Hero dog overcame torture, helps others
- A dogue de Bordeaux was named the 2016 American Humane Association’s Hero Dog of the Year. He was honored not only for his work helping children with autism learn social skills, but also for surviving torture early in his life when someone cut out his tongue. Now, the first word spoken by many children who were previously nonverbal is his name: “Hooch.” The burly, happy French mastiff also acts as a companion to women in shelters who have been victims of domestic abuse. The other seven finalists, all honored for their service, were law enforcement dog Edo, search and rescue dog Kobuk, service dog Gander, military dog Layka, arson dog Judge, hearing dog Hook and therapy dog Mango.
- A new diagnostic test may help determine the best treatment for dogs with transitional cell carcinoma, the most common type of canine urinary tract cancer. Developed by Matthew Breen, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University, the test detects cancer by measuring different DNA copies to see if they are elevated or reduced from a normal control sample. Depending on the test result, the dog’s veterinarian may recommend surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
- Don’t forget to include your dog, cat, bird or other pet in your estate plan. A pet trust — legal in all 50 states — allows you to set aside funds for an animal’s care, administered by a trustee. Pet trusts can take effect during an owner’s lifetime — if he or she becomes incapacitated or moves into a nursing home, for instance — or on death. The trustee disburses payments to a designated caregiver on a regular basis. In most cases, a pet trust ends when the pet dies or after 21 years, but pet trusts can be set up for longer periods for animals with long life expectancies, such as parrots or tortoises.
— Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
Pet mischief and mishaps are a traditional part of the holidays. Here are some things to avoid
By Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell
Thornton and Mikkel Becker
The 6-month-old Lab puppy grazed on the Christmas tree, gorging on glass bulbs, shimmery tinsel and more. When his owners brought him to the veterinary hospital, swollen with swallowed ornaments, he resembled a four-legged black tick with a pink tongue. A dose of barium to illuminate the intestinal tract on radiographs and force out the intestinal contents worked quickly, and before long, the dog was pooping out pieces of glass, string and wire hooks. As a big wad of tinsel emerged, it gave him the appearance of a giant New Year’s Eve party blower.
No doubt all of us have memories of a cat scrambling up a Christmas tree, a swooshing dog tail overturning a lit menorah or a canine or feline counter cruiser tucking into the roast beast. As we enter the holiday season, it’s time to bone up on pet-proofing our homes to prevent pet mischief. After all, no one, least of all our dogs and cats, wants to spend any of the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s in the veterinary ER. We’ve gathered some cautionary tails — er, tales — to help you adapt your holiday traditions to the realities of life with pets.
A pointer we know made the news when he ate a child’s pushpin craft made with marshmallows to form a snowman. The dog ate the entire thing and required emergency surgery to remove the pushpins. This year, the family will be surrounding the Christmas tree with a pet gate to prevent unauthorized ingestion of ornaments or presents.
Cats, famed for their ability to leap tall counters in a single bound, and their partners in crime, dogs of all sizes, are notorious for stealing food off plates, tables and counters, sticks of butter left out to soften, chocolate-covered espresso beans and marshmallow Santas (ask us how we know this). And we’re not the only ones with larcenous animals.
Dexter, a parson Russell terrier, lives with a family who made the mistake of leaving a box of holiday chocolates sitting on their coffee table. They came home to find the contents strewn all over the floor, with much of it eaten. Dexter, apparently a discriminating dog, picked out his favorite varieties from the box. Fortunately, the only outcome was a case of diarrhea, but now family members make it a point to put unsafe food items (or anything they don’t want him to eat) well out of their dog’s reach.
In another case, curiosity didn’t kill the cat, but it did cause him to get an unusual bath. Amanda Graves recalls the time her husband noticed that their Abyssinian kitten, Peyton, was looking a little greasy. Upon closer examination, he discovered Peyton was covered in chicken broth.
“He had pushed aside the silicone lid on a cooling stockpot of homemade chicken bone broth and had gone for a swim,” she says.
Strategies that can help you head off holiday trouble include decorating with unbreakable ornaments, forgoing tinsel and putting unsupervised food out of reach.
