Friday, July 30, 2010

Where's Waldo? Feline Version

The other day I observed this scene in my back yard. A stray cat was sitting on my fencepost, howling pitifully.

I peeked out the window. Was she hurt? lost? afraid to jump down? (Note the expression!)

As I looked more closely I saw the full scene. She wasn't alone. Do you see another cat?

Look to the right, behind the garage.

Here he is!

I really couldn't be sure if these two cats were angry with each other
in love or just talking. But they carried on for quite some time, meowling back and forth. I would have loved a kitty cat translator.

What about you. Do your cats carry on like this? What do you think they're saying?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

DVD review--Wendy and Lucy

I was drawn to this movie because of the dog. Is Wendy and Lucy a touching, thought-provoking movie about a struggling woman and her faithful dog? I guess so. But in many ways, I also felt that Wendy and Lucy let me down.

Wendy and Lucy (2008) is a slow-paced road movie, directed by Kelly Reichardt, out on DVD. Critically acclaimed, nominated for several awards, it also won an award for Best Actress. The movie stars Michelle Williams (Shutter Island, Brokeback Mountain) as Wendy, and Lucy the dog as Lucy--a yellow Lab, Hound mix with the most amazing button ears (ears that stand up, but flop over at the top.)

Wendy is a young woman traveling in her run-down car, hoping for better job prospects in Alaska. Along the way the car breaks down and she doesn't have enough money to repair it, or to stay in a hotel, or to feed her dog. When Lucy disappears, Wendy goes to great extremes to try to find her and I clearly feel the love of the woman for her dog. Without giving anything away, in the end, she has to make a painful decision involving the dog.

The problem with the movie for me, is that it never fully explained this woman's need to go to Alaska. There are few clues to her background, education, job history and parental involvement. So strong was her desire to go to Alaska "for a job" that she naively set out on the long journey without the means to sufficiently take care of her needs, or those of her dog. Owning a dog comes with a responsibility, and it's not enough to just provide love. That being said, I think love trumps most other situations, as long as needs such as food and shelter are also met.

While I don't want to give away the ending, I felt that--instead of the noble decision I felt the movie wanted us to accept-- the main character was making a selfish decision, one that could have been resolved by giving up her (unfleshed-out) dream to go to Alaska.

The movie is rated R, although I don't know why. There was no sex, nudity, violence and only a little bad language. A note on the back of the DVD says "This rating seems to reflect, above all, an impulse to protect children from learning that people are lonely and that life can be hard."

Life can be hard, and movies don't have to have a pretty tied-with-a-bow ending in order to be good. But this one left me wondering WHY the main character was giving up so much in order to go to Alaska-- a question that was never fully answered...and if she really did the right thing for her dog in the end.

Have you seen the movie? What do you think?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Pet Roundup

Hi and welcome to Monday Pet Roundup!

* Pet rescues in the news: In Washington DC, a distressed dog received assistance from a U.S. Park Police detective. When the dog, apparently overcome by heat, was seen struggling in the Washington Channel, the detective jumped in for the rescue.
(Update: the dog did not survive. The owner was given a citation for allowing the dog to run loose in the park.)

* USA Today reports that another distressed dog, this one trapped in a hot car, saved itself by honking the horn until his owner returned and let him out.

* Kitty gone missing? Chicago Trib reports on a new iphone app to help locate your lost cat, called Here, Kitty Kitty. I'll let you decide if it actually works.

* Over at Take Paws, guest blogger Roxanne Hawn explains why Golden, Colorado is a great destination to visit with your dog!

*You're not going to want to eat this. Doggie Stylish brings us photos of amazing, 3D dog cakes.

What about you? Do you know of a great place to visit with your dog? And, if you've lost a pet, what have you done to help find it?

Friday, July 23, 2010

What's in those Genes?

Our first dog was a Dalmatian (That's Schuyler there on the left). After we adopted him, we learned that some dalmatians can be a bit snippy and also are prone to hip problems and deafness. Fortunately our dog was gentle and healthy.

Our next dog was a Yellow Lab. He was sweet and overall healthy, however like many labs he did become overweight (I take responsibility for my part in that).

