his breed, can leave your home in a shambles and a perfectly good couch ripped to shreds. It's not the fault of the dog who releases pent up energy while he's home alone. Border Collies aren't made to just sit around twittering their paws waiting for us to come home. They need plenty of stimulating action that allows them the opportunity to stretch their legs and minds. I've learned from experience just how smart a Border Collie is, and that they need lots of exercise. On the plus side, it forces me to get some much needed exercise as well.

Border Collies originally came from the border area of Scotland and England, and are thought to be descendants of dogs used by Vikings to herd reindeer. It's said that a Border Collie has a hypnotizing stare and is able to control sheep and other animals with their intense eyes. With no sheep to herd, they turn to cats, kids, adults and other dogs as the next best thing. They don't care what they herd, they just want and need something to control. After all, that's what they're good at and it's the reason for the breed.

Monday, March 21, 2011

5 Items You Don't Need When You Have a Pet

By Tamara L. Waters

A pet can enrich our lives in so many ways, but there’s one way we probably never counted on –saving money. That's right! There are some normal household items you just don't need when you have a pet, so imagine the money you can save!

Back Massager: Kitties make perfect back massagers, provided you keep their claws trimmed. Instructions: Make sure kitty is in good mood. Place kitty on your back. Hope kitty decides to knead your back. If kitty complies, sigh loudly. Appreciate kitty.

Now, if your kitty isn't a kneader (seriously, what cat isn't?), perhaps you could demonstrate to them what type of a massage you need. After all, cats are known for their spectacular ability to follow directions. Or not.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Catahoula Leopard Dog, an American Original

By Ruthie Bently

The Catahoula Leopard Dog originated in northern Louisiana near the area of the Catahoula Lake. Catahoula is a Choctaw Indian word that means “sacred lake.” The “Leopard” in this breed’s name comes from the spots on the dog’s coat. The Catahoula Leopard Dog is known by other names including Catahoula Cur, Catahoula Hog Dog, Catahoula Hound and Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. It was officially named Louisiana’s state dog in 1979 due to its importance to the history of Catahoula Parish. While the Catahoula is not yet able to compete in American Kennel Club confirmation events, it has been designated a member of the Herding Group and has been recorded in the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service since 1996.

Early settlers to Louisiana found wild boar and an indigenous Indian dog species. It is hard to prove that the Native Americans in the area had Catahoulas when the first European settlers arrived. During the 1539 expedition of Hemando de Soto, the Spanish explorer and his clerks wrote that the native Indian’s dog looked like a wolf but barked instead of howled. Tales state that the war dogs de Soto brought (bloodhounds, greyhounds and mastiffs) were bred with the native dogs to provide a new breed for the Native Americans. These tales have been passed down from generations of settlers that settled in north central Louisiana, and it is thought that the Catahoula Leopard Dog of today is the descendant of these dogs.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Cautionary Tale for Mischievous Kitties

By Rocky Williams

Rocky here, and today I want to share a cautionary tale for all of my feline friends. I shall call it, “Curiosity didn't kill this cat, but meeeeoooow, my mouth is on FIRE!”

I am what you would call a “nosy” cat. I have to check everything out, and my rule of paw is, “everything in the house belongs to me!”

It's a simple rule, really…if I find it, it's mine and I can do whatever I want with it.  That probably explains why the Warden rarely leaves anything out on the kitchen counter, because I confiscate it immediately if it looks like something I might want to eat or play with.

Bag of chips? Mine, all mine! Crackers? Mine. Package of pasta? Mine (but only until I rip open the bag to find out this stuff tastes awful!). Pens and pencils? Mine. Roll of paper towels? Mine – and oh, what a fun toy this is! I bite and claw the roll until all of the paper is shredded and little pieces are everywhere! The only thing better than a roll of paper towels is a new roll of toilet paper placed on the holder for me to unravel square by square.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nonprofit Organizations That Help Pay Vet Costs

By Linda Cole

We never know when a sudden illness or accident will send a pet to the emergency room. Sometimes the finances just aren't there to cover medical expenses. When that happens, there are some nonprofit organizations that may be able to help with vet care. The following organizations are ready to lend a helping hand to pet owners.

Angels4Animals is a small nonprofit made up of pet lovers who believe all pets should have equal access to vet care, even if their owner is financially challenged. Decisions on pet care should be made based on what the pet needs and not what the owner can afford. Angels4Animals has two programs: Program Guardian Angel works with the vet clinic to provide money for medical care needed for a sick or injured pet. The Lost & Found Program provides money to low income pet owners so a microchip can be inserted in the pet. This helps cut down on pets in shelters by identifying and reuniting a lost pet with their owner.

