Monday, December 26, 2011


The idea of "Holiday Rambling" was received with such positive response after Helpful Buckeye tried it for Thanksgiving weekend that we'll give it a go for Christmas and New Year's weekends.  If our readers actually have some free time during which to read both issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye would like to keep the topics diverse, interesting, and entertaining.  Hope you enjoy both issues....

Let's get started with some general informational tidbits...what you might call trivia, about cats and dogs.  I think you'll find this stuff pretty interesting.

How many times have you used a phrase in conversation and then wondered how that particular phrase come to be?  Here are some cat-related phrases for your enjoyment:

Cat-related idioms, their meanings, and histories
  • Cat got your tongue - "Why aren't you talking?"  The phrase probably comes from a custom in the Mideast hundreds of years ago, when it was common to punish a thief by cutting off their right hand, and a liar by ripping out their tongue. These severed body parts were given to the king's pet cats as their daily food.  Sounds a little gruesome to helpful Buckeye....
  • Cat's cradle - "A string game played by children...."  In early Europe, people believed a cat could increase the chances of fertility in a young married couple. A month after the wedding, a fertility rite was performed, where a cat was secured in a cradle, and the cradle was then carried into the newlyweds' house and was then rocked back and forth. This ensured an early pregnancy. The string game creates what looks loosely like a cradle, and over time it was called a 'cat's cradle.'
  • Cat's meow - "Something considered to be outstanding...."  Coined by American cartoonist Thomas a. Dorgan (1877-1929) whose work appears in many American newspapers
  • Catwalk - "A narrow walkway...."  Termed as such because of a cat's ability to balance in very narrow places
  • Clowder of cats - "a group of cats"  There is a 15th century reference to clouder and later crowder in the book of St Alban. It meant a variety of things but mainly a crowd, or cluster, clotting, coagulating. It appears to be a word which predates the Mayflower pilgrims who sailed from Plymouth by a couple of hundred years.
  • Dead cat bounce - "An automatic recovery in a financial market"  Refers to the lore that a cat 'bounces back' from death many times.  This phrase must seem offensive to cat owners....
  • Fat cat - "A wealthy and privileged person"  Cats that are well-fed and cared for are seldom skinny; hence, a person living the good life is a fat cat.
  • The cat's out of the bag - "To pass along a secret"  In medieval England, piglets were sold in the open marketplace. The seller usually kept the pig in a bag, so it would be easier for the buyer to take it home. But shady sellers often tried to trick their buyers by putting a large cat in the bag. If a shrewd shopper looked in the bag - then the cat was literally out of the bag.
Adapted from:

Even if you've had dogs for a long time, I'll bet there is something on this list that you didn't know:

Dog Facts – How Much Do You Know About Dogs?

1. How many bones do dogs have in their body?

Dogs have an average of 319 bones in their bodies.

2. Can dogs be sunburned?

Yes they can – and light-colored dogs are especially susceptible.

3. What is the average lifespan of a small breed dog?

The average lifespan of a small breed dog is anywhere from 12 to 18 years.

4. What is the average lifespan of a large breed dog?

The average lifespan of a large breed dog is 7 to 12 years. As a general rule, the larger the breed, the shorter the lifespan.

5. What is the normal temperature of a dog?

Normal body temperature for a dog ranges between 100.5 degrees F to 101.5 degrees F. Normal human temperature is 98.6 degrees F.

6. What is the normal heart rate of a dog? How does that compare to a human heart rate?

The normal heart rate of a dog is anywhere from 80 to 120 beats per minute (depending on the breed/size of the dog). Most humans have a heart rate of approximately 60 to 80 beats per minute. A dog's heart beats twice as fast as a human heart.

7. How many vocal sounds can a dog make and how does that compare to a cat?

Dogs can only make 10 vocal sounds – as compared to a cat that can make about 100 vocal sounds.

8. How old was the oldest living dog?

The oldest living dog on record lived in Australia. He was an Australian Cattle dog named Bluey who worked among cattle and sheep for nearly twenty years. Bluey lived to the age of 29 years, 5 months.

9. How does a dog's sense of smell compare to ours?

Dogs have over 200 million scent receptors in their nasal folds compared to our 5 million.

10. Of all the dog senses, which one does he trust least?

Dogs trust their sense of sight the least.

11. Can dogs see in color?

Dogs do see in color – but mostly in shades of gray. They cannot distinguish between red, orange, yellow or green. They can see some shades of blue but blues are often seen as shades of gray.

12. How does a dog's sense of taste compare to ours?

Humans have six times as many taste buds as dogs. Most of a dog's taste buds are located only on the tip of the tongue. Dogs can detect sweet, sour, bitter and salty tastes. A dog smells rather than tastes.

13. What percentage of dogs are thought to be obese in the United States?

 Approximately 25 to 40% of all American household pets are obese or overweight.

Adapted from:

Some new light has been shed on the historic development of the relationship between humans and dogs:
Prehistoric Dog Lived, Died Among Humans

Burial remains of a dog that lived over 7,000 years ago in Siberia suggest the male Husky-like animal probably lived and died similar to how humans did at that time and place, eating the same food, sustaining work injuries, and getting a human-like burial.

"Based on how northern indigenous people understood animals in historic times, I think the people burying this particular dog saw it as a thinking, social being, perhaps on par with humans in many ways," said Robert Losey, lead author of a study about the dog burial, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

"I think the act of treating it as a human upon its death indicates that people knew it had a soul, and that the mortuary rites it received were meant to ensure that this soul was properly cared for," added Losey, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta.

"Just like the humans in the cemetery, the dog was buried with other items, (such as) a long spoon made of antler," Losey said.

The dog was carefully laid to rest lying on his right side in a grave pit that, at other levels, also contained five partial human skeletons.

DNA and stable isotope analysis determined the animal was indeed a dog and that he ate exactly what humans at the site consumed: fish, freshwater seal meat, deer, small mammals, and some plant foods.