To protect her cat Kismet, Sharon Melnyk gave up using ribbons to wrap presents.
“He would try to eat any kind of ribbon and once bit my finger trying to get at a ribbon I was holding,” she says.
Choose pet-safe plants, too. Poinsettias have a reputation for being poisonous, but at most they cause mild stomach upset. Of greater concern are lilies, which can be lethal, and amaryllis bulbs and holly.
Our pets don’t mean to cause trouble during the holidays; they just want to help us celebrate. These simple precautions make it easier and less stressful to enjoy the season.
BRINGING UP PUP
From a dog-training expert: 8 puppy-raising tips to help you be successful
By Liz Palika
A 9-week-old English shepherd puppy, Hero, recently joined my family. The adorable dark brown-and-white little guy with freckles on his nose immediately stole my heart. At the same time, my brain kicked into “puppy-raising” gear. Having raised a number of puppies over the years, I’ve learned some skills that make the process easier. Here are eight tips that have helped me be successful.
1. Buy lots of inexpensive towels. When I knew Hero was going to be joining my family, I immediately ran to the nearest store for a stack of cheap towels. I don’t think most puppy-raising sources express how important towels are for raising a puppy, but I think they are invaluable. Towels can serve as bedding for your puppy (as long as he doesn’t try to eat them), for cleaning up spills or other accidents and for bathing and drying the puppy. I always have a clean stack ready for use. You can find them new at discount or big-box stores, or even purchase them used at stores such as Goodwill. Just wash them well before using them.
2. Choose toys carefully. Everything goes into a puppy’s mouth, so it’s important to have appropriate toys ready for him to sniff, taste, chew and sometimes destroy. If a toy has hard eyes, a button nose or other parts a puppy could chew off and swallow, remove them. Make sure the toy itself can’t be swallowed.
3. Provide a variety of toys. I like to give some chew toys to gnaw on, toys that can be shaken and tossed, balls of various kinds and toys with different smells and textures. Every puppy tends to develop his own likes and dislikes, but a variety in puppyhood can be great fun.
4. Your puppy is a baby. Puppies grow and develop so quickly it’s hard to remember that they are babies. I consider a puppy younger than four months a baby, although that’s an arbitrary line; many puppies develop faster or slower than others.
5. Baby puppies need extra meals. Hungry puppies get antsy, fussy and grumpy, and they will cry and whine. Toy and small-breed puppies need four to six feedings a day for the first few months, while larger puppies should eat at least three times a day. When you take your puppy in for his first veterinary exam, you can ask the vet for a specific recommendation for your pup.
6. Puppies know no fear. As with most babies, young puppies don’t consider their own safety and will do things that cause themselves harm. They need to be protected from jumping, climbing or getting stuck. Baby gates, exercise pens and crates can help you keep your puppy safe when you can’t supervise him.
7. Puppies need help with temperature regulation. I quickly discovered that Hero’s fluffy puppy coat kept him warm. It was difficult for him to get comfortable in a crate as he quickly became too hot. I wrapped a frozen water bottle in a towel (another use for those towels!) and he would cuddle up to it, immediately becoming more comfortable. Make sure your puppy can also move away from the water bottle so he doesn’t get chilled.
8. Teach independence. It’s important for puppies to learn to spend some time alone. Although it’s our nature to cuddle a puppy — and we should — puppies also need to learn to be OK when left alone. I started by putting Hero in his crate with a toy for 15 minutes, then half an hour, then while I ran errands. This is an important life skill for dogs, so start it when they’re young.
Guest columnist Liz Palika is an award-winning writer and certified dog trainer. For more information, go to kindredspiritsk9.com
“ARF”-LETES FOR THE WIN
Dogs showcase guts and glory in canine sports
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Eventing. Jumping. Racing. Diving. With the Rio Olympics in full swing, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the world of competitive dog sports, which often parallel those of their human counterparts and require just as much athletic ability, stamina, speed and agility. Top dog contestants come in all shapes and sizes, but the two things they have in common — with each other and with human athletes — are heart and hustle.