Our little dog Kelly is part Cocker Spaniel and part Long-haired Dachshund. She's had a few seizures, which are reported in both breeds.

Just as we need to know our specific family history of cancer, heart disease and more, it's helpful to know the health history of our dog's breed too. With rescue and mixed breed dogs, we don't always have access to the parents or even any record of where the dog came from and what conditions may have been passed along. To help, has compiled a list of potential health issues for popular breed. Here are a few:

* Labrador Retriever-- tendency to become overweight

* German Shepherd-- bloat

* Yorkie--early tooth decay

* Golden Retriever-- hip dysplasia

* Bulldog-- enlarged heart

* Chihuahua-- skin sensitivity

Of course, not every dog will have every issue on the list. Use as a general guideline or as a checklist of things to be aware of. You can check out the entire list of health issues for the 15 most popular breeds of dogs.

What about you? Does your dog share any health concerns common for his or her breed(s)?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sit! Stay! Diet!

When I decided to share my struggle--and my dog's struggle--of losing weight, I knew that many pet owners would relate. The American Medical Association reports that 65% of U.S. adults are overweight, and the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that more than 40% of our dogs are overweight. So, if you like me and think that exercise is a four letter word and ice cream is a perfectly acceptable breakfast, then it stands to reason that our pets will be putting on a few extra pounds along with us.

At the time I wrote my book about dieting with my dog (Update: the manuscript is complete and with my agent. Hopefully she'll find the right publisher soon!) I'd lost 40 lbs and my spaniel Kelly (that's her, tugging on the leash. Think she wants a walk?) lost 6 lbs. We both kept it off for more than a year. Now, however, we're trying to deal with a few pounds rebound weight. We're working harder than ever to get the weight off and keep it off.

Here are some
tips for getting back on track:

1. Keep track of what you're eating. A food journal helps maintain accountability.

2. Change your exercise routine. If you're bored with the treadmill, try pilates or a Zumba class. I just added Wii Fit to my routine.

3. Make just one change. Maybe you could drink more water or add 15 minutes to your exercise

1. Make sure you're not back in the habit of offering table scraps.

2. Change the route that you take when walking together. New smells are exciting!

3. Make just one change. You could try a new snack (Kelly likes raw baby carrots) or add some special play time to the routine.

And don't forget, reward yourself, and your dog, for good progress!

What about you? Do you have any (human and canine) diet tips? What are some healthy snacks you (and your dog) like to eat? And cat owners, I know some cats tend to get lethargic and pack on a few extra pounds. Do you have any tricks that help?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Pet Roundup

Hi and Welcome to Monday Pet Roundup!

*Today is the kickoff day for Be the Change for Pets second cause, helping provide food and supplies to animal shelters around the world. Check out all the ways you can become involved in the Dog Days of Summer Pet Food Drive.

* How about freezing kibble, apples, and dog treats into a Popsicle, sticking on a stake in the ground and giving your dog a cool treat? Yes, Pet Connection tells us, there really is such an invention: Kool Dogz.

* More cool summer treats for pets from Pet Blog: Cooling Dog Bandana, Cooling Dog Bed, and Chilly Bone!

* Cat owners should be aware of the Feline's Pride cat food recall. Dancing Dog Blog has expanded and updated information.

* You wouldn't knowingly buy a pet from a puppy mill. But with Internet advertising, how do you know what you're getting into? Number One: a reputable breeder will not sell you a puppy without meeting you first. Edie, from Will My Dog Hate Me, shares this and other tips on how to recognize puppy mill purveyors on the Internet.

* Most of us are aware of the puppy mill situation, but what horses? Pet News and Views highlights an article by Laura Allen of Animal Law Coalition describing circumstances of dehydration, cruelty and death in wild horse round ups.

And now, your smile for the day. "No, I haven't seen your lipstick. Why?" Check out the photo from Cute Overload.

On the serious side, have you found a way to support or highlight an important pet cause? And on the light side, does your dog or cat (or bird, horse, parrot) like the water? I'd love to hear about a cat who swims in the pool!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blog the Change-- Grey Muzzles and Love

I'm so excited to be part of the Be the Change for Animals blog day event! This active group is all about helping animals, providing a platform to spread the voice of animal advocates and people just like you and me, who love animals. We can make a difference.