The canine's life, as well as that of the people, wasn't easy, though.

"The dog's skeleton, particularly its vertebrate spines, suggests that it was repeatedly used to transport loads," Losey explained. "This could have included carrying gear on its back that was used in daily activities like hunting, fishing, and gathering plant foods and firewood. The dog also could have been used to transport gear for the purposes of relocating settlements on a seasonal basis."

Additional fractures suggest the dog suffered numerous blows during its lifetime, possibly from the feet of red deer during hunting outings. The researchers cannot rule out that humans hit the dog, but its older age at burial, food provisions, and more suggest otherwise.

Adapted from:

Going back even further in time, this study provides a probable site of birth for the first dog:

Even Your Pet Dog Was First 'Made in China'

Genetic tests confirm that the Asian region south of the Yangtze River is where people most likely began domesticating wolves.

PROBLEM: Scientists who study genetics, morphology, and behavior agree that dogs are descended from wolves. There's no such consensus, however, on where these canines were first domesticated.

METHODOLOGY: Peter Savolainen and Mattias Oskarsson, scientists at Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology, along with several Chinese researchers analyzed DNA from male dogs around the world, including specimens from the Asian region south of the Yangtze River (ASY).

RESULTS: About half of the canine gene pool was universally shared everywhere in the world, and only the ASY region had the entire range of genetic diversity.

CONCLUSION: The DNA of dogs from all over the world can be traced back to the ASY region.

IMPLICATION: Previous studies that have pointed to the Middle East as the area where people began domesticating wolves may be mistaken. As Savolainen says in a statement: "Our results confirm that Asia south of the Yangtze River was the most important -- and probably the only -- region for wolf domestication."

SOURCE: The full study, "Origins of Domestic Dog in Southern East Asia is Supported by Analysis of Y-Chromosome DNA," is published in the journal Heredity.

Adapted from:    

Moving back to pets of the current times, here are some interesting, and sometimes funny, accounts of how pet owners have been scared by their pets:

Pets That Scare People – Real Stories

We asked people in a poll, "Has your pet ever scared you?" Almost 80% said yes and about half of them say they were scared badly. They wrote several stories that we would like to share with you. Some are VERY funny. WE hope you enjoy.

Mary wrote:

"This happened many years ago when I was about 14 or 15. My mom and I were alone in the house sometime in the wee hours and all of a sudden the piano began to play disjointed notes - very loud!

I jumped out of bed and met my mother in the hallway. Both of our eyes were wild - who was in the house and why were they playing the piano?!

We went to the living room and there was Pinadee, our cat, standing on the keys of the piano. She had obviously been running back and forth on the keyboard, playing music.

We put her on the floor and went back to bed, although it was some time before our hearts were beating normally enough to go to sleep. The next morning there was a dead mouse on the floor underneath the piano!"

Kim wrote:

"My scare came with my dog Allis. We had gone to church one Sunday morning, and left her alone. She has a little separation anxiety but she usually is very good and doesn't get into trouble.

We had thought that we picked up everything that was food that she may get into, but my family forgot to shut a door to the bedroom where they had stored some baking supplies. Well Allis, went investigating while we were gone and found some baker's chocolate. Now at the time she weighed about 89 pounds. When we got home we walked into the kitchen and she was acting like she was in trouble, not excited like she normally would be. She normally will put herself in a corner when she does something wrong. So we checked all over the house and finally went into the bedroom and saw an assortment of wrappers, and chocolate powder all over the place.

I called our local vet immediately. We knew that it only had been maybe an hour or so since she had ingested it. The vet asked how much she had eaten and I said probably close to 16 oz. Now chocolate is very toxic to dogs, and sometimes if they consume just a little they can reach toxic levels. The vet figured that she was near toxic levels so asked us to bring her in immediately. So we packed her up and rushed to the vet.

She was brought immediately in and taken to the back room so they could make her vomit the chocolate out. They started her on IV's to keep her hydrated. After a few hours of sitting back there with her and absolutely panicking, they said that she was right on the edge of chocolate toxicity and that if she weighed any less she probably would be in serious trouble. The veterinarian was trying to keep me relaxed by saying that because she was a chocolate lab she liked chocolate. That wasn't helping. All I kept thinking was that I can't lose her, she's my little girl. We were very fortunate.

She hasn't touched chocolate since. It was very traumatic for her to be made sick to get it out of her system. We were sent home with her and told to watch her for any symptoms of her having a problem with the chocolate still in her system, but she was fine - just a little more hyper than normal, which is a symptom but not as bad as the rest. We were always told that she was over weight, and we'd been working on helping her lose some weight. But that day it was good that she weighed 89 lbs because if she weighed any less she wouldn't be here. Since that day we've worked on her to get down to her ideal weight of 67 lbs."

Christi wrote:

"I heard what I thought was someone in my utility room which has the back door. I got out of bed, creeping through the living room when I saw this huge shadow of what I thought was a person, coming down the hall. As I watched with my heart in my throat, my 12-pound cat appears looking very small compared to that shadow. The hall nightlight cast her shadow. WHEW!"

Keri wrote:

"I haven't had my cat too long. She came to us as a kitten in February when the weather was bad and it was about to snow. So, we gave her a home and were so glad we did. She's turned out to be a great addition to our household. 

I would have to say the only thing thus far she has done to really scare me is when I'm napping or lying in bed engrossed in a movie, etc. and she jumps clear out of nowhere on top of me! We rarely let her in our room at night because she likes to do that or simply make me her bed. We love her dearly though and enjoy her daily antics!"

Margaret wrote:

"Our Papillon, Bronco, has given me the chills on several occasions. Sometimes at night when we are in the den watching TV he will growl and stare at something in the dining room. There is nothing to be seen, but I wonder if there is a presence there that he makes me somewhat unnerved and there are times when my husband isn't home that I won't go into that room. Ghosts??"