Take Wren. The 10-inch papillon excels at the highest levels of her sport, agility. With tight turns and at top speed she races around a course that includes bar jumps, tire jumps, weave poles, a teeter-totter — the element that can really slow a tiny dog because it tips downward more slowly — an A-frame and tunnels. In the six height classes, from 8-inch (Wren’s category) to 26-inch, the dog with the fastest time and fewest faults wins. Wren, owned and handled by Betsey Lynch of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has had big wins in her class in the past year, including American Kennel Club’s National Agility Championship, USDAA Cynosport Performance Grand Prix and Westminster Masters Agility Championship.
Any dog can compete in agility, but the dogs with speed and drive tend to be the ones at the top of the charts. Current contenders include Sier ra, a Shetland sheepdog, in the 12-inch class; Hottie, a border collie, in the 16-inch class; Mr. T, a golden retriever, in the 20-inch class; Skillz, a border collie, in the 24-inch class; and Pace, a border collie, in the 26-inch class.
The best agility dogs from more than 35 countries will gather in Zaragoza, Spain, Sept. 22 through 25 to compete in the 21st Agility World Championship, where they’ll run on state-of-the-art artificial turf specially ordered for the event. Closer to home, check out the North American Dog Agility Council Championships, held Sept. 29 through Oct. 2 in South Jordan, Utah.
Flyball, the fastest-growing canine team sport, is a relay race popular around the world. Teams of four to six dogs race over four hurdles, pounce on a spring-loaded box to release a tennis ball and race back over the hurdles with it before the next dog begins. Each dog has a handler, and line coaches help to improve the team’s performance.
Any dog who’s fast and loves tennis balls can play, but small dogs have a special role. They can be a team’s secret weapon because jump height, ranging from 7 to 14 inches, is determined by the height of the team’s smallest dog. A team with a “height dog,” as the shorties are known, benefits because the larger dogs get to jump lower hurdles.
Record-holders in the sport include a mixed breed named Everest, with a run of 3.417 seconds in United Flyball League International’s Singles race, in which dogs run against the clock, and a team called Border Patrol, made up of mixed breeds Troy, Banshee, Epic and Syber. They hold the current North American Flyball Association Regular record of 14.433 seconds, set June 5, 2016, in Rockton, Ontario, Canada. The NAFA CanAm Classic is Oct. 7 through 9 in Indianapolis. The UFLI Tournament of Champions takes place Oct. 21 through 23 in Gray Summit, Missouri, near St. Louis.
Perhaps the nearest canine equivalent to the Olympics is the Incredible Dog Challenge, hosted by Purina Pro Plan. Events include dock-diving, catching flying discs, surfing and more. In the West Coast Challenge, an American Eskimo Dog named Ziggy won the Small Dog Surf Event, and a Belgian malinois named Saphira set a new world record with a 25-foot-6-inch jump in the Fetch It event. The IDC National Finals take place Sept. 30 through Oct. 1 at Purina Farms in St. Louis.
HOUSE TRAINING HABITS
These 8 expert tips will start you and your pup on the path to house training success
By Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
Are you a new or potential puppy owner? If so, housetraining is probably on your mind. We’ve gathered some of our favorite tips for ensuring a rewarding experience — for you and your pup.
- Learn “caninese.” Body language is the first clue that your puppy needs to go out. He might not be crossing his legs, but pawing at you, standing at the top of the stairs or in front of the door and barking are all signs that he needs your attention — fast! Some dogs go with the classic sniffing and circling behavior. The instant you see this, scoop him up and take him out.
- Use a crate. It’s not punishment, and it’s not cruel unless you leave him in it all the time. A crate is your puppy’s safe spot and sleeping area, so he’ll instinctively want to keep it clean. And when he’s safely confined in it, you don’t have to worry that he’ll have an accident in the house. Staying in a crate helps a puppy learn to control his bladder and bowels. Without it, he may get into the habit of relieving himself whenever and wherever he likes.
