Sunday, July 31, 2011


Hope we didn't overwhelm you last week with all the things to consider when thinking about getting a new pet.  However, such an acquisition is a very important step in a pet owner's life and a little extra thought should go into the decision.  In this week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye will help you make the transition from deciding to get the new pet to choosing the right veterinarian for your pet.

Mary Burch, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, is also the Canine Good Citizen Director for the American Kennel Club. Here, she answers this question that could easily come from anybody considering their first dog:

Mary, I'm about to get a dog, and I want to be a good owner, but I don't know exactly what that means. When I was growing up, we kept our dogs outside. Other than feeding them, they fended for themselves. You've been around a lot of dogs and owners; what do you think are the most important things for a new owner to do? Also, do you have advice on ways to bond with an older dog? I'm planning on adopting one that's not a puppy.

Mary's answer:  It's great that you want to start off right with your dog and I understand that it is a big responsibility. I know I'm biased because I work with the AKC but I believe that even though you are planning on adopting an older dog, the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program has a good message for all dog owners as does the Canine Good Citizen responsible dog owner's pledge.

1) AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program

S.T.A.R. is an acronym for Socialization, Training, Activity (exercise) and a Responsible owner. Those are the four main components of what every dog needs to have a good life and by understanding and committing to these, you really will have a strong grounding in being a good pet parent.The key elements to S.T.A.R. are:

Socialization. This means you give your dog plenty of chances to get out and experience the world as he meets new people and other dogs.

Training. This can be done at home if you have the skills and know-how. Every dog, including your older dog, can also benefit from a training class such as agility, obedience, rally, or a therapy-dog class.

Activity. This translates to daily exercise, is a critical component of keeping your dog mentally and physically healthy.

Responsible ownership. This seems to be what you are really asking and the basic obligations of being a conscientious owner are best defined in the AKC Canine Good Citizen Responsible Dog Owner's Pledge that is shown here. Following the pledge will ensure that you've placed yourself in the category of a good (or great!) dog owner.

2) The AKC CGC Responsible Dog Owner's Pledge

I understand that to truly be a Canine Good Citizen, my dog needs a responsible owner. I agree to maintain my dog's health, safety, and quality of life.

I will be responsible for my dog's health needs including:

- routine veterinary care including check-ups and vaccines

- adequate nutrition through proper diet; clean water at all times
- daily exercise and regular bathing and grooming

I will be responsible for my dog's safety.

- I will properly control my dog by providing fencing where appropriate, not letting my dog run loose, and using a leash in public.

- I will ensure that my dog has some form of identification (which may include collar tags, tattoos, or microchip ID).

- I will provide adequate supervision when my dog and children are together.

- I will not allow my dog to infringe on the rights of others.

- I will not allow my dog to run loose in the neighborhood.

- I will not allow my dog to be a nuisance to others by barking while in the yard,

in a hotel room, etc.

- I will pick up and properly dispose of my dog's waste in all public areas such as

on the grounds of hotels, on sidewalks, parks, etc.

- I will pick up and properly dispose of my dog's waste in wilderness areas, on

hiking trails, campgrounds and in off-leash parks.

- I will be responsible for my dog's quality of life.

- I understand that basic training is beneficial to all dogs.

- I will give my dog attention and playtime.

- I understand that owning a dog is a commitment in time and caring.

I'm sure as you read these pledges and guidelines you were thinking to yourself, "of course I'll be responsible for my dog's safety, of course I'll give my dog attention!" But life gets busy and good intentions can get swept away unless you make it your priority to be a good owner to your new dog. I'm pleased to say that it looks like that is exactly what you are planning to do!

Adapted from:

OK, Helpful Buckeye is hearing some rumbling from the "cat" part of our readership.  What about getting a new cat, you say?  Spend a few minutes listening to this informative podcast about "Finding The Purr-fect Cat":

Did Dr. Jane Brunt give you some great ideas?  OK then, if she got you interested, let's listen to her expound further on "The Benefits of Cat Ownership":

Many of our readers have sent e-mails saying that you enjoy taking an occasional short break from reading...listening to these podcasts, most of which are sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

If you are getting a new kitten/cat soon or you have just done so, you might want to consider some of these interesting items:  Ultimate Touch Gentle Slicker Brush, Dry Clean Waterless Cat Bath, Scooter Balls Kitten Toy, Selecta Cat Bowl, and All Natural Temptations Cat Treats.  They are described in greater detail, with clickable web sites, at:

Now, you've either picked up your new puppy/dog or kitten/cat or you will be soon.  If you already know a veterinarian that you really like or one of your friends has recommended their veterinarian, then you're one step ahead of the curve.  However, if you're new in a city or have never had reason to use any veterinary services before, then you could use some help in sorting through what should be considered in "Choosing A Veterinarian".  The Humane Society of the United States has these recommendations:

Choosing a Veterinarian

A veterinarian is your pet's second-best friend.