Meghen wrote:

"My cat is old but I love her to death. When she is cold she'll go into our room and take a catnap under the covers.

One day I couldn't find her (don't laugh, she is like my daughter), so I went to my room because that's where she goes sometimes. I sat down on the bed and felt around in the covers (she is skinny). I found her but she didn't move. I wiggled her again - nothing. My heart was racing, tears swelling up in my eyes. Just as I was about to call my hubby....WAM!!!! She jumped up and started rubbing on me. I almost went into cardiac arrest. I'm serious.

She still has those DEEP naps and I still get worried...AHHH!!!!!"

Cate wrote:

"One night my fiancé and I were sound asleep when all of a sudden I awoke to a loud banging noise that sounded exactly like someone hitting our door. My heart was pounding as I waited and a few seconds later the pounding happened again.

Just as I turned to wake my fiancé he looked at me and put his finger to his lips indicating I should be quiet. He slowly got up and grabbed the shotgun he keeps next the bed. Just then the pounding noise sounded again exactly like someone was trying to break down our back door.

As he slowly crept into the living room I sat up so I could see what was going on, my heart still pounding. Just as he got into the living room where he could see the backdoor, a car came down the hill flashing into the living room a brief light and leaving a bunch of shadows on the wall. As the shadows moved down the wall our black female cat jumped as hard as she could against the walling room I sat up so I could see what was going on, my heart still pounding. Just as he got into the living room where he could see the backdoor, a car came down the hill flashing into the living room a brief light and leaving a bunch of shadows on the wall. As the shadows moved down the wall our black female cat jumped as hard as she could against the wall paneling, which proceeded to make a very loud banging just like someone trying to break in our door.

My fiancé lowered his gun shaking his head and telling Izzi (our cat) just how much she had scared mommy and daddy and to stop chasing shadows. To this day we still call her the Shadow hunter and laugh about our door being 'broken down'..."

Adapted from: 

Helpful Buckeye knows that many of our readers have similar stories to's just that way when you have a dog or a cat.

For those of you with an indoor cat, it's not always accidental that they are extremely happy.  Here are some ideas that lead to "happy":

5 Secrets of Supremely Happy Indoor Cats

You don't have to open the door to the great outdoors to give your cat a more interesting life. In fact, by just looking at your home from a pet's point of view and adding a few environmental enrichments, your cat can be both safe and happy indoors. Here are five easy ways to get going:

1. Think Vertical

Cats love to climb, so give them the opportunity. Cat trees mounted floor-to-ceiling, wrapped with sisal rope and studded with platforms for perching will give your cat the opportunity to look down on the rest of the world. This is especially satisfying if there are dogs in the household. What cat wouldn't like the chance to finally look down on the dog?

2. Add Toys

The cat with the most toys wins. Every indoor cat should have toys for batting around, toys for chasing, toys to hide inside and toys for interactive play. And don't forget that some of those toys ought to have catnip in them. While not all cats can enjoy the fragrant herb, those who do find it extremely blissful. If your cat is a catnip junkie, indulge him frequently. Rub fresh catnip onto cat trees or scratching posts, or stuff it into toys. It's perfectly safe for your cat to enjoy the buzz.

Some of the most enjoyable toys for both people and cats are the interactive ones. Every cat lover should have a "kitty tease" toy, typically a flexible rod with a line that ends in something furry or feathery to engage a cat's prey drive. Other interactive toys include gloves with goodies dangling from the fingertips, or laser pointers that offer cats a spot of light to chase. (Just be careful not to aim the beam into your cat's eyes).

3. Provide Rooms with Views

Whatever the size of the house, your indoor cat will know every one of its sights and sounds within just a few days. Provide a little visual stimulation by putting a bird feeder outside a window fitted with a cat-sized ledge that allows for comfortable viewing.

Be aware, though, that the view of the world isn't always going to work for your cat. If your yard is attracting other cats from the neighborhood, your own cat may become frustrated by the sight (he can even turn that frustration into attacks on people in the house!). Blocking visiting cats from your yard or discouraging them with sprinklers may solve the problem. Otherwise, you may have to make certain windows off-limits to your own cat.

If a window view isn't going to work, try a TV. A few companies offer DVDs for cats. Pop one of these in, and it will entertain your cat with a lively mix of feline-friendly images and sounds, including those of birds and rodents.

4. Go Green

Cats love nibbling on plants. Any decent feline reference book will provide a list of plants which should not be in a pet-friendly house. You can also visit the Animal Poison Control Center for information on dangerous plants.

After you get the unsafe ones out of the way, protect your decorative houseplants by hanging them up or otherwise placing them out of reach. Keep cats from digging in your decorative pots by putting a layer of small, rough stones over the dirt. You can then add a collection of accessible plants (such as grass shoots) for him to rub.

5. Give Face Time

Of course, one of the best things you can do for your indoor cat is to spend time with him. Playing, grooming, petting or just plain hanging out -- it's all good. Your cat loves you and loves spending time with you.

Keeping a cat inside is one of the best ways to ensure a long and healthy life, but it won't be a very happy existence unless you're going to add some intrigue to the surroundings. It doesn't take much in the way of time or effort, so get going. Your cat will thank you!

Adapted from:

You'll remember the term, "Fat cat," from the list of idioms.  Here is a story of what might be the ultimate "Fat cat":

Italian cat inherits €10m fortune

Tommaso, a four-year-old, one-time stray from Rome, is thought to have become the world's richest cat.

Since the death of his 94-year-old mistress last month, he has become a property magnate with flats and houses worth an estimated €10m scattered from Milan in the north to Calabria in the south. This symbol is for British pounds...with a conversion factor of approximately 1 pound=$1.56.

In a handwritten will, signed on 26 November, 2009, Tommaso's mistress — the childless widow of a successful builder — gave her lawyers the task of identifying "the animal welfare body or association to which to leave the inheritance and the task of looking after the cat Tommaso".