- Choose the right crate. It should be large enough for your pup to stand up and turn around inside it but not so large that he can potty at one end and sleep at the other. Purchase a puppy-size crate and graduate to a larger one later, or buy a crate with a divider. A removable panel allows you to section off the crate as needed and adjust the amount of space the pup has as he grows. You can also block off the back of the crate with a box or some other item that the puppy can’t get over or around. Just be sure it’s safe and not edible. Bricks or cement blocks are out; instead, try vertically inserting a large, cushion-style dog bed. An empty cardboard box could also work if your pup isn’t a chewer.
- Stick to a schedule. Puppies need to potty frequently. Set a timer to take your puppy out every two to four hours.
- Certain events trigger a pup’s need to urinate or defecate. Take him out as soon as he wakes up in the morning or from a nap and immediately after eating or drinking. Excitement and stress can lead to potty accidents. Prevent them by taking your pup out to potty every few minutes if he is playing vigorously indoors. Finally, take him out just before bedtime. By 3 to 4 months of age, most pups can sleep through the night, but younger puppies may need to go out once or twice during the night.
- Two’s company. Go out with your puppy to make sure he potties. If you’re not with him, you can’t reward him with praise and a treat so he knows that you want him to potty outdoors. Play is another good reward when your pup potties outdoors. Let him play for a few minutes after he performs. If you take him back inside immediately, he’ll be reluctant to relieve himself right away.
- Feed regular meals. Free-feeding (leaving food out all the time) makes it more difficult to know when your puppy needs to pee or poop.
- Limit freedom. Letting a puppy have free run of the home is a recipe for potty accidents. Instead, keep him attached to you with a leash unless he’s in a puppy-proofed bathroom, kitchen or laundry room. You should always know where he is and what he’s doing.
Eight museums around the country for animal-art aficionados
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Art museums are a visual record of our history. When we visit them, we don’t simply see the artist’s vision, but also fashions, food, furnishings and, yes, animals from a given point in time.
Many famous art museums feature portraits of people with their dogs, cats and horses, but specialty museums focus on works that portray the animals themselves. A visit to one of them is a feast of fine art depicting the role of animals in society through the ages and how they have changed — or not. No matter which one you visit, you’ll be rewarded with a fascinating glimpse into the background of your favorite animal. Here are eight to look for.
- American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog, St. Louis. In the 14,000-square-foot Jarville House in Queeny Park are more than 700 original paintings, drawings, sculptures, porcelains and more, all depicting man’s best friend. Bonus: Leashed, well-behaved dogs are welcome to visit, too.
- Feline Historical Museum, Alliance, Ohio. Not to be outdone, the Cat Fanciers Association has a permanent home for its extensive collection of cat-themed art and other unique items, including the silver collar awarded to Cosey, who won the first Madison Square Garden cat show in 1895; a bronze of a Persian by J. Clayton Bright; feline figurines from Lalique, Baccarat and Royal Doulton; and a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house for a cat. Visitors may also enjoy the company of cats on the premises, including Maine coons and ragdolls.
- National Sporting Library and Museum, Middleburg, Virginia. Horse and dog lovers will appreciate the sporting art on display at this museum devoted to equestrian and field sports. Current exhibits include Picturing English Pastimes: British Sporting Prints at the NSLM and the Chronicle of the Horse in Art. Researcher Elizabeth Tobey says, “Particularly significant are its holdings of early modern books from the 16th through 18th centuries from Europe and Great Britain on horsemanship, hunting, natural history and animal husbandry.”
- International Museum of the Horse, Lexington, Kentucky. They’re not just horsing around at this museum. Its collections include fine and folk art, photographs, tack, trophies, sculptures and horse-drawn vehicles.
“Calumet Farm’s massive collection of historic racing trophies alone is worth the visit to the International Museum of the Horse, and the strong selection of permanent exhibits is bolstered regularly by impressive special exhibitions,” says Glenye Oakford of Lexington, Kentucky, senior editor at The Chronicle of the Horse. “If you’re more into history that’s truly alive, just step outside to the Hall of Champions, where some of the racing and show world’s heroes, including the wildly popular 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide, greet visitors.”
- National Bird Dog Museum, Grand Junction, Tennessee. Anyone who has ever loved a sporting breed won’t want to miss this bird dog field of dreams. Displays include a sculpture of national champion pointer Elhew’s Snakefoot and sporting dog art, photography and memorabilia.
- Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Museum, Wasilla, Alaska. Housed in a log cabin, the museum’s displays feature trophies, photos and videos of the iconic race commemorating a thousand-mile run to bring life-saving diphtheria serum to disease-stricken Nome in 1925. In summer, take a ride in a cart pulled by sled dogs to get a taste of what is now a National Historic Trail.
- Museum of Hounds and Hunting North America, Leesburg, Virginia. Housed at stately Morven Park, this collection ranges from a hound head sculpture to a colonial-era hunting horn to the hunting diaries of Gen. George S. Patton.
- Newseum, Washington, D.C. Pets make news, too, especially if they live in the White House. An ongoing exhibit, First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Pets, presents images and stories of presidential pets, including Calvin and Grace Coolidge’s 12 dogs; Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier Fala — and his press secretary; and Warren G. Harding’s Airedale, Laddie Boy, who had his own chair at cabinet meetings.
An expert’s look inside the search for intelligence in other species
By Kim Campbell Thornton
I recently flew to Mongolia for a 20-day expedition to the Gobi Desert, Hustai National Park and places in between. One of my companions on the 20-hour flight, plus the five days it took to drive to the Gobi from Ulaanbaatar, was ethologist Frans de Waal — not in person, but in the form of his new book, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” Looking at the science regarding the intelligence of apes, corvids (crows and ravens), dogs and more, primatologist de Waal, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta, reviews the evidence for animal cognition.
There is plenty of it, but only recently has the idea of animal cognition been taken seriously. In the past, he writes, the dominant schools of thought argued that animals were either “stimulus-response machines out to obtain rewards and avoid punishment,” or “robots genetically endowed with useful instincts.”
De Waal is in favor of a third premise: Intelligence comes in different forms, with animal minds possessing a complexity that has long gone unrecognized. It has been within only the past two decades that researchers became bold enough, or curious enough, to move beyond the idea that animals could not have intentions, emotions or cognition. To credit them with such abilities was considered anthropomorphic, romantic or unscientific (and still is by some). In fact, he writes, the term “animal cognition” was considered an oxymoron until well into the 1980s.
If you live with a dog, cat, bird or other animal, you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “Of course animals have emotions and intelligence.” And you would be correct. Their cognitive abilities might not be exactly the same as those of humans, but they are similar in any number of ways, or they simply take a different form that allows a particular animal to navigate his world in a way that would be impossible for humans.
While many of de Waal’s examples focus on apes and corvids, dogs don’t go unremarked upon. In Chapter 4, “Talk to Me,” on communication, de Waal discusses the advantages of working with an animal “intentionally bred by our species to get along with us.” Of course, he means the dog.
“Dogs eagerly pay attention to us and need little encouragement to work on the tasks that we present to them,” he writes. “No wonder ‘dognition’ is an up-and-coming field.”
He visits Emory colleague Gregory Berns to see dogs Eli and Callie demonstrate their prowess at sitting still in an MRI machine for brain imaging. Hand signals inform the dogs that a treat is on the way, allowing Berns to visualize activation of their pleasure center.
The prospect of food lights up a dog’s brain in the same way and location that anticipation of a bonus lights up the brain of a hedge fund manager.
De Waal’s book is a fascinating peek into the minds of our fellow beings, whose cognitive abilities may be best described by naturalist Henry Beston: “In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.”
For other new books that address animal intelligence, see Jennifer Ackerman’s “The Genius of Birds”; Jonathan Balcombe’s “What a Fish Knows”; and Bernd Heinrich’s “One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives.”
Keep Pets Safe from Summertime Threats
Just as humans are exposed to certain risks when temperatures rise, hot weather creates the potential for both emergency threats and everyday dangers that can affect pets.
From weather-related emergencies to fleas and ticks that can threaten even the healthiest animals, special care during the summer months is essential to making sure your pets stay safe.