When selecting a veterinarian, you're doing more than searching for a medical expert. You're looking for someone to meet your needs and those of your pet, a doctor who has people as well as animal skills. The worst time to look for a vet is when you really need one, so plan ahead and choose wisely.

Veterinarians often work with a team of professionals, including technicians and qualified support staff, so you'll likely want to evaluate the entire vet team's competence and caring. You should also consider the hospital's location and fees when making a decision. Driving a few extra miles or paying a bit more may be worth it to get the care you want for your pet.

How to find the right veterinarian

The best way to find a good veterinarian is to ask people who have the same approach to pet care as you. Start with a recommendation from a friend, neighbor, animal shelter worker, dog trainer, groomer, boarding kennel employee or pet sitter.

Look in the Yellow Pages under "Veterinarians" and "Animal Hospitals," where you can likely find important information about hours, services and staff. You can also search for veterinarians in your area online. Check for membership in the American Animal Hospital Association. AAHA membership means that a veterinary hospital has voluntarily pursued and met AAHA's standards in the areas of facility, equipment and quality care.

If you're looking for a specialist, ask about board certification. This means the vet has studied an additional two to four years in the specialty area and passed a rigorous exam.

Once you've narrowed your search, schedule a visit to meet the staff, tour the facility and learn about the hospital's philosophy and policies. This is a reasonable request that any veterinarian should be glad to oblige. Write down your questions ahead of time.

What to look for:

Is the facility clean, comfortable and well-organized?

Are appointments required?

How many veterinarians are in the practice?

Are there technicians or other professional staff members?

Are dog and cat cages in separate areas?

Is the staff caring, calm, competent and courteous, and do they communicate effectively?

Do the veterinarians have special interests such as geriatrics or behavior?

Are X-rays, ultrasound, bloodwork, EKG, endoscopy and other diagnostics done in-house or referred to a specialist?

Which emergency services are available?

Is location and parking convenient?

Do fees fit your budget, and are discounts for senior citizens or multi-pet households available?

Be a good client

  • Having good client manners encourages a happy relationship with your vet.
  • See your vet regularly for preventive visits, not just when your pet becomes ill.
  • Learn what's normal for your pet, so you recognize the first signs of illness. If a pet's not well, don't wait until she's really sick before you call your vet. It's frustrating for a vet, and heartbreaking to owners, to see an animal die of an illness that could have been treated successfully if professional care had begun sooner.
  • Schedule appointments and be on time. Lateness is rude and wreaks havoc with the office's timing.
  • For your pet's safety as well as that of other clients and pets, bring your cat to the veterinary office in a carrier.
  • Don't disturb your veterinarian during non-working hours for matters that can wait, and don't expect your veterinarian to diagnose a pet's problem over the telephone.
  • Even if you have an emergency, call ahead to ensure that the veterinarian's available. They will have to work your pet into the regular schedule, so be prepared to wait. If your pet can't be seen that day, you might be referred to an emergency vet hospital.
Breaking up is hard to do

If you feel that your veterinarian isn't meeting your needs as a client or the needs of your pet as a patient, it may be time to find a new one. But sometimes simple misunderstandings cause conflicts, which you and your vet can resolve by talking things out and looking for solutions.  Give it a try before going somewhere else.

Adapted from:

Here's another podcast that will give you a short break from reading: "How To Select A Veterinarian" at:

If any of you read the comment at the end of last week's issue, you'll recall that "Pet Lover" suggested that checking with a veterinarian before acquiring a new pet is always a good idea.  Helpful Buckeye agrees and that podcast repeats that thought.

This is a good place to stop this portion of our discussion on "Considering A New Pet".  Next week will feature the conclusion to this topic.  Don't miss it!

It's always amazing how quickly sports fans, especially NFL fans, are willing to forget a lockout or work stoppage and get right back to cheering for their favorite team.  Helpful Buckeye thinks there were more people concerned about whether there would be an NFL season this year than there were people worried about the current "deficit" problems facing our government.  It will be interesting to see how quickly the various teams get back into their comfort zones.  Helpful Buckeye suspects there will be a certain lack of precision for the first couple games of the regular season.  We may see ample evidence of this quote from Mae West:  “An ounce of performance is worth a pound of promises."