One of the lawyers, Anna Orecchioni, told the Rome daily Il Messaggero they considered several organisations without getting adequate guarantees of the cat's future comfort and welfare. In the meantime, the old lady met a fellow cat-lover – named only as Stefania – in a park. "Sometimes I'd go to her house so my cat could play with Tommaso," Stefania said.

As the old lady became increasingly frail, Stefania, a nurse, began to take care of her.

"She needed someone to help her move around, shower and eat. I looked after until the end," she said.

Under Italian law, animals cannot inherit directly. But they can be beneficiaries if a suitable trustee is found. The elderly widow decided to entrust the cat – and his fortune – to Stefania.

Tommaso's trustee, who is now looking after him at an undisclosed address outside Rome, said: "I had no idea the signora had such wealth."

But the fortune pales by comparison with that of Gunther IV, an Alsatian dog who inherited from his father Gunther III, the pet of a German countess. According to the Pet Gazette, he is worth around $372m.

The richest cat was previously thought to be Blackie, who was left £9m by his reclusive British owner in 1988.

Adapted from:

Yes, this could be the ultimate "Fat cat"...and, Stefania most likely has had a bunch of "friends" come out of the woodwork!

It seems that people with children and pets have been told forever that Poinsettias are toxic if ingested or contacted.  Now, some new information debunks that idea:

Poinsettia's Pretty Poison is Another Merry Myth

The most popular flowering potted plant in America sells more than 61 million in six weeks!

The iconic poinsettia is an easy and inexpensive way to instantly add a dash of color to any setting. However, the same foliage that is chosen for its cheerfulness is also feared for its alleged toxicity.

But pronouncements by public health officials disputing the common misconception has done little to dispel what could be the season's second biggest myth.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Web MD, and a 1996 study published in the "American Journal of Emergency Medicine," the poinsettia plant is not toxic, fatal or a public health threat.

"You would have to eat a truckload of leaves to have any kind of reaction," said horticulturist Hollis Malone.

Malone is Gaylord Opryland Resort's manager of horticulture and pest control and oversees the purchasing and placement of the attraction's 15,000 poinsettias each holiday season. That includes the 800 six-inch plants that are used to create an 18 foot poinsettia tree displayed for guests in one of the facility's three atriums.

Another study at Ohio State University showed that a 50 pound child who ate 500 of the plant's showy leaves might have a slight stomach ache. And the American Veterinary Medicine Association of America does not list the poinsettia on its list of plants that are dangerous to animals.

Regardless of the numerous published reports, Malone said there is still a lot of old information circulating about the milky white sap from the leaves. Just like anything else, some people with skin and other sensitivities may have allergic reactions to the sap, "but there are a heck of a lot more things around the house more dangerous to kids and animals than poinsettias," Malone said.

Historically, the dreaded sap was actually used in healing rituals, according to University of Illinois' Extension website, The Poinsetta Pages. The milky substance was used to control fevers and the bracts (leaves) were used to make a reddish dye during the 14th through 16th centuries.

Native to Mexico and brought to the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett, poinsettias contribute upwards of $250,000,000 to the U.S. economy—at the wholesale level—and are the best selling potted plant in the U.S. and Canada, according the Poinsettia Day website.

Today, poinsettias are commercially grown in all 50 states, and California is the top poinsettia producing state. The Poinsettia Day website says that 99 percent of all the flowering poinsettias in the world get their start in California.

Each year, growers and cultivators develop new hybrids of the plant to introduce brighter, showier bracts, or leaves, into the market.

Adapted from: 

Helpful Buckeye hopes you all have a good week between Christmas and New Year's.  Be sure to get right back here next week for the next installment of "Holiday Rambling"....

The Pittsburgh Steelers stubbed their toes last week in the Monday night game and missed a great opportunity to take the divisional lead away from the Ravens.  However, as is frequently the case in sports, they still have a chance to win it if Cincinnati can beat Baltimore this coming weekend.  The gods of football giveth and they also taketh away....

Ohio State continues to be the #2 team in the country in basketball.


This has been a difficult year, on several levels, for Helpful Buckeye.  I had always felt that plenty of effort and a lot of thought would help me get things done the way that would do the most good for everyone concerned.  However, that theory was in dispute this year, big time.  For more than half of the year, I felt like I was living the words of Bob Seger's song, Against The Wind:

Against the wind
I'm still runnin' against the wind
I'm older now but still runnin' against the wind
Well I'm older now and still runnin'
Against the wind
Against the wind
Against the wind.

Nonetheless, with a renewed desire for moving ahead, Helpful Buckeye is eagerly awaiting 2012 and the much-improved prospects for accomplishments, better health, and happiness.  Desperado concurs...we look forward to runnin' WITH the wind!

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Monday, December 19, 2011


Helpful Buckeye recently has had conversations with several different pet owners who either had just had a pet die or they felt that a pet's death was coming soon.  We talked about the various aspects of such a situation, how it got to be that way, what to prepare for, and how the different members of the family might react to...


We know and understand that all living things grow older and die at some point.  Plant or animal, it makes no difference.  Sometimes the death can be unexpected or come early in the organism's life.  Other times, the death might be anticipated due to poor health or aging.  Regardless of the circumstances, when a pet dies, the pet owners will be affected to some extent.  To help you better prepare yourself for this situation, Helpful Buckeye will present several suggestions about what you might encounter and how to deal with those circumstances.

World’s Oldest Dog Dies at Age 26

Pusuke, listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest-living dog, died recently in Japan.  He was 26 years old — or somewhere between 117 and 185 in “dog years,” according to various calculations. There is no official method for converting human years to dog years.

The dog’s owner, Yumiko Shinohara, said the male cross-breed died at Sakura in the Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Pusuke was reportedly eating well and staying active until Monday, when he lost his appetite and had difficulty breathing. Pusuke died peacefully, minutes after his owner returned home from a walk.