The makers of Adams(tm) Flea & Tick Control have teamed up with Code 3 Associates, a national non-profit that rescues animals during disasters, and their spokesperson, Tony Stewart, to offer these tips to help pet owners steer clear of trouble this summer:
* Never leave a pet in the car, even with the window cracked. In fact, every year hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked cars. Especially during the summer, pet owners should be mindful that temperatures inside a car can increase almost 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.
* Protect against flea and tick infestations. The summer heat triggers flea and tick outbreaks and products like Adams(tm) Flea & Tick sprays and shampoos help keep pets free from fleas and ticks – and as an added benefit, from 4/1/2016 through 9/30/2016, for each bottle of Adams(tm) shampoo and Adams(tm) spray sold by US retailers $1, up to $150,000, will be donated to Code 3 Associates to help animals in need during times of disaster.
* Provide plenty of water and shade to help protect pets from overheating.
* Save outdoor play time for mornings or evenings when it’s cooler.
* Make a pet disaster kit including water and food for seven days, water and food bowls, leashes and ID collars, a first aid kit, medications, medical records, familiar toys, muzzle, cleaning supplies and a contact card.
* If living in a disaster prone area, designate a family member to be in charge of your pets. Formulate a buddy system with a neighbor or friend who can check and care for your pets if you are out of the area and cannot return.
* Keep current frontal and profile photographs of each of your animals. If an animal has an identifying mark, take a photograph and keep it with you. Use this as positive ID if you need to reclaim a pet who is separated from the family during an emergency.
Learn more about summer pet safety at adamspetcare.com
(boy holding water bowl for dog)
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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Food truck for Fido in Seattle
• The food truck craze has gone to the dogs. The Seattle Barkery, owned and operated by Ben and Dawn Ford, rolls out such popular pet treats as air-fried chicken feet and duck neck, bacon “pupcakes,” a canine ice-cream sundae — served in an edible bowl with bacon sprinkles — and a peanut butter and banana bone, to name just a few. Ingredients are, of course, human-grade and frequently organic. Humans can order their own separate treats — and coffee, because this is Seattle — but dogs are the primary customers.
• The leading infectious cause of death in young cats is feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), caused by a virulent feline coronavirus. A vaccine for FIP is available, but it has little to no efficacy and isn’t recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners. But a new treatment reported by Kansas State University researchers in the journal PLoS ONE may block the virus from replicating and stop the disease from progressing. The cats in their study recovered fully after treatment with an experimental antiviral. The authors report, “We found that antiviral treatment led to full recovery of cats when treatment was started at a stage of disease that would be otherwise fatal if left untreated.”
• Lucca, a U.S. Marine Corps German shepherd, saved thousands of lives through her patrol work in Afghanistan, where her job was to sniff out explosives. Where she was on the job, no human casualties occurred. But on her final patrol, she discovered a 30-pound bomb. During the search for additional explosive devices, one detonated. Lucca survived, but at the cost of her left front leg. Now she has become the first Marine Corps dog to receive the Dickin Medal, an award for animal bravery in wartime service created in 1943 by animal welfare pioneer Maria Dickin.
— Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
Best workplaces for pet lovers
- We’ve all heard of the Fortune 500 — the 500 most profitable U.S. companies. Well, here’s a more important ranking for pet lovers: the pet-friendly 12, a dozen companies that offer perks to pet-loving employees. They run the gamut: allowing owners to bring dogs to work and providing pet insurance, discounts for doggie daycare, pet supplies, financial assistance for pet adoptions and free pet health screening days. The “purr-ty” dozen are Genentech, Kimpton, Atlantic Health, VMWare, Salesforce, Mars, Google, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Autodesk, GoDaddy, Workday and Activision Blizzard.
- Thanks to social media, we’re seeing lots more photos and videos of cats getting baths or playing in water. You were probably under the impression that cats did a perfectly fine job of grooming themselves, but there are times when a bath can be beneficial. If someone in your family is allergic to cats, a weekly bath (for the cat) can help to keep dander levels low, reducing the person’s reaction. Cats also need baths if they get into something sticky or that would be toxic for them to lick off themselves.
