Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Rufferences and Resources

Here's this week's Rufferences and Resources.

In shelter news this week, read about a new way to transport pups in need of homes: the Rescue Waggin'!

And, did you think shelters were only for dogs and cats? Check out this guinea pig shelter in Aurora CO. I love guinea pigs--they're so cute and personable. Find out more why guinea pigs make great pets in my article at

Looking for a pet? You may find it this way, with a new pet friendly iphone app.

Do you know what Twitter a Critter is? Find out here!

People need a plan for their safety and evacuation in the event of fire, flood, tornado etc. Well, so do our dogs, cats and other animals. We need to be sure they aren't left behind. Learn about disaster preparedness for our pets.

Heading to Orlando? Visit the Woof Gang Bakery, dedicated to the canine clientelle.

Finally, do you have a veterinarian who has been especially caring? Gone above and beyond? Demonstrated lifesaving skills? Nominate your favorite vet for the North American Pet Health Insurance Association award. Or, tell about how pet health insurance helped you and your pet. Entries for both are due by September 30. Click here for more details.

Please check back next Monday for more Rufferences and Resources.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Introducing dogs in blended families

When Stacy Jensen remarried, she wasn't the only one moving in with her new husband, Andy. She was also introducing her dog to the new family--including Andy's dog. Stacy has a Poodle-Pomeranian mix, Eddie. Andy's dog is Mauly, a young Vizsla. They were about 2 years old when they were brought together in one blended family. Introducing dogs into one "pack" can be tricky. Here Stacy tells us about her experience.

Q: How did you introduce Eddie and Mauly?

A: They met at the front door of my house. They were allowed to sniff around and check each other out. We were there in case there was a problem. We pretty much let them get to know each other.

Q: Did one dog become dominant?

A: Neither really. It depends on what is going on whether they display dominance. Mauly will sometimes show dominance due to her size. She can easily push Eddie out of the way. Eddie, of course, acts like he is much bigger than he is.

Q:How do you resolve any fights/disagreements?

A: We separate them. The only disagreements involve treats or food. Mauly is fairly mild mannered about even this. If Eddie abandons his food (because he gets distracted), Mauly will patiently sit next to Eddie's food bowl hoping for permission to eat it.

Q: What is your advice to others?

A: Each dog should have its own crate and bedding to lounge around the house.

Q: Anything else interesting you've noted about your dogs?

A: Eddie is overall more accepting of other dogs. Mauly had a dog try to steal her stick in the past year and ever since she will randomly be aggressive toward other dogs or 100 percent ignores them. This behavior is odd, because Mauly interacts well with other animals like calves, goats and horses we have encountered on walks.

Both dogs love people. Mauly is a bit jealous. If she hears Eddie's name or senses he is getting pets and affection, she runs into the room and will attempt to push Eddie away. Her size makes her triumphant in this endeavor. Eddie never seems to mind.

Andy and I still note that each dog knows his or her person. I may be sleeping in, but Eddie will sit at the bedroom door waiting for me to get up and ignoring Andy. Mauly will listen to me while Andy is at work, but once Andy arrives home she looks to Andy for direction (unless I have a treat!). As long as one of them listens to someone in the house, I'm good.

Thank you Stacy for your insight!

You can read Stacy's blog at:
or follow her on Twitter: @StacyWrites

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Pet Rufferences and Resources

Every Monday I'll be bringing you Pet Rufferences and Resources, a place to keep up with what's happening in the pet world, links to breaking news, tips, good books and movies, and other bits of info you want to know! I hope you'll check back every week, and I'd love to hear your comments!

Last week I wrote a blog entry about traveling on planes with your pet. Here is one writer's opinion of having to fly with pets in the cabin of the plane. I never thought about allergy-sufferers before. Good points.

If you are considering traveling, by plane or otherwise, why not spend your waning summer days at a dog-themed special event, such as the vaudeville style show "Gone to the Dogs" in Texas, or the "Fido Festival" in NJ? Find some great ideas here! Closer to home, have you considered taking your dog out to play in a dog park, but not sure where to locate one? Here's a listing of dog parks by state.