“I think (Pusuke) waited for me to come home,” she said, according to Kyodo.

Born in April of 1985, Pusuke was recognized last December as the world’s oldest-living dog.

The oldest-known dog on record, according to Guinness, was an Australian cattle dog named Bluey, who lived to the ripe old age of 29 years and five months before it was put down in November 1939.

In Pusuke's case, his owner obviously had the benefit of knowing that her dog was really old and that death was probably coming soon.  However, she couldn't have known that Pusuke would live for 26 years, well beyond the average of 15 years for a dog of that size.  She had to have known that Pusuke was living on borrowed time for those last 11 years.  Unfortunately, most dog owners cannot expect their dog to live anywhere near that long and they have to be prepared for a more typical scenario.  A much more normal turn of events would be like this story from suburban Chicago:
You probably should have a box of tissues handy when you read this....
A Death in the Family

Maxx Hill Warren of Irving Park dedicated his life to making people happy. A devoted companion and protector, he despised formalities and insisted on being called only by his first name, like Oprah and Regis. Maxx was short in stature, but tough, and refused to be pushed around by bullies. But folks who knew Maxx best say his bark was worse than his bite.

Maxx was born with an impressive pedigree, but abandoned by his mother at an early age and banished to live on a farm in the Chicago suburbs. In 1998, Kristin Hill Warren, a Chicago mortgage broker, adopted Maxx. They lived together in the city — most recently with Kristin’s husband Eric Warren and daughter Samantha Warren — the rest of his life.

On November 13, 2011 , Maxx, who suffered from congestive heart failure, died at home. He was 72 — in dog years. Bright yellow leaves tumbled from trees lining Hoyne Avenue on the day death made a house call.

Dr. Lisa McIntyre rang the bell. A traveling veterinarian from Naperville, she carried with her a black fleece blanket and a black suitcase. She wore a knit poncho and a somber face. She was there to treat a patient, Maxx the dog, who was suffering from congestive heart failure. Maxx, a 14-year-old Maltese, hadn’t eaten for nearly two weeks. He refused to take his medication, the highest dose allowed. And over the last 24 hours, Maxx rarely took a sip of water.

Maxx’s owners, Kristin Hill Warren and her husband, Eric Warren, hoped against hope that Maxx would get better. Their beloved companion had survived the peaks and valleys of health scares before. “This was just a valley he wasn’t coming out of this time,” Eric says. “He’s just shutting down.”

For weeks, Kristin and Eric cried about Maxx’s declining health. They talked with their friends and the vet about whether it was time to end Max’s suffering. Kristin adopted Maxx 14 years ago, when she was single, lonely and struggling trying to make a career for herself. She didn’t want to let Maxx go. But if she did nothing, she knew that one day soon the tiny white dog’s lungs would fill with fluid. Death by suffocation could be violent and painful.

They had to make a choice. Maxx didn’t have much time left.

A final kindness

Nearly every week, McIntyre makes a similar house call. In-home pet euthanasia has become a growing part of The Welcome Waggin’, her traveling-veterinarian business.

That final house call costs a premium — about $250, which includes euthanasia services, plus an extra $50 transportation fee. Cremation costs extra, too. But some pet owners could pay even more if they make an emergency trip to an all-night veterinary hospital.

No one’s sure exactly how many pets are put down at home each year, but more veterinarians than ever are making euthanasia house calls, says David Kirkpatrick, spokesman for Schaumburg-based American Veterinary Medical Association. “We do not track actual numbers, but it’s certainly a growing trend, particularly with more pet owners looking for ways to more personally and, in some ways, conveniently deal with end-of-life issues,” Kirkpatrick says. “We are hearing more vets are performing the service. And more pet owners are requesting it.”

There are reason for that. More than 59 percent of American households have pets. Over the last several decades, folks have started to treat their animals more like family and less like property. A pet’s death can be traumatic for owners, like losing a good friend. “People view veterinary hospitals as a sterile environment or a place you go for a medical crisis,” McIntyre says. “I don’t think that is the appropriate place to say goodbye to their animals. I think being at home affords comfort and privacy, and I think it removes a great deal of anxiety on the animal’s part, as well as pet owner’s part, as they have to say goodbye.”

For weeks, Kristin and Eric watched Maxx’s health deteriorate. They didn’t want Maxx to suffer. They didn’t want Maxx to die on a cold, metal table at an animal hospital. They certainly didn’t want strangers in the vet’s lobby — parents with children taking puppies and kitties for routine vaccinations — to see them leave in tears. So last Saturday, Kristin called McIntyre, who agreed to come over at 10 the next morning. The visit would be Kristin’s gift, a final kindness, for Maxx.

‘It was time’

On Sunday morning, Maxx walked in to the living room, his paws slipping on the glossy hardwood, to sniff a stranger’s pants leg. For the past few days, all Maxx had done was sleep and pace around the house, a modest A-frame. Kristin bought the place because it had an extra-wide lot with a side yard perfect for her dog. “This is Maxx’s house,” Eric says.

Kristin lifted Maxx onto their bed, where Maxx sleeps every night. McIntyre offered Maxx a tiny beef-flavored treat. A last meal. Maxx refused it.

As McIntyre explained to Kristin and Eric what would happen next, Maxx jumped off the bed and made a slow lap around the house. Maxx returned to the water bowl, took a long drink and returned to the bedroom.

Samantha Grace Warren, just 4 months old, woke up from a nap and started to cry. Eric picked her up and cradled her. He laid Samantha on the bed next to Maxx, the girl’s first doggie. Whenever Samantha cried to demand a nightly feeding, Maxx always followed Kristin into the baby’s room and waited, like a protector, until the baby went back to sleep. On Saturday night, Samantha slept through the night for the first time.

“It’s like Maxx’s job is done now,” Kristin says. Kristin put Maxx back on the bed, gently stroking her dog’s velvet coat.