- “Who rescued whom?” The popular bumper sticker is seen on numerous cars, but for Eric O’Grey, it’s more than an expression. When his doctor told him he would be dead in five years if he didn’t lose weight, he consulted a nutritionist and took her advice to adopt a shelter dog. He chose a middle-aged, overweight dog named Peety, and the two started walking. Within a year, O’Grey had lost 140 pounds and Peety 25. Their story was turned into a video, the kickoff for a contest called the Mutual Rescue initiative, in which people can share stories of how a shelter animal changed their lives. Contact the Humane Society of Silicon Valley for more information. Entry deadline is April 30.
— Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
WORDS WITH ANIMALS
Words and phrases about pets and how they entered the language
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Have you ever thought about how many words and phrases we use every day that come straight from the horse’s mouth? Expressions that are the cat’s meow? You might even say our language has gone to the dogs.
Animal-related terms are delightfully descriptive. Some are built upon animal characteristics — eagle-eyed, bird-brained, dog-eared — irrespective of accuracy (birds are actually pretty darn smart). Others come to us from languages such as Greek, Latin or Icelandic. Learning about their origins is fascinating. Here are some fun facts about pet phrases and how they came to be.
? “Animal attraction.” A reference nowadays to strongly attractive personal charm, this phrase harks back (itself a phrase used in hunting with hounds) to the 18th century, when Franz Mesmer coined the term “animal magnetism” to describe his theory of an invisible natural force that could play a role in healing and other physical effects.
? Other words describe our affinity for certain animals. An ailurophile is a person who loves cats. It comes from the Greek words “ailouros,” meaning cat, and “philos,” meaning loving. While people have been crazy for cats for more than 5,000 years, this term is relatively new, with its first known use in 1914.
Dog-lovers have their own distinctive description, also deriving from ancient Greek. They are cynophilists, or cynophiles.
? Collective terms. You’re probably familiar with the term “litter” referring to a group of kittens, but did you know that they can also be called a “kindle”? The word comes from Middle English “kindlen” and means “to give birth.” The first-known use of the phrase occurs in the 15th-century “Book of St. Albans” as “a kyndyll of yong Cattis.”
There are many different collective, or group, names for dogs, most of them related to hunting. These are called “terms of venery” and include “a mute of hounds,” from the Old French “meute,” meaning “pack” or “kennel”; “a leash of Greyhounds”; and “a couple of spaniels.” In modern times, dog-loving wordsmiths have invented their own fanciful collective terms for specific breeds, drawing on wit and word play: a waddle of Pekingese, a snobbery of salukis, a rumble of Rottweilers, a snap of whippets, a grin of Japanese chin, a bounce of beardies, a shiver of Chihuahuas. I’m partial to a court of Cavaliers, myself.
? “Hair of the dog.” Did your English teacher tell you that humans have hair while dogs and cats have fur? Technically, there’s no real difference. It’s all made of a protein called keratin. The ground hairs — soft, insulating fur — and the coarser protective guard hairs on pets are considered fur. The hair on your head has a texture that’s somewhere in between ground and guard hairs, so it’s not wrong to describe pets as having hair.
But why do we call for “hair of the dog” the morning after a night on the town? The idea of taking a nip of the same alcoholic libation that gave you a hangover dates at least to the 16th century, when John Heywood wrote in “Proverbs” (1546): “I pray thee let me and my fellow have a haire of the dog that bit us last night.” The concept is related to the even older folk remedy of placing the burnt hair of a dog who had bitten someone on the wound, according to Christine Ammer in her book “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs.”
? “Chowhound.” I think most of us who have dogs understand why this term is applied to enthusiastic eaters. It was also the title of a 1951 Looney Tunes animated short featuring a bulldog always in search of a meal. He probably would have enjoyed a hush puppy, a fried cornmeal cake supposedly named because it was tossed to noisy hounds with the admonition, “Hush, puppy!”
Pets get a ticket to ride
• Amtrak now permits people to bring pets on board certain Northeast train routes. A cat or small dog confined to a carrier can ride the rails on trips up to seven hours. Available routes are Boston to Lynchburg, Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia; Northeast Regional service lines; and the Downeaster route from Boston to Brunswick, Maine. The pet fare is $25. With the pet inside, the carrier must weigh no more than 20 pounds. Pets must be at least 8 weeks old and have up-to-date vaccinations.