Along those lines, Helpful Buckeye plans to take in a couple of the practices at the Arizona Cardinals' training camp this week.  They've got a brand new quarterback and I would like to see if he has that "ounce of performance".


Helpful Buckeye decided it was time to submit to a test of my capability of climbing a fairly long, steep upgrade in preparation for my Rim-To-Rim hike of the Grand Canyon in September.  So, this past week, I climbed Mt. Elden to the lookout tower.  It's a climb of more than 2200 ft. (from 7000 ft. to 9200 ft.), pretty much steep uphill grade the whole way, and is rated as the 2nd most difficult hike in Arizona.  I haven't made this climb since 10 years ago so it was going to be interesting.  Good news for me...I actually cut 30 minutes off my best previous time for this climb!  Even though being 10 years older, I am in better physical condition (due mostly to my biking) and more acclimated to the higher altitude here in Flagstaff.  I'm also a bit smarter now, having learned how to properly hike on a rocky, sloping trail and to make use of a trekking pole.  At any rate, I am feeling much more confident about being able to do the Grand Canyon hike, which begins on the South Rim at 7000 ft., descends down to the Colorado River at 2500 ft., and goes back up to 8000 ft. at the North Rim...for a total of 24 miles.  My memorable quote for this effort will be:  "Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They're what make the instrument stretch -- what make you go beyond the norm."--Cicely Tyson, American actress

You may remember that Helpful Buckeye was very late getting his flowers planted this summer due to being gone most of the month of June.  The selection of available flowers was a bit diminished by the time I made my purchases.  The ones I did buy have done very well but I had a few pots that were still empty.  So, I decided to try some herbs for the first time in our 12 summers here in Flagstaff.  Now, my herb "garden" is really flourishing...apparently I've chosen some herbs that can thrive in our high altitude climate.  I've got a nice mixture of Basil, Italian Parsley, Tarragon, Mint, Rosemary, and Lavender...all of which Desperado and I are using frequently in our cooking and salads.  Special bonus points for any reader who can identify the 4 of these herbs that are in the same family.

~~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.~~

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Now that Helpful Buckeye has taken care of getting all those dogs and cats of yours properly groomed and bathed, it's time to move on to the folks who are contemplating the possibility of adding a new pet to the household.  Helpful Buckeye has received a lot of e-mails with questions of what to consider or think about when looking for a new pet.  Even though new pets are acquired year round, there are two surges in acquisition activity...the month of December (for Christmas presents) and the summer months (when the kids are not in school).

Even if you are one of our loyal readers with enough pets for the time being, you might still benefit from this discussion if you happen to know someone who is contemplating getting a new pet.  If you do, by all means pass this blog site on to them...with your highest recommendation!

From the ASPCA, comes this perfect lead-in to our weekly topic:

Top Four Things to Ask Yourself Before Adopting a Pet

So you’ve got your eye on a new pet! Whether it’s the latest addition to your menagerie or your first-ever pet (congratulations!) it pays to think ahead about which species would fit best in your family. Ask yourself these questions before you bring home a new friend.

What do I want most in a pet?

Are you looking for a constant companion, an independent critter or a pet who’s perfect for your six-year-old? A dog is called man’s best friend for a reason, but cats and rabbits can also be very affectionate and don’t require a walking schedule. If you’re looking for something both loving and appropriate for children, consider a guinea pig!

How much responsibility can I handle?

Everyone knows that dogs are a lot more work than your average fish. But commitment to your pet can sometimes mean a lot more than scooping the litter box or serving up a plate of kibble. Can you care for a cat who becomes diabetic? What about a dog who needs help with separation anxiety? Consider how much time and energy your family has to commit to a new pet and how you might handle a rough patch with your new friend.

What kind of critter can I afford to pamper?

Caring for pets can get pretty pricey, especially when you consider possible incidental costs like emergency trips to the vet, hiring a cat-sitter, or replacing a chair your puppy turned into a chew-toy. If your wallet’s a bit light at the moment, your best bet is a fish, which ASPCA research shows can cost as little as $35 a year. A large dog, by contrast, will set you back nearly $900 each year. For more information on the price of day-to-day care of various pets, check out our handy Pet Care Costs chart.