The past few days had been especially difficult for Kristin and Eric. So many tears. “Last night, it sounds funny but . . . ” Eric says, stopping mid-sentence. For a moment, he sobbed. “I had a conversation with Maxx. He told me it was time,” Eric says. “That helps you, you know . . . when it comes to realization and acceptance.”

‘Bye, Maxx’

McIntyre opened her bag and pulled out a syringe filled with a heavy sedative. “This is the part I expect him to react to,” she says. “Anything we can do to distract him. Scratch his ears if he likes that.” She inserted the needle and injected the drugs into a vein. Maxx let out a series of high-pitched squeals, shaking his back leg. Kristin and McIntyre petted Maxx to calm him.

“You’re such a good dog,” McIntyre says, reassuring Kristin that Maxx’s yelp was a reaction to irritation from the injection. In just a few seconds, Maxx lay down on the blanket. Samantha cried. “Come pet him, honey,” Kristin says to her husband, who leaned over the bed to rub Maxx behind the ears. “If there was a candidate for doggie heaven, it was this little guy,” Eric says.

McIntyre talked in almost a whisper, consciously trying to create “positive energy” and to be a “comforting presence.” The medication worked faster than usual.

“He doesn’t have the light in his eyes that I remember seeing in him,” McIntyre says. Kristin last saw that sparkle on Halloween. Maxx loved his pumpkin costume.

“All right,” Eric says, petting the family dog for the last time. “Bye, Maxx.”

McIntyre quietly speaks directly to Maxx for his owners’ sake. “We’re going to let you go . . . release you from your body,” she says. “It doesn’t want to help you anymore and do what you want it to do. You’ve been such a good boy, we’re just going to do what’s right for you.”

McIntyre reassures Kristin and Eric on their decision. “I think it’s a gift,” she says. “It’s a huge responsibility, but I think he gave every sign in the book.”

Then, McIntyre slipped a tourniquet over Maxx’s leg. “He looks like he’s sleeping,” Kristin says. McIntyre inserted a needle filled with a barbiturate overdose that would stop Maxx’s heart. “What you will see is his breaths will stop in a minute or two,” she says. “And then I’ll listen to make sure his heart has stopped.”

“He won’t feel this?” Kristin asked. “He’s not feeling anything,” McIntyre says. “He’s not aware what’s going on.” Almost immediately after McIntyre injected the final shot, Maxx’s chest stopped moving. Kristin gently closed Maxx’s eyelids.

McIntyre listened for vital signs and confirmed that Maxx was gone. “That was quick,” Kristin says. “I could tell right when it stopped. This was more peaceful than I thought . . . This was nice.”

Kristin unclipped Maxx’s collar and handed it to her husband, who held their daughter close to his chest. Eric set the collar — tiny white bones printed on a faded red strap — on the dresser next to their wedding picture.

McIntyre wrapped Maxx in a thick, fleece blanket and carried him outside. Later, she would take Maxx’s body to be cremated.

Kristin and Eric sat on the couch in the living room.

“It was really peaceful for me,” Kristin said. “It actually made it better. He slept in that bed for years. For me, it was peaceful . . . I don’t know why. It was just warm . . . You think of him laying there and his spirit is leaving him and going to heaven.”

Kristin says they plan to put together video of Maxx’s best days for Samantha. They have plenty of footage. Until Samantha was born, Maxx was their baby. They want their daughter to remember her first dog, the best dog.


In a few days, McIntyre will knock on the door of another owner with a terminally ill pet. She considers her work an act of kindness.

“I hope that by going into people’s houses that — Kristin and Eric especially — they have some closure. That this was a peaceful experience for them. Their last memories of Maxx . . . they’ll be able to focus on Halloween . . . and times he sat up at night by Kristin,” McIntyre says. “I want them to go on and be open to accept another pet in their life. And for their daughter to have another dog some day.”

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Every one who has had a pet dog or cat has most likely experienced something similar to this story.  Everybody handles this situation a bit differently, in a way that is comfortable for them...but, the basics are all here in this heart-felt account.  A quick show of hands right many of you read this without shedding a tear?

No matter the amount of sorrow that comes with these situations, it's still very important to understand the meanings and consequences of  "end of life choices":

Making End-of-Life Choices for Our Pets

It was a tough day for a new veterinarian. I stepped out of the exam room and walked to my desk visibly upset. The senior partner of the three-doctor practice asked me what was wrong. Three times that morning a client had asked me if they should end their pet's life, and I felt ill-prepared to counsel people in these cases. If the person who lived with my patient was unclear, how could I know better? What if I was wrong? Can we predict miracles? I did not want to "play God," and I was afraid of making a decision that would turn out to be incorrect. After all, the choice to euthanize a beloved pet is permanent. No amount of regret can undo the action once it is done.

The gentle older veterinarian rubbed his salt and pepper beard and acknowledged my concerns. He asked if I would like some suggestions.  What followed was some of the best advice anyone has ever given me:

1. Acknowledge the affection and feelings associated with a pet's life. The word "euthanasia" means "to bring about a good death." The choice to treat or euthanize is a major one. No one, veterinarian or guardian, wants to be wrong. It's simply a very big choice. While none of us ever wants our favorite fuzzy friend to leave, we do desire that they pass gently and without pain, suffering, fear or degradation. This means that questions about when and how are natural and necessary between people who share affection for animals.

2. Clients and doctors are partners. Clients and veterinarians share information and they share decision making, but there is a sacred aspect of the human-animal bond that is best described in the concept of stewardship. Ultimately, the steward of this patient is the guardian. No veterinarian can make the final choice for an animal guardian. The final choice must come from them, but it's natural and beneficial for a veterinarian to assist in that process as an extension of the professional and personal relationship that manifests from our shared affection for living things.