Brown Dog Foundation, Inc. provides financial assistance to people who have a sick pet with a treatable condition. Founder Carol Smock understands what it's like to be unemployed with no funds to pay for vet care. The foundation's mission is to provide needed help for pets with life threatening conditions or illness to help give both pet and owner a better quality of life. They understand the love of a pet goes across all income levels and no pet should be put down for a treatable condition or illness just because their owner is unable to pay the vet bill.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Man Reunited with Beloved Beagles after Six Years

By Julia Williams

I recently came across a wonderful story online that intrigued me. I wanted to know more, so I did what any curious pet blogger would do – I searched until I found a phone number, and then I called it. I had a pleasant conversation with 24-year-old Raymond Behrens, who happily gave me an update on one of the best “feel-good” doggie tales ever.

When Raymond enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18, he was deeply saddened to leave his best friends Bullet and Trigger behind. Raymond had adopted the Beagle puppies two years earlier. He loved his dogs with all of his heart, but because none of his family members or friends could care for them while he was in the Navy, Raymond reluctantly gave them up. As you might guess, this scenario is all too common, and is what led to the creation of Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet (GASP). This wonderful nonprofit helps find foster families for pets of deployed military members; unfortunately, Raymond didn’t have that option in 2004.

Raymond thought about his best friends often over the next six years, while serving as a Navy Seabee in Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Like any devoted pet parent would, he felt guilty for giving up his dogs; he wondered how they were doing, and hoped they were happy and healthy. Although he never forgot about Bullet and Trigger, he didn’t expect to see them again or have them be a part of his family. Yet six long years later, that is exactly what happened!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Volunteer Opportunities at the Animal Shelter

By Suzanne Alicie

Animal shelters all across the country need help. Sure, monetary donations and supply donations are wonderful and are much appreciated. Shelters could not survive without those types of help. But animal shelters need people too, and they welcome volunteers with open arms. If you are interested in volunteering, call or visit your local shelter and find out what they need most. This gives you an opportunity to become really involved in a volunteer program by creating one that will best suit their needs. There may already be an existing volunteer group that you can join to help spread awareness and recruit new volunteers.

The inspiration for this post comes from a local animal shelter and an area community center for the elderly. These two groups are working together to provide a program that is not only beneficial to the animal shelter but also to the volunteers. One day a week the community center bus picks up about a dozen elderly volunteers and takes them to the animal shelter. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Canine Behavior: Living with a Jealous Dog

By Linda Cole

It can be hard to understand why dogs do the things they do. Their actions are related to how we treat them and what their personality is like. A dog with a jealous streak is being possessive and domineering. Whether there are other pets in the home or not, a dog showing jealousy can affect an entire household.

Living with a jealous dog can be a challenge, especially if he's also protective of the one he loves. A jealous dog is most likely one with a dominant personality, but not all dominant dogs are jealous. A dog who is jealous is trying to tell you he's concerned about his place in your heart. Adding a new pet to your family is upsetting to any pet already in the home, but a dog with a jealous streak may need more time to get used to the idea of sharing you and his home. Any change to a household, whether it's another pet, roommate or variation in routine, can cause a dog to react in a way you've never seen before.

Routine is one of the most important and stabilizing factors in a dog's life. They eat from the same bowl at the same time and in the same place every day. Dogs know when it's time to go outside or go for a walk. Changes to their schedule, even small changes we may not notice, are observed by dogs. A jealous dog may see a change in routine as a threat to his position in the home and in your eyes. A new pet or person changes the routine.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A “Catio” Lets Kitties Safely Enjoy the Outdoors

By Julia Williams

My new favorite TV show is Animal Planet’s Must Love Cats. The show is billed as “a celebration of fascinating felines and the fascinating people who love them,” which is spot on. It’s hosted by musician John Fulton, who travels across America to find pawesome kitties, cat-obsessed people and interesting stories about “all things cat.” I was pleasantly surprised to see stories about many things I’ve already written about on this blog, such as Matilda the Algonquin Hotel Cat, potty training your kitty, and the Cat House on the Kings sanctuary. Haha – I had my finger on the pulse of cat culture, and I didn’t even know it! The show also covers many things I didn’t even know existed, such as cat poo coffee (ewwww!), a kitty with four ears, feline fashion shows, posh cat-only hotels, and whimsical cat statues in Catskill, New York.

