Sunday, May 3, 2009



The Auxiliary to the American Veterinary Medical Association is celebrating "Pets—The Spice of Life" during National Pet Week 2009, May 3-9. "We all believe that pets are very special, and they do spice up our lives," said Ginger Morton, the Auxiliary's vice president for public relations.

National Pet Week focuses on responsible pet ownership, recognition of the human-animal bond, and public awareness of veterinary medicine. The AVMA and Auxiliary jointly founded the event in 1981, and the celebration has spread throughout the United States and beyond. The AVMA continues to support the event.

When Questions On Dogs and Cats returns to its normal publication pattern on May 10th, Helpful Buckeye will report the results of the two polling questions from this week's issue. The polling question for National Pet Week can be found in the left column and should provide a pretty good overview of what pet owners think of their pets. Don't skip this one!

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye are hitting the trail early this week, perhaps in celebration of National Pet Week (probably not, but it sounds good, right?). Therefore, this week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats will be a bit shorter than normal and also of a simpler format. Since there won't be as much to read as in other weeks, you might want to spend a few moments going back through the "Labels" list in the left column and picking out a couple of interesting topics to read for a review.

The big news story this week has been the sudden, and unexpected, outbreak of swine "flu" in Mexico and subsequently many other countries. The various news channels have provided a lot of coverage of this disease and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has stayed busy explaining what exactly is going on. Since that information is changing many times per day, we won't be going into any more detail on that.

There is one aspect, however, of this swine flu event that might not be receiving as much attention:
AVMA advises consumers that pork and pork products are safe for consumption
Schaumburg, IL , 4/29/09
— The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is advising consumers concerned about the outbreak of the new virus being called swine influenza that neither exposure to pigs nor consumption of pork are risk factors for infection.
"This disease is transmitted from human to human and, as far as we know right now, it does not involve pigs, livestock or pets," explains Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. "That said, the association advises people to follow proper cooking guidelines for all meat products including pork to avoid food borne illnesses such as salmonella."
The American Association of Swine Veterinarians has reported the new virus has not been found in pigs.
"The AVMA is working with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and so far there have been no reports of outbreaks among swine herds, although members of the group are stepping up surveillance for the virus and keeping in close contact with federal and state animal health officials," Dr. DeHaven said.
"It's unfortunate that this flu strain is being called "swine" flu, because the virus is a combination of viruses including swine, poultry and human influenzas," explains Dr. Bret Marsh, the Indiana state veterinarian. "The reality is that swine flu hasn't been found in swine populations in the United States."
This new virus, despite its name, is believed to be spreading via human to human contact. Swine influenza is believed to have spread among people who had no contact with pigs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack issued a statement on April 26 that there was no evidence swine have been infected with this new virus.
This new virus was first reported in North America. The virus has caused more severe illness and some deaths in Mexico, and, to date, there has been only one death from the illness reported in the United States.
The symptoms of this new influenza are similar to seasonal flu but may have additional gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting, stomach ache and diarrhea.

Holly, a sometimes contributor, has provided this special and poignant story about how she and her family acquired a "new" dog on Halloween. Helpful Buckeye has been saving this story for National Pet Week...I think you'll understand after you read it. Here's the set-up: It's Halloween and two young girls have come up onto the porch in their costumes, followed by a dog, which apparently is not theirs.

"Okay, girls, here's what I'll do. Mr. Mike and I will take the dog and put him in our kitchen. My dogs will be all right with that. We'll take him around the neighborhood tomorrow and see who's lost their dog. Sound good to you?"Princess Number One looks at Princess Jasmine Number Two, they nod to each other..."Okay," says Number Two, "Dat's a good plan. Thank you Miss. Can we still have some candy?"