Can your pet get swine flu? Find out more information here.And, if your pet does become ill, which household remedies are safe? Should you give your dog aspirin? What can you do if your dog has a tummy ache? And what in the world does contact lens solution have to do with this? Read these great tips from Good Morning America's Dr. Marty Becker. The Washington Post printed this opinion article today: Should you be compensated for emotional loss if your pet is injured?

And finally, do you have a great photo of your dog? Consider entering one of these pet photo contests.

Great American Photo Contest

Martha Stewart pets Contest

See you next Monday with more Monday Pet Rufferences and Resources!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Flying With Your Pet

The thought of flying with a dog or cat in the cargo area of a plane frightens me. Pets are not luggage. Although experts say the incidence of pet dying while traveling on airlines is rare, I would imagine it’s stressful and scary at the least. And, what if you and your pet become separated, like lost luggage?

More and more airlines are offering the option to fly with your pet in the cabin. Here are some things you should know:

Only Certain Airlines permit this option. AirTran, Spirit, and JetBlue are among the airlines allowing pets in the cabin.

Pets Must be in a Crate. The crate must be small enough to slide under the seat in front of you.

Pets Must be Small Enough to fit comfortably in the crate. This means that only small cats and dogs can travel on these planes. Not possible for those of us with medium to large dogs. (or very large ducks!)

The number of Pets on board at a time may be limited. This may be a total of 3-6 pets on one flight.

There will be an extra charge for bringing your pet. This is generally around $100.

A new option is Pet Airways. This is an all-pets airline; no human passengers. Seats have been replaced by rows of kennels in the main cabin. The pets are monitored every 15 minutes by a trained pet attendant. When the plane lands, the pets are taken out for a “potty break” and then reunited with owners, or kept in a special kennels until the owners arrive.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

5 Dogs in Weddings

Our pets are part of our family. And for some families, the dog is included in every special event--even the wedding. Here are a few of my favorite pictures of dogs in weddings!

Here's a dog as flower girl, from Martha Stewart Pets

Dog as ring bearer, from Elizabeth Anne Designs

Another dog as ring bearer, from Isn't She Lovely

Dog as Best Man, from Ananova

Dog as Maid of Honor, from Angel K9

If you're thinking of including your pet in a wedding, there's even a website with tips!

Friday, August 14, 2009

How Your Dog can Become a Canine Good Citizen

Dogs that jump up on strangers, steal food off the table, bark incessantly, annoy neighbors? These dogs are suffering from a lack of manners. Of course, it's our duty to teach them proper behavior. And that is the basis for the Canine Good Citizen program.

My dog Kelly isn't perfect. Sometimes I let her get away with things just because she's cute. But I do expect her to obey basic commands and behave politely in public. We practice heeling nicely down the sidewalk, sitting calmly for food, and trying not to attack the mailman. She needs improvement in getting along with other dogs, though.

In addition to basic commands such as sit, stay, and come, here's what your dog needs to know to become a Canine Good Citizen.

1. Behave politely around people. Allow a friendly stranger to approach. When your dog is being petted, he shouldn’t spin around like a top, but he shouldn’t shy away either.
2. Behave politely around other dogs. Your dog should never show signs of aggression. It’s acceptable to show interest in the other dog as long as she remains in control.

3. Cooperate for veterinary examinations and grooming. It’s not easy to be poked and prodded, but no nipping!
4. Walk on a leash without tugging or pulling ahead like a Greyhound at the races. He will not have to heel perfectly, just walk with you evenly.

5. Remain calm when she is left with someone else and you are out of sight. We know she loves you. But she should be able to separate from you for a short time.

Could Kelly pass the good citizen test? I think she still needs a little work. But we're practicing.

For more information, visit

First appeared in, March 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reality Check for Pet Owners

I recently read an article on Wisebread that had me laughing and nodding in agreement: 10 Hidden Costs and Rules of Pet Ownership by Frugal Dutchess. Please go to the site and check it out, including the 10 Adorable Photos of Pets. I'm not quite sure about the title, because to me the article was more like 10 Reality Checks of Pet Ownership. But it is all true!