The idea of Blog the Change Days is to promote a cause in need, announce a new commitment to help animals, and inspire others to join us.

I often think of our yellow lab, Hudson, when he was a puppy...rolly poly body, chubby little legs, sweet breath, a ball of yellow energy. I also think of Hudson as a senior citizen, graying muzzle, heavy body, slow gate. And oh, those eyes that reflected everything he'd been through...running in the yard, swimming in the lake, happiness, and unfortunately in his older years, pain. How I wanted his senior years to be just as happy as his puppy years.

That is why I've selected The Grey Muzzle Organization as my Blog the Change cause. We all know that cute, cuddly puppies are adopted first in shelters. I know it is hard to give your heart to a senior dog who may not have as many years left to share with you. But these senior dogs deserve a loving home. The Grey Muzzle Organization works to improve the lives of senior dogs by funding programs such as hospice care, senior dog adoption, medical screening and other special programs to help old dogs at animal welfare organizations across the country.

* Senior dogs may be abandoned because owners are unable or unwilling to provide for their medical needs.

* Well-loved senior dogs may become homeless when their senior person moves to assisted living facilities.

* Some senior dogs have lived all their lives in abusive situations, or have lived in shelters for years and are deemed unadoptable because of their age.

But we can help! Volunteering, donating or spreading the word are some of the ways you can help senior dogs live out their lives with love and care. In addition, please copy this message and Tweet or post to your website, blog, Facebook or other social site:

Old friends are the best. Help senior dogs in need. Visit The Grey Muzzle Organization

Thank you! And Be the Change for Animals!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Pet Roundup

Hi and welcome to Monday's Pet Roundup!

*How's your dog beating the heat? According to Dogster fans, with wading pools, ice cubes and of course A/C! Kelly doesn't overly-adore her new doggie pool, but she seems to feel much more comfortable after a quick dip.

* Although most of us wouldn't describe a dog shelter as chic...Blogpaws reports on new boutique shelters that offer more upscale pet selection experiences, more like a retail store. Cute, healthy, adoptable pups and kittens are selected from larger shelters and offered at the boutique shelters.The good news is that it helps get pets adopted, and is designed to help put the puppy mills out of business. The bad news is that the older and less "desirable" puppies and kitties still remain in the shelter.

* Now's a good time to consider sponsoring a family through the Animal Rescue New Orleans, a no-kill shelter, Pet Retention Program. Many people have lost their jobs as a result of the oil spill in the Gulf, and every little bit helps enable them to keep their pets fed and healthy... until better times.

* On the topic of tough financial times, here's a related--and touchy --discussion on Get Rich Slowly about giving up pets when in financial crisis. The author (a pet parent and pet lover) poses the question "How long do you keep a pet, even when you can't afford it?" Where do we draw the limits when it comes to spending on our pets? Most of us pet lovers say there's no limit, our pets are part of the family. What other factors play into this decision? This article examines all sides of the issue.

* The above author's vet also provided helpful information on some organizations that are available to help pets and families in need:
-- The PAW Team (Portland Animal Welfare Team) provides free vet care to the pets of people who are homeless or in extreme poverty.
--FIDO (Friends Involved in Dog Outreach) offers a number of programs to assist dog owners, including Animeals (meals-on-wheels for cats and dogs) and a Dog Food Bank (for dog owners in financial need).
-- Cat Adoption Team, which provides a cat food bank.

* For those who want to get even more involved, Petfinder gives us 10 steps to start a pet food bank.

What about you? Do you have a trick to help your pet beat the heat?
How do you feel about boutique shelters? And what can we do in tough financial times to be able to keep our faithful friends?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Celebs who love dogs

What do Edie Falco, Greg Louganis, Glen Close and Isaac Mizrahi have in common? Incredible talent? A love of shoes? They can all get a good table at Sardis?
The answer is: they all love their dogs! And you will love this candid docudrama, MY Dog, an Unconditional Love Story, celebrating dogs and the musicians, actors, actresses, authors and designers who love them.