3. Acknowledge the guardian's love and track record in making good choices. Many of us worry about making mistakes, and in medicine mistakes can be fatal and lead to irreversible damage. The fear of error can actually make us more likely to make mistakes, so we are better off in this discussion if we banish fear, and realize that this process is simply about loving our friends and making choices based upon what is best for them. Looking and discussing work better than worrying. Most of us make right choices when we are given safe space, correct information and support, which allows us time to come to a conclusion on our own.

4. Ask, "Does he have more good days than bad ones? More good moments than bad?" Honestly assessing this question gently leads most people to a safer place for discussion. It is amazing to me how fast many people answer this question and how easily it leads them to sensible choices. Sometimes we are not really looking, and we may need to honestly and objectively assess this fact before we can decide. In most cases it is fine to simply decide to take a week and really look at this fact. People need to be aware though that conditions can change, and so it is important to look for more than just a moment. For instance, some arthritis pain cases get really bad after cold, wet weather. Waiting until the weather clears may result in a totally different decision, so do be sure to give enough time to really know.

5. Knowing it's time. Many people experience a moment where they look at their pet and suddenly a moment of calm silence ensues when they know it is time. If a person knows it is time and I have no other medical information to share then I feel good about their choice.

6. If it is not time, is there something that needs to occur? A family member may wish to visit and say their goodbyes, or we may want to share a few more ball catches at the beach, or watch some more sunsets together. If we can name those things and enjoy each moment, then it becomes easier to say farewell.

7. Do you know your options? It is necessary to know all the options before deciding. Euthanasia can be done in the examining room of the veterinary hospital, or it can be done at home. People can be present or not depending on their needs. There are other options beside euthanasia, as natural death following hospice is a rich choice for many people. Hospice is a growing area of interest, especially as our technical abilities improve. I've lectured for years about how we can address the needs of clients and patients with "hopeless or terminal" diseases. Some of these patients can live long, happy lives despite their serious conventionally diagnosed condition. In their lives, we learn so many lessons that enrich our abilities to be happy.

All living things are born, grow old and pass away. Death is a part of living and if we concentrate on living then we have better, happier lives. If we face death with the same sense of love and understanding that we live our lives, then we can navigate this process and learn many things along the way. As death comes, we are faced with the importance of relationship and not with things. Sometimes just calmly being together is the greatest gift of all. Don't wait to learn that lesson.

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This discussion will continue in the issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats that arrives on January 8, 2012.  In the meantime, Helpful Buckeye will offer a Christmas weekend edition and a New Year's weekend edition that will be loaded with interesting stories, facts, and fables about pets for your holiday enjoyment.  Don't miss them!


The Pittsburgh Steelers will be playing at San Francisco Monday night, against a 49ers team with the same 10-3 record as the Steelers.  Unfortunately, we'll be a bit short-handed...our QB might not be able to play, nor our starting center.  Beyond that, our best linebacker has been suspended for this game due to a stupid tackle he made in last week's game.  We have 2 much easier games to finish the season and should qualify for the playoffs without any problem.  However, the coaching staff will have to decide if it's more important to win this game or hold the injured players out so they can recover better for the playoffs.

The Ohio State basketball team remains in the #2 spot of the polls.


Several quotes caught my attention this week.  Since we're not only well into the holiday season, but also rapidly approaching the beginning of a new year, I felt this group of thoughts will give all of us grist to mull over as we get ready for 2012:

“Whatever is beautiful is a joy for all seasons.”  Oscar Wilde, Writer and poet

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”  Denis Waitley, Author

"Never refuse any advance of true friendship, for if nine out of ten bring you nothing but an acquaintanceship, one alone may repay you and become a really good friend."  --Claudine Guérin de Tencin, French socialite and author

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Monday, December 12, 2011


Helpful Buckeye got a lot of e-mails about last week's topic of cancer in your pets.  Many of those were from pet owners who have lost their pets to cancer, while several came from pet owners who were concerned that some type of cancer might affect their pet.  As with cancer in humans, there are many forms of cancer seen in pets...some of them much worse than others. 

From the e-mails received, a lot of you have had some experience with lipomas in your pets, particularly the dog owners.  Dogs and cats do have a lot of "lumps and bumps" that show up on their bodies, ranging from abscesses to hematomas to scar tissue to tumors.  Take a look at this'll see how common growths can be:

Top 10 Reasons Dogs Go to the Vet

Dogs commonly go to the vet for a variety of reasons including various health problems and routine wellness exams and vaccinations. Veterinary Pet Insurance, the largest insurer of pets in the United States, recently tabulated their 2006 claims to determine the most common reasons dogs go to their veterinarians.

In addition to vaccination and preventative health topics, these are the most claims reported in dogs :

1. Skin allergies
2. Ear infections
3. Stomach upsets
4. Urinary tract infections
5. Benign tumors
6. Pyoderma
7. Sprains
8. Osteoarthritis
9. Enteritis
10. Eye infections

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Right there, sitting at #5, you find "benign tumors".  Of all the types of benign tumors, lipomas are one of the most common seen by veterinarians:

A lipoma is a benign fatty tumor usually composed of mature fat cells. They are usually soft, well defined, and subcutaneous (under the skin). Lipomas are variable in size and shape and may occur anywhere, although they are commonly found on the ventral (under) surfaces of the chest and abdomen.  They are not usually painful to the dog or cat.

All breeds may be affected, but they are most common in older animals, especially older female dogs. Lipomas are very common in dogs, and less common in cats.

Infiltrative lipomas (often referred to as lipomatosis) are those that develop in deeper tissue and between muscle layers. These lipomas tend to be firmer and more broad-based than typical lipomas. These tumors also grow slowly, but are more invasive and less well defined. They grow by expanding into the tissue and may cause pain. Infiltrative lipomas are much less common than typical well-defined lipomas.