• Got diabetes? Dogs can sniff out hypoglycemia — low blood sugar — simply from the scent of your sweat. Researchers tested six dogs who had been trained to detect hypoglycemia by taking sweat samples from their owners during both a hypoglycemic episode and a normal blood glucose period. They stored the samples in glass vials and then placed the vials in steel cans. The dogs correctly identified the hypoglycemic samples 87.5 percent of the time. “Our results suggest that properly trained dogs can successfully recognize and raise the alert about a hypo using smell alone,” the researchers wrote.
• The Siberian cat is Russia’s natural feline treasure, with a long, triple-layered coat; a fancy ruff around the neck and “britches” on the legs; and an abundance of personality. These cats are friendly, intelligent and full of curiosity. Count on a Siberian outwitting you at every turn if you’re not careful — and maybe even if you are. He’s one of the larger cat breeds, weighing up to 18 pounds or more, and his luxurious fur coat comes in all colors and combinations. Siberians have a reputation for being hypoallergenic, but that varies by individual. Some are more allergenic than others. Try before you buy.
— Kim Campbell Thornton
Festive threats to pets include fatty foods, alcohol and open doors
By Dr. Tony Johnson for Universal Uclick
As I strolled through the grocery store last month, I noticed that the Christmas decor was already up. In my mind, it was still summer, but apparently the good folks at my local fooditorium wanted to ring in the holidays a tad early this year. Some day, I am certain they will start putting up the tinsel in June.
The holiday season is one of togetherness, and pets are increasingly a big part of the holiday festivities. During this otherwise joyous season, a few pet dangers are lurking, though. This info will help keep your pet safe during all the fun and avoid expensive trips to the pet ER.
Food — The biggest holiday threats to pets come from the same threats to your waistline and chances of you fitting into your skinny jeans — food! The holiday season is all about food (yeah, and love and family and all that other stuff, too), and there’s plenty of it to be had: cookies, roast beast, puddings and more cookies. To you, it may just mean another hour on the stair stepper, but to your dog, human food can cause real problems.
Vomiting and diarrhea are common side effects from eating too much people food (the medical term we throw about is “dietary indiscretion”), and in some cases, this can proceed to a more serious condition called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the gland that makes digestive enzymes as well as insulin. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it releases these enzymes and begins digesting itself. This can be a serious and painful condition that often requires hospitalization.
It is probably a good idea to either keep pets confined during any holiday parties, or make sure guests (especially kids) know not to give treats to your pets. Dogs and cats have been known to drag an entire turkey off the counter when the owner’s back is turned (you know they’ve gotta be thinking, “SCORE!”), so make sure you stay aware of their whereabouts during meal preparation.
If you do want to include your pet in the meal and fun, stick to a bit of lean turkey and low- or no-fat veggies (no onions, though, as these can cause anemia in dogs and cats), and skip the gravy, dressing and pecan pie. Sugar-free items that contain xylitol are also toxic to pets.
Booze — It is true: Don’t get your Doberman drunk during the holidays (or any other time), and don’t let any lampshade-wearing guests try to give your pug a mug of beer. And no one wants to see a basset with a hangover.
Your dog or cat’s liver is not equipped to process alcohol, and even small amounts can be life-threatening. Put boozy party leftovers well out of reach. That includes whisky-soaked fruitcakes, trifles laced with liqueurs and the rum balls that Aunt Martha sends every year.
Open doors — People come and go much more during the holidays than other times of year, and all that traffic can lead to plenty of opportunities for escape. In the ER, we see many pets who made a break for freedom when Uncle Floyd came a-callin’ with his special tuna surprise. Dogs and cats can dart out the door without anyone even noticing, and there’s a whole big world of hurt just waiting for them out there. Ensure that pets are safely put away when you are expecting guests, and make a nightly head count to make sure that all the furry family members are accounted for before turning in for your visions of sugar plums.
Here’s hoping you have a sane season, and that all family members make it through safely, no matter how many legs they have.