Last week’s episode of Must Love Cats featured “catios,” something I knew a little about but had never seen on such a grand scale. A catio (cat + patio) is a securely enclosed balcony, deck or other outdoor area that gives kitties the opportunity to be outdoors in the fresh air. They can range from small practical structures, to full-on fantasy playgrounds for cats with multiple ledges, ladders, ramps, tunnels, catwalks (ahem) and natural scratching posts. A small catio is pretty much just a cage, which I don’t think any cat would like even if it is outdoors. The giganti-cat model featured on Must Love Cats, however, is definitely something indoor kitties would appreciate.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How to Train Your Dog for Agility Competitions

By Linda Cole

Agility training is a sport that's been gaining in popularity for some time. It's a great way to give your dog plenty of exercise and stimulation to keep his mind and body healthy. You might be surprised to learn your dog isn't the couch potato you once thought after watching him jump, weave, and run around a course having the time of his life. Agility training requires time and patience, but it's worth the effort to have a sport you can do together. If you've taught your dog basic commands, then he's ready to learn how to navigate an agility course.

Contact obstacles include a teeter-totter, dog walk and A-frame. They're called contact obstacles because in order for the dog to successfully complete the task, he must touch a certain spot on one or both ends with at least one of his feet.

Teeter-totter – If your dog is reluctant to walk on the teeter-totter, begin with a square 4 x 4 piece of plywood on the ground with a small ball under it. Have him move around on the wood so he can get used to movement under his feet. Once he's comfortable with movement, move to the teeter-totter. With your dog on a 6 ft. leash, give him a description command for each obstacle (teeter-totter, A-frame, weave, etc.) and move him towards the obstacle. Make sure he touches any required spots before going on. When he correctly succeeds at each task, give him praise and a treat reward. As he gets used to the movement of the teeter-totter, you can increase his speed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

“Just Say No” to Your Pet, Because You Love Them

By Julia Williams

Just as parents often have to say no to their children when they want things that aren’t good for them, so too do responsible pet owners. Children and pets are not always able to discern danger or consequences, and it’s our job to keep them healthy and safe. I don’t especially like saying no to my cats when they want something I know they shouldn’t have (such as more food or treats when they’ve already had plenty) but as a responsible pet owner I know I need to. Knowing it is one thing; actually doing it can require nerves of steel and an unwavering conviction that I am right, and the cats are wrong. Anyone who has a “foodie” pet knows exactly what I mean.

Our pets beg with insistent meows and loud barks. They look at us with pleading eyes that make us think they will just keel over unless they get more food or treats. They try to “guilt” us into caving in, because they want what they want, and have no thought other than getting it. Pets live in the moment; there is no rationalization we can give them for saying no. We just have to, because we know what’s best for them, and because we love them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Is Your Child Ready to Work with Pets?

By Suzanne Alicie

As a parent and pet lover, you want your child to appreciate, respect and love pets the way you do. This could lead you to help them look for an opportunity to work with pets in some way. Many preteens and teenagers have jobs involving pets, such as pet sitting and dog walking. These are wonderful learning opportunities and provide children the chance to get to know a lot of animals rather than just the one or two you have at home.

However, there are certain things you must consider before you select or approve of any opportunity for your child to work with pets. As a responsible pet owner and parent, you know your child better than anyone and can judge whether a job working with animals would suit their temperament. Not all children are equipped to handle working with pets. This is not to say your child doesn’t love animals and want to work with them, but as a parent you must fairly evaluate your child’s suitability for the job they are interested in.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rolling Dog Ranch, a Sanctuary for Disabled Pets

By Linda Cole

Even pets can go through an illness, be born with a deformity, injured in an accident, or suffer from old age that leaves them disabled. I had a dog who lost his sight and hearing as he aged. But neither disability stopped him from leading a relatively normal life. He didn't give up, and there was no way I was going to give up on him. Unfortunately, not every pet has an owner who is willing to do what's necessary to meet their animal’s needs, and some disabled pets are in shelters because of it. Disabled pets are not as likely to find new homes, yet these are loveable animals whose only crime was having a disability someone didn't want to deal with. Steve Smith and Alayne Marker decided to do something about this, and opened a one-of-a-kind sanctuary for special needs pets, called Rolling Dog Ranch.

Steve and Alayne founded Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in December of 2000. Located on 160 acres in western Montana, the ranch fulfilled a dream they both had of opening a sanctuary specifically for disabled pets. They decided to call the ranch “Rolling Dog” after watching their dogs roll around in the grass on this beautiful ranch in the Blackfoot River Valley.