Here are my 4 favorite points I learned from this article:

Pets make taking vacations difficult. Bringing your pet along on vacation involves finding a hotel or motel that allows pets. Not being able to go out to eat at a nice restaurant because you have the dog in the car. But, leaving your pet involves finding a suitable kennel or pet sitter. And worrying about your pet while you're away. We brought our dog Kelly with us to visit my daughter. We thought she'd be fine in her crate while we went out to dinner. It turned out that Kelly barked and cried so much the neighbors complained and the apartment super phoned my daughter to come home and take care of the situation.

If you have a home office, pets create distractions. Every time your home office phone rings, your dog will decide to bark up a storm and beg for attention. This is so true! I try to move as far away from my dog as possible, but since I have a small house, I usually end up standing outside (no matter the weather.) Also, whenever I get an important call from my agent or editor, the mailman comes to the door, the dog barks, and the other line rings in. Without fail.

Most kids beg for the pet, but aren't good on the follow-through. Kelly is my son Andy's dog. But I feed her, walk her, brush her, play with her. Yes, I'm home during the day and he's at work or school or baseball practice. And, okay, I admit...I don't mind.

Pets can be stinky. I'm always worried about pet odor. I think my family is used to the smell of our house, so we don't really notice. But I'm sure it has a doggy scent. I've bought air fresheners, reed diffusers, Plug-Ins, Yankee candles, you name it. I hope they're working.

and one point of my own:

Vet bills cost more than you think. Whenever I want to add another pet to our family, I think about this. A routine check-up at the vet's office usually runs us about $100. There are stools to be tested, heartworm pills dispensed, glands to be squeezed. You name it. There's no getting around most of it. We want to give her good care and that includes her check ups.

Of course, no list would be complete without adding the joys of pet ownership. And I can sum that up in one word: love. Every time I look at my difficult, distracting, demanding, stinky, expensive dog, I'm so glad she's a part of our family.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Pet Mom Mistakes

Most pet parents have been there. We do our best training and raising our furry charges, but then we look back and realize there were things we could have done differently. Okay; could have done better.

My dog Kelly is 7 years old now. She's mature, set in her ways, and a little bit spoiled. I make excuses for her bad behaviors ("She didn't mean it." "She deserves it." "She was just trying to show us she cares..."), but I realize, I am responsible for pretty much all of her flaws (however cute I may think they are.). Despite my mistakes, Kelly is sweet and reasonably well-behaved. But, looking back, here is what I could have done differently:

1. Don't let her up on the furniture
I love the feeling of a warm puppy snuggling up with me. I love sitting comfortably on the couch and reaching down to scratch my dog's ears. Why have a dog if it's relegated to the floor, where we rarely share a comfortable cuddle? But I don't enjoy dog hair all over my clothes and furniture. It's difficult to brush off or clean up. And why have a nice-looking couch if I always keep it covered with a blanket to keep it hairless? I'm not sure there really is a solution for this one.
2. Don't feed her scraps from the table
Big puppy dog eyes can be cute, but begging is not cute. Why did I ever start tossing the crust of my bread or scraps of meat onto the floor, where Kelly was lurking eagerly? Now she expects to be fed any time we eat.

3. Do socialize her with other dogs
When Kelly was a puppy, we took her on outings. But as she got older, she growled whenever she saw another dog. She reacted aggressively: the hair on her neck and back standing straight up, her teeth bared. Instead of combatting this problem with training, we just avoided other dogs. This makes trips to the vet's office or groomer's challenging. Now I think she's missing out on playing with dog pals, too.

4. Don't give her snacks just for looking cute
Simply said, this led to Kelly gaining weight. We've since solved this by giving her carrots and healthy treats, and increasing her walks. She lost weight, but she still expects snacks for looking cute.

5. Do expect her to behave when people come to the door
Kelly may not like other dogs, but she loves people. When my friends come to the door I usually hold onto Kelly's collar as I open the door. She lunges and tugs and pulls to "greet" the company. While I may not mind a dog jumping up on me, not everyone feels the same. I should have trained her to sit calmly and wait to be acknowledged when company comes to visit.