What to Watch For

• Skin swellings
• Lumps and bumps
• Usually they are spherical or oval in shape

Your veterinarian may recommend the following diagnostic tests:

• Fine needle aspirate. This easy diagnostic test involves placing a needle attached to a syringe into the mass and withdrawing a sample of cells. The contents of the needle and syringe are expelled onto a glass slide for analysis.
• Cytology. The slides are evaluated microscopically for evidence of adipose (fat) cells.
• Biopsy. If there is no conclusive evidence on aspiration, a biopsy (tissue sample) may be taken. If the mass is small, an excisional biopsy, which is a biopsy where the entire mass is removed, may be done. Biopsies usually require sedation with local anesthesia or general anesthesia.


If a lipoma is small and slow growing, your veterinarian may advise an owner to observe the mass for any changes. If there are no significant changes, treatment is not necessary. In other cases, the following treatments are available:

• Excision (removal) of a lipoma should be considered if it is growing rapidly, causing discomfort, or it interfering with the mobility or life style of the animal.
• Infiltrative lipomas should be aggressively treated with a wide surgical excision. Most of the times, excision will be incomplete, as some of the tumor cells will remain on the body. If the remaining tumor is slow to return, this may be all the treatment needed.
• Radiation therapy is available if the lipoma is invasive and cannot be completely removed.
• If surgery is required to remove a lipoma, preoperative blood work (complete blood count and profile) are generally recommended.

Home Care

Note any changes in previously diagnosed lipomas that are not being treated. Significant changes should be re-evaluated by your veterinarian.

After a lipoma has been removed, watch the incision for any swelling, redness or discharge. Make sure your pet is not licking or chewing at the incision line. Sutures are generally removed in 7 to 10 days.

There is no way to prevent the occurrence of lipomas. Once lipomas are noted, they should be closely monitored. Lipomas should not be allowed to become so large that they are difficult to remove or they interfere with function.

Infiltrative lipomas may need more aggressive treatment.

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To give you a clinical example of a couple of owners' concerns about growths on their dogs, here is an interesting column from Dr. Michael Watts, in the Culpeper, VA, Star-Exponent:

Q: My dog has developed a fatty tumor on her back leg that doesn’t seem to bother her. My veterinarian says it is probably a lipoma. What are lipomas and where do they come from?

A: Lipomas are well-encapsulated, benign tumors made up of fat tissue. They are reported to occur in 16% or more of dogs. They are more common in middle aged or older dogs and may be more frequent in overweight pets. Lipomas can be found anywhere in the body, although most commonly occur under the skin of the trunk or limbs. Like most tumors, the exact cause is not known. It is probably a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Like all benign tumors, lipomas do not spread to other places on the body. However, sometimes they still cause problems. If located in a high-motion area, like under a leg, a large lipoma can interfere with mobility. Lipomas inside the skull can push on the brain and cause neurologic symptoms. Lipomas in locations prone to trauma or that press on nerves or muscles can cause pain.

The largest lipoma I have ever removed was the size of a basketball. Obviously it was causing distress to the dog, despite being technically benign.

If a lipoma causes symptoms, it should be removed. Complete excision is curative. Most lipomas do not cause problems and can be safely left alone. Before treating with “benign neglect,” however, it is important to differentiate lipomas from more serious imposters.

Infiltrative lipomas are not encapsulated and can spread between tissue layers deep into the body. Infiltrative lipomas are difficult to cure without limb amputation, although early excision offers the best hope. Liposarcomas are cancerous “fatty masses” that can spread throughout the body. Liposarcomas are typically fatal. Mast cell tumors are benign-looking skin cancers that can be mistaken for lipomas.

In a dog with any new mass, I recommend examination by a veterinarian. I typically recommend a fine needle aspirate and microscopic evaluation of the cells. With this technique, I have caught several cancers masquerading as lipomas.

Generally lipomas should be slow growing, should not bother the pet, and should not ulcerate to the surface. If that ever stops being the case, I recommend prompt excision of the mass and a full biopsy. Sometimes early diagnostics can miss important cells, leading to an inaccurate diagnosis. Other times, another type of tumor develops on the surface or nearby.

As with any condition, the best advice is to have a close working relationship with your veterinarian and to have any new problem checked promptly.

Q: I have a nine month old Boston Terrier. She has what appears to be a wart on her leg. She licks at it and it has become raw and bleeds. It also seems to be growing. What should I do?

A: Fortunately, most skin growths in young dogs are benign. Warts are seen, but not as commonly as in older dogs. The mass could also be a histiocytoma, a benign mass usually no larger than the size of a nickel. Histiocytomas commonly occur in young patients and commonly ulcerate. Usually they resolve spontaneously within three months.

It is also possible that the mass is actually due to the licking behavior. Chronic licking can lead to a raised area of inflammation, called a granuloma. Young dogs adapting to new experiences can develop anxieties that lead to licking.

The fact that the mass appears to be bothering your dog is reason enough to visit your veterinarian. Sometimes inflammation of a benign mass can be treated in a way that minimizes the stimulus for licking. If medical treatment does not work, or the mass looks worrisome to the veterinarian, surgical removal may be the best option.

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So now you know what to consider when you find a lump on your pooch or cat.  An examination and consultation with your veterinarian should be your first step.  If observation of the lump is what they recommend, you'll then have a good idea of what it looks and feels that you'll be able to judge if the lump is changing in any way.  Normally, if the lump starts to grow faster, becomes ulcerated, no longer is freely movable, or becomes painful to your pet, it's time for a re-evaluation by your veterinarian.


The Pittsburgh Steelers won another ugly game this week, although our QB sustained a pretty serious ankle injury and that affected our offense.  Whether or not he'll be able to play next Monday in San Francisco remains to be seen.
The Ohio State basketball team could have moved into the #1 spot yesterday since Kentucky lost their game...however, we also lost our game.  Our All-American center couldn't play due to an injury and that was a killer.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye got to see a really stellar eclipse of the moon early Saturday morning just before sunrise.  That apparently will be the last lunar eclipse for 3 years.

In response to the much-asked question by The Baha Men, in their big hit song of 2000:

we finally have the answer....

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~