The problem with their location in Montana was the distance they needed to travel for vet care, supplies, groceries and everything else they needed, along with finding good employees and volunteers to work in such a remote area. In early 2010 they moved the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary and its disabled pets to a new location in New Hampshire. Located in the White Mountains, their new sanctuary is much closer to all the services they need, and even though it's a little smaller at 120 acres, there's still plenty of room for the animals. This includes blind dogs, cats and horses, deaf dogs, three-legged dogs and cats, and some with medical problems like muscular dystrophy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

2011 is the “Year of the Cat”

By Julia Williams

While the Chinese celebrate 2011 as the Year of the Rabbit, the Vietnamese zodiac says it’s the Year of the Cat (Năm Tân Mão ). People born under the sign of the Cat are said to be ambitious, talented, sensitive, compassionate and patient. Not surprisingly, they also clash with those born under the Rat.

Vietnamese zodiac aside, 2011 has also been declared the “Year of the Cat” by Care for Cats, a broad network of feline volunteer advocates in Canada. They plan to advocate for the welfare of Canada’s cats by raising awareness of the value of cats, dispelling cat myths, and addressing important issues such as spaying and neutering to curb cat overpopulation, implementing Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) programs for feral cats, and increasing shelter adoptions and “return to owner” rates.

As a domesticated species, cats need human care and companionship to not only survive but to stay healthy. According to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) the biggest problem that threatens cats in Canada is homelessness. Although it’s impossible to determine how many homeless cats are in the U.S., the ASPCA estimates there could be as many as 70 million. Did that number shock you as much as it did me?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Can Your Pet Become a Therapy Animal for Seniors?

By Tamara L. Waters

There are two things that can almost always bring a smile to any face: Children and animals. As my elderly grandmother's health and mind deteriorated in the years prior to her death, a child or an animal could still make her smile. This fact is not lost upon senior centers that use therapy animals to bring joy to their patients.

According to The Delta Society – a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting therapy through pet ownership and interaction – the health benefits pets have on seniors are undeniable. The Delta Society website cites studies asserting that seniors with pets have fewer doctor visits and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Those of us who’ve had the privilege of being pet owners know firsthand that a pet offers unconditional love and companionship. My own pets seem to know when I need some furry affection, and their presence is calming.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

CANIDAE Special Achiever Dog Makes Wish Come True!

By Julia Williams

In 1980, the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted their first wish, to a 7-year-old boy undergoing treatment for leukemia. As of this writing, the renowned charity has granted more than 205,000 wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Recently, an extraordinary therapy dog in the CANIDAE Special Achievers program helped the foundation add one more memorable wish to that impressive number.

Doc-Barker is a two-year-old Chocolate Labrador Retriever who is a registered therapy dog through Delta Society, an AKC Canine Good Citizen, and a mobility service dog for his owner, Sherry Buchbinder. Doc-Barker is also a canine ambassador for Wishes Forever, an endowment campaign through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Doc-Barker’s duties as canine ambassador include promoting the Wishes Forever endowment campaign at fundraising and community events, visiting “wish” children in hospitals, being a Grand Marshall or “celebrity guest” at pet expos, and promoting the positive impact of therapy and service dogs. Oh yes – and Doc-Barker is also a wish granter!

Sherry is a volunteer, speaker and wish granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sherry’s 13-year-old nephew, Grant, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in late 2008. What Grant wanted more than anything in the world was to hold the leash of a specially trained dog like Doc-Barker. As much as she wanted to say “yes” to his request, Sherry regrettably had to say no, because being responsible for a registered service and therapy dog like Doc-Barker requires training and a title.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Do You Talk to Your Pet?

By Linda Cole

Everyone I know talks to their pet, but I don’t think all pet owners do. However, those who don't believe animals understand our words are missing an important means of communicating – and bonding – with their pet. Research has shown dogs are capable of learning so much more than once thought. And we can learn what our pets’ whines, yaps, meows and barks mean, if we take the time to listen. Of course they don't understand everything we say, but they can and do pick out the words that mean something to them. Conversations with your pet can help you nurture and strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

My cat Jabbers, pictured above, is a handsome black kitty with a splash of white on his chest and huge emerald eyes. He got his name because as a kitten he jabbered constantly, and still does. Jabbers and I have discussed everything from what's going on outside, to a first base umpire who needs glasses, to what's for supper. He doesn't care what our conversations are about, just that I took the time to talk to him, and he's definitely a cat with an opinion, which he freely expresses during our conversations. And he never disagrees with me; well... at least I don't think he's disagreeing. He rolls over on his back and sticks his front legs up in the air and rubs his head against my hand as I talk to him. Then he whirls around and sits up so he can talk to me. I had a cat years ago who would put one of his paws on my cheek every time he talked as if he wanted to make sure he had my full attention.

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