Well, these are my mistakes. Maybe reading about them will help you decide what not to do with your dog. I know, it's not too late for me and Kelly to work on most of these problems. And we will, I promise! Fortunately, Kelly is usually calm and well-behaved, even if she is a bit tactless in some of her social skills. We all have room to improve, right?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

5 Great Summer Books about Pets

Looking for a great book this summer? Right now I'm reading The Art of Racing In the Rain by Garth Stein. The story is told from the point of view of Enzo, a special dog with human-like reasoning.

Watch the book trailer here.

Enzo gains much of his knowledge by eavesdropping on his owners' conversations and watching TV. Enzo especially enjoys watching broadcasts of car races. The problem is Enzo is old and fears he's a burden to his family. I'm hoping I'm not in for a heartbreak.

Here are four more great pet books to read this summer:

Moments with Baxter; Comfort and Love from the World's Best Therapy Dog by Melissa Joseph.
“Moments with Baxter is a collection of touching, true stories about the poignant connection between Baxter, a 19-year-old therapy dog, and the hospice patients and their families to whom he brings comfort and love. During the last four years, Baxter has helped hundreds of patients ease out of their lives with dignity and peace. His uncanny intuition and almost human responsiveness demonstrates the unique and inextricable bond between human and dog. 36 true and touching stories of canine/patient connection.”

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
by David Wroblewski
"Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm--and into Edgar's mother's affections.
Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father's death, but his plan backfires--spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward."

Dewey; The Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World
by Vicki Myron
"How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can't even begin to answer those questions until you hear the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa."

And, for the kids (ages 4-8), a children's book:
Bridget Fidget and the Most Perfect Pet by Joe Berger
"When a big box arrives one morning, Bridget Fidget leaps out of bed and spins down the stairs. She knows what’s inside—a unicorn! After all, she’s always wanted a pet unicorn, so it must be a pet unicorn. But inside the box is just another . . . smaller . . . box. And it’s buzzing. This is no unicorn. But could it possibly be something even better?
For all kids who’ve ever wanted what they couldn’t have (because it’s a mythical creature or just beyond the family budget), here’s Bridget Fidget—the girl in a whirl who finally sees that even better things can come in unexpectedly small packages. Like Eloise and Olivia before her, Bridget’s got moxie to spare."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pets can Improve Your Health

Am I a healthier person because my dog Kelly is in my life? Actually, yes! I’ve lost 40 pounds, I’m off my blood pressure medication, and my cholesterol is lower too—in part due to owning a dog. Cats, dogs and other pets can all help. Here are five health benefits you could enjoy:

1. Lower Blood Pressure

You love your pet with all your heart. Did you also know that owning a pet could be beneficial to your heart? According to studies by the American Heart Association, pet owners are more likely to have lower blood pressures than non-pet owners.

2. Fewer Allergies

Sure, many people have allergies to pet fur and dander. But, research conducted by James Gern at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown that children who grow up in a home with pets have a lower instance of allergies than those who don’t. So, it’s possible that owning a pet could actually help prevent your child from developing allergies.

3. Less Stress and Depression

Owning a pet can be beneficial for our mental health too. The American Veterinary Medical Association cited studies that indicated people who own pets remain calmer in stressful situations. Caregivers also observe that pets can soothe Alzheimers patients, and seniors with pets are less likely to report depression as a symptom than those without pets. Of course, a pet misbehaving pet can cause stress, so be sure behavioral issues are resolved.

4. Improved Weight Loss

My story, The Doggy Diet, (Guideposts, Dec 2008) shares how Kelly helped inspire me to lose weight (and her, too!). Of course, simply owning a dog won’t make you skinny. But—as with Kelly and me—it can encourage you to go out and take walks together, which may lead to weight loss and improved health.

5. Greater Happiness

Pets love you unconditionally. They can reduce loneliness. They make you happy. And when you’re happier, that’s a plus for your health!

(This column first appeared on, March 2009)