Which species is most compatible with my lifestyle?

Are you a jetsetter, a homebody, a new parent or night owl? Examining when you’re home, when you’re awake, and the size and shape of your family will help you determine which pet to adopt. A Terrier won’t be very happy with an absentee pet parent, but a workaholic could still enjoy caring for a fish. And if you’re up late at night, many kitties would love to keep you company, as would a hamster! They’re nocturnal and make good companions for those who burn the midnight oil.

No matter what species you decide to make a part of your family, make sure adoption is your first option!

Adapted from:

If you decide that you are interested in a dog or cat, you need to prepare for the adoption process and what to expect:

The Adoption Process: What to Expect

Shelters and rescue groups ask a lot of questions of prospective adopters for two main reasons: to ensure long-term homes for the animals in their care and to facilitate good matches between customers and their adopted companions.

Getting to know you

Most shelters require adopters to complete an application. In addition to basic contact information, the application is likely to include questions about the following areas:

Your housing situation (renting vs. owning)

The number and ages of any children in your household

The number and type of other pets you may own

The name and contact information of your veterinarian

Your previous experience with pets

Your activity level, lifestyle, and expectations for a new animal

Shelters and rescue groups each have their own particular approach to re-homing animals, and organizations vary widely in the amount of detail they request in their adoption applications. Ideally, the adoption process is structured more like an open conversation than a series of yes-or-no, right-or-wrong questions. The goal is to balance the interests of two different sets of customers: the animals and the adopters.

Why pets end up in shelters

Consider why pets are surrendered in the first place. Among the top five reasons that people give up their pets, three are common to both dogs and cats: landlord issues, moving, and the cost of pet care. For dogs, the other most common reasons include lack of time and inadequate facilities. For cats, it's allergies and having too many cats to care for.

Many animals lose their homes because their owners weren't prepared to invest the necessary money and time to care for a pet. In other cases, families and pets are mismatched. Consider these all-too-common scenarios:

A high-energy dog is adopted by a family that doesn't have time for extensive daily exercise

A skittish kitten is chosen by rambunctious children whose parents aren't inclined to actively supervise their kids

A bunny with a predictable fondness for chewing catches the eye of someone who has no interest in rabbit-proofing her home.

To prevent such painful situations for both the pets and people involved, shelters and rescue groups carefully evaluate adopters in the hope of avoiding these mismatched relationships.

Do your homework

Many shelters and rescue groups have information about their adoption process on their websites so you can know in advance what to expect. If possible, it's helpful to examine the adoption process thoroughly before going to the shelter.

You'll have a relationship with your pet for many years to come, so it's worth being patient and taking your time to carefully consider what kind of pet—big or small, energetic or relaxed, older or younger—is right for you. Before you head to the shelter, ask yourself some questions that will help you figure out exactly what kind of critter will best fit your lifestyle and personality.

Adapted from The Humane Society of the United States:

If there is a child involved anywhere in this question of acquiring a new pet, these are words of wisdom:

When not to get your child a pet

The guilt-ridden mom remembers the moment she caved and got the puppy. Her little ones sat desolate, on a swing set, watching another child play with his dog. She asked them what was wrong.

"We're just going to sit here and watch that boy play with his puppy," her 4-year-old son said.

That night she told her husband they were getting a dog.

And so she joined the ranks of countless well-meaning parents who are emotionally manipulated into getting a pet before they are ready to add responsibility for another living thing into their lives.

There is a special agony experienced by children who live in a pet-free home. They are quick to remind their parents of this gaping hole in their empty lives. My daughter has been reduced to tears when asked to write a journal entry at school about her pet. (All she has is a younger brother.) My niece has begged my sister relentlessly for years for a dog. Her daughter's pleas in her ears, my sister passed a seller in a flea market offering a 5-day-old baby quail chick for $1.

It was so fluffy and cute, she thought.

"I thought it would be easier to care for than a dog," she said. She bought a wire bird cage from Craigslist and a 20-pound bag of chicken feed.

My nieces were a little confused when she brought their new "pet" home, but they were excited.

"They weren't expecting a farm animal," she said.

The chick has turned out to be a lot more work than expected -- from making sure it has enough food and water all day long to cleaning out the cage and protecting it from other stray animals that want to eat it.

"We've started putting it in the garage at night," my sister said. But her daughter has taken this "pet" to heart, training it to eat out of her hand and remarking recently: "It's pecking just like a grown woman now."