Candy delivered, good nights exchanged, they walk away into the dark. And, Smiling Dog? He just stands there watching them go. We, the smiling dog and I, say goodnight to Roseanne and walk into the living room.To be met by three confused Cairn Terriers and Doog. "Who's this? And, what the heck is going on, Hol?" I explain to all four. Michael says, "Well, what are we going to do with him?" I share the plan. He runs his hand across his forehead, agreeing, "Sure, we can't leave him out so we'll make it work. I'll walk him around tomorrow and see who's missing him.

"The Cairn Terriers were Jamie, the gentleman; Meggie, the princess; and Fagan, my neurotic dog all the way from Scotland. Fagan would be a blog all his own. Let's put it this way...Fagan probably was emotionally ruined by making the trans-Atlantic flight at a very young age. Or, he was just born nervous and jerky and never got better.I was the only Human he trusted, which is why the breeder, rather than destroy him gifted him to me, absorbing a pretty big financial loss. I sighed most days over Fagan as he was a difficult dog to have as a pet. Additionally, for several years we'd been struggling with his Cushing's Disease and other medical issues. Still, a spirit who loves you, is a spirit you'll work to keep with you.What I didn't expect was the behaviors. I was positive that sweet Jamie would be friendly. Meggie was a wee pup so I thought for sure, she'd take to the visitor. Fagan, I was fairly certain would pee on a chair leg and disappear under the sofa in a nervous pique.

Exactly the opposite happened; Jamie and Meggie stared at Smiling Dog with Cairn Terrier eyes rolling in distress. You could almost hear the, "Ewwww!" They wanted nothing to do with him.It was Fagan who wagged his straggly tail in greeting. And, then began to tour him through the place. We followed as they stopped various places. Imagining the highlights, "Okay, this is our food bowl; this is where the water is. Treats are kept in here. These are toys, but we don't play with them. You can have them if you want."Thinking the visitor and our kids might need to pee, Mike opened the back door. Jamie and Meg refused to go out. Fagan lead the way with Smiling Dog around the backyard. Reminding one of a Disney movie, Lady & The Tramp- big dog looking down on little dog; little dog looking up in response as they walked about.

The next day, a Friday, when I'm home from work, Doog says, "I walked the damn dog all over the place. No one has seen him, knows him, or has lost their dog. I don't know what else to do. I decided to run an ad in The Sun. And, I posted flyers. We'll just have to hope someone calls. If not, I'll take him to the pound on Monday."I agree, "Looks as if we'll have a house guest for the weekend." Meggie sniffs as if to say, "Yuky. Make him go away." I tell her to be nice. Not possible.From the moment he arrived, Fagan and Smiling Dog stuck together. Jamie and Meggie fell into a groove of avoidance. Remarkably, having four dogs in our tiny house seemed to be working all right.

But, on Sunday morning, after years of fighting the good fight, Fagan wasn't all right. In fact, he was terribly wrong. We had taken him to the vet's earlier in the week because of a rapidly growing gum abscess. The vet confirmed that it would need surgery the following week. We were conservative about all treatments because we knew that the Cushing's was going to take an eventual toll. But, I thought we'd have more time.Sunday, time ran out. We kept him close all day. A vigil you hope to avoid. He failed more and more during the passing hours...his light slowly fading.Laying back on the sofa, I cradled him. I looked at him, he looked up at me with a peaceful look. I cried. "Hey, it's up to the Humans to pick a dog's not the dog's place to do it for them." He just looked closer at me. And, with that, he took a deep dog sigh. Closing his eyes for a nap.That's the moment when I understood it all. Fagan had somehow made certain that his replacement was in place and shown around before he had to go. He picked the dog for us. And, died at home that evening.We were distraught. It is a very difficult thing to sit with an animal while it struggles to take its last few breaths. There is fear involved. And uncertainty and panic. It is not peaceful as it is with a vet to assist with the process. I will never again allow a pet of mine to struggle through its passing.We sat there for a long time, in shock, following his final breath. We cleaned him and wrapped him in a blanket. Walked upstairs. Numb. Jamie and Meggie hid. Smiling Dog stood close. We were shattered in tears. Smiling Dog, tried to turn around in a tight spot to leave the room. In the attempt, he whacked his head on the coffee table and hopped back with a startled look that clearly conveyed to the table, "What the heck did you go and do that for??!"I couldn't help it...I started to laugh. And, as Humans can do in emotionally charged states, the laugh turned into a laughing jag. Doog eventually catching up to me in the process of holding our sides. Smiling Dog just stands looking back and forth between us wagging his tail.