I haven't seen it yet, but this trailer is sweet. Let us know what you think!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kelly Goes Bananas

Kelly loves treats. (What dog doesn't?) But I've never thought to give her anything banana before. That is, until Bil-Jac sent me these awesome banana flavored snacks just for dogs. First of all, you've gotta love the names: Yapple-nanas and PB-nanas.

The treats are made with chicken and fresh chicken liver, and Yapple-nanas are banana and apple flavored, while PB-nanas are banana and peanut butter flavored. They contain no gluten meals or soy products. The treats are small, soft bits which would be great for training.

When I opened the packet, the fruity aroma was strong, but I thought pleasant. And Kelly was eagerly awaiting her first taste.

Does Kelly like banana flavor? Absolutely, she's crazy for it! Yapple-nanas and PB-nanas will be her training treat of choice from now on.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday Pet Roundup

Hi and Welcome to Monday Pet Roundup!

* Allowing your dog some play time at the park should be fun and safe. Here's what you need to know about dog park and doggy day care safety, from Dog Star Daily.

* Going to Disneyworld this summer? What about your pet? Check out these new luxury pet resort at Disneyworld...dogs, cats, even hamsters! They offer dog walks, play time, cuddle time, grooming, bedtime stories, even luxury rooms with televisions! I think my dog Kelly would love this!

* Other traveling with pets news isn't so bright. Want to fly with your pet turtle? Think again. Three young girls trying to bring home a 2-inch pet turtle in a cage were told they had to get off the plane and leave the turtle behind. When airline personnel refused to look after the pet until someone could retrieve it, the girls threw the turtle in the trash. Fortunately, the story has a happy ending.

* Check out these photos from Desire to Inspire: Pets on furniture. Could you think of a better combination?

....except maybe Kids and Dogs from Huffington Post. Your daily dose of sugar!

*I really liked this blog post from Bark: Confessions of a Dog Trainer.
How To Ruin a Perfectly Good Dog:
1. Get a Dog
2. Bring it Home
3. Buy an enormous bag of inexpensive dog food from the grocery store
4. Yell at the dog for begging at the table. Give it a piece of spaghetti to make it go away.
5. Read the rest of the list from

What about you? Will you take your pet with you when you travel this summer? And, do you have some great suggestions to add to the list "How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Dog?"

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ooo! Ahhh! Arf! 5 Ways to Calm your Pet during Fireworks

Fourth of July is a time for barbecues, beaches, parades...and fireworks exploding in the night sky. While we might enjoy this colorful spectacle, often our pets do not.

My dog Kelly sometimes hides in the closet when she hears unsettling sounds such as fireworks or strong claps of thunder. But there are ways to help your pet feel more secure when confronted with loud noises.

1. Reassure without coddling.
Certainly it's OK to reassure your dog. You might give her a massage or even a nice brushing if she finds that soothing. Just avoid the tendency to baby your fearful dog. Otherwise, she will learn to associate cringing, cowering and barking with the reward of your attention. This will only reinforce her fearful behavior.

2. Share some tunes.
Cover up the frightening noise with songs on the radio or a television program. Even a loud fan sometimes works.

3. Find a safe space.
Allow your dog to find a place where he feels secure. Open doors to bedrooms so he can slip under a bed or hide in a closet (like Kelly). Be sure he can come and go. But never shut your dog in the room or closet, or even in his crate, when he is afraid.

4. Try a training technique.
Some people help their dog overcome a fear by exposing her to the specific noise, little by little. This technique is called desensitization. You can read more about desensitization techniques on the Humane Society website.

5. Play a game.
You may be able to distract your dog with a favorite game such as fetch, or by practicing obedience commands. This way, the reward of your attention will be for obeying commands, not for acting fearful.

If the fear is extreme, or if none of these techniques work, you might consider consulting your veterinarian, who can help you decide if herbal remedies or mild tranquilizers would be beneficial.

*This column first appeared on, July 2009.

What about your dog? Is he afraid of fireworks? Have you found a calming technique that works for your dog? Or does your dog enjoy sharing the 4th of July festivities with you?!