And, in the quiet that followed I whisper, "Heyoka. We'll call him Heyoka." Michael agreed..."Perfect." The Lakota Indians have a group of very powerful medicine people- The Heyoka. Often called The Contraries, their job is to keep the tribe's energetic balance in place. They ride horses backward. Paint their faces and bodies in odd designs. Say 'yes' when the answer is clearly, 'no.' In times of great happiness, they do something harsh to bring the energy down. In times of great sorrow, they play the clown and act silly to make the tribe laugh, raising up the spirit.Smiling Dog acted the clown in our time of overwhelming sorrow. And, that's how he became Heyoka; Yoki for short.

In the morning, we took Fagan's body to the vet. We were there when the doors opened. The tech looked down at the blanketed bundle saying quietly, "I'm so sorry. He was a brave little guy." The vet came out right away offering condolences and told us what to expect. Because he had worked with Fagan throughout the entire process from diagnosis to death, and treating Cushing's was just becoming possible, he opted for an autopsy; no charge to us.

Several days later, we took Yoki for a check-up and post conference about Fagan. The vet said, "This guy is only about three months old. Someone most likely drove into a neighborhood, and kicked him out of the car knowing there'd be lots of people around. He's lucky he didn't get killed. Luckier still to have found you guys." Giving the pup a big hug, he said, You're one lucky guy!" Yoki grinned back at him.He then shared what Fagan's autopsy revealed. "He was absolutely eaten up with cancer. Holly, I'm amazed that he was alive as long as he was. Upon examination, I can't really understand how he was still here! He's a miracle in an odd way. I'll tell you what, as nervous as he was, he was a fighter and didn't want to leave you. Maybe he found this pup because he didn't want you to miss him too badly."That made me cry. Hard. I can't know if it's possible for an animal to do that, but I believe that's exactly what happened. Fagan really loved me. So, now you know the story of how I found the dog. Or, more exactly, how the dog found me."

Thank you, Holly, for retelling this story for us. It all seems to fit, doesn't it? You can read more of Holly's daily writings at ....Let her know that you read her story here at Questions On Dogs and Cats.

The last thing that Helpful Buckeye wants to mention this week is to be sure to enjoy Cinco de Mayo in whatever manner you see fit. Since Desperado and Helpful Buckeye will be in Santa Maria, CA, I don't think we'll have any problem finding the proper location for our little celebration! The photo of the sunset on my profile this week was taken by my good friend, Terry, who lives in Santa Maria. Be safe and see you again on May 10th!


  1. First, let me just wish you Happy Trails. When you come back, I'll be heading out for a week out of the country so I will miss my Monday morning with the Doc...but I'll be back and catch up.

    Next, let me say how glad I am that you clear up the whole Swine Flue usual, it's the people who make each other sick, but our poor creatures bear the brunt of the hysteria...thank you for the clarification.

    Last, and least important, I am thrilled that Yoki was used as your poster child for National Pet Week. And, he is the best reminder of how, even if you have a passion for a pure-breed, your life can be so much more enriched if you take in a spirit who needs a loving home. He truly was a wondeful dog.

    I'm sending a little funny to you today! AS always, thanks for all your work. Even when the post is a short one, it's not shortened in terms of your commitment and energy.

  2. Time to get this blog back to important issues
    like, late spring, early summer, no SNOW,
    POOL, and above all cute dogs :^)
    Hope your trip is fantastic....