(The chick was sold as a female but is actually a male, which has created some lingering gender confusion and two sets of names.)

The poor girl has no idea that her father has other plans for the fowl, which is growing rapidly in size.

Plans that involve a cooking pot.

The family with the puppy has also run into trouble. The young boy, who was so eager to get a pet, was a little too fond of hugging the doggy a little too tightly, a little too close to its face. After a couple of years of one too many hugs, the dog snapped and bit the boy on the face. The mom, who had repeatedly taught her son how to properly treat the dog, was horrified. They found the pup a foster family until it is adopted.

"Not until the kids are 10 years old," the mom said recently, is she willing to consider a new pet.

Another mom confessed that she had driven by a "Found: Lost Cat" sign in her neighborhood for a week, knowing it was a picture of their cat who had developed a habit of relieving itself all over the house.

"It's obviously found itself a good home if they're willing to make a sign for it," she rationalized.

Eventually, she called and claimed the kitty. But unable to cure the cat of its bladder control issues, the family made "a very generous" donation, so the cat could live out its remaining days in an animal sanctuary.

Pets have the ability to teach children amazing lessons about life, love and death. But, they cannot be impulse buys.

The way we care for them once they are no longer as cute or convenient teaches our children just as important a lesson.

Sometimes, it's best to stay strong.

Don't fall for the baby chick unless you want to raise a chicken.

Adapted from:

Once you have decided to get a pet dog or cat, there are many considerations that will help you determine if you are ready for responsible pet ownership:

Deciding to get a pet

Deciding to become a pet owner requires very considered thought and planning.  All potential pet owners need to be sure they are really ready to take on the responsibility of owning a pet before going ahead and making a choice of breed of pet.

The first question you must ask yourself is "Can I look after a pet properly?" If the answer is "Yes", the next step is to make the right choice of pet in accordance with your lifestyle and priorities.

The average lifespan of a small dog is 11 years and, 12 years for a cat. This means pet owners need to be prepared to dedicate this many years (maybe even more) to properly looking after their pet.

If you are part of a family, the decision to get a pet should be a combined one, as all family members will come into contact with the pet, and should be involved in looking after it.

Important things to consider before deciding to own a pet include:

  • Are you prepared to care for a dog/cat for over 10 years?
  • Can you afford to own a pet with costs such as registration, vaccination, general health care, vet bills, food, grooming, de-sexing, obedience training, and boarding?
  • Do you have time to care for a pet? eg: daily exercise, grooming, obedience and play.
  • Who will look after your pet when you're away?
  • Do you live in a suitable location and type of housing for a pet?
  • Do you have adequate space for the pet you are considering?
  • What hours do you work, and will the pet have any company during the day?
  • If renting accommodation, are you permitted to own a pet?
  • If buying a puppy/kitten, can you provide care during the day and meals at regular intervals until it is six months of age?
  • Does a pet fit in with your lifestyle, activities, sporting pursuits and priorities?
  • Are you prepared to confine your cat (in the house or an enclosure) at night, or even 24 hours a day as required by some councils?
Choosing the right breed

If you can properly look after a pet, you need to carefully research and consider which breed or breed mix of dog or cat will suit your lifestyle and surroundings.

Some do's and don'ts…


• Read up on the type of pet you are considering purchasing. Contact dog and cat associations (eg: Dogs Victoria or Feline Control Council) who can put you in touch with breed clubs who can provide information on particular breeds;

• Contact dog obedience clubs, local vets and speak to people you know or meet who own the particular breed or breed mix you are considering; and

• Take into account factors like the size of your yard, the amount of exercise you can give a dog, or the type of nature you want in a dog or cat to help determine the exact breed that is suitable for you.


• Choose a breed just because it is popular or fashionable; this can lead to unhappy outcomes for both the pet and the owner;

• Buy a working dog (eg: kelpie or cattledog) if you live in the city, unless you are prepared to give it plenty of daily exercise; and

Remember that puppies which look adorable in a pet shop window could grow up to be big dogs that need a lot of exercise, food and space.

Where to purchase

All domestic animal businesses are legally required to be registered with the local Council, and must follow strict regulations under the Domestic Animals Act 1994.  These requirements are from an Australian location but similar restrictions will apply in any of the United States.

Domestic animal business refers to any place where animals are kept and sold. This includes pet shops, breeders, animal welfare shelters, and government approved cat and dog associations.

The regulations set minimum standards for the housing and sale of animals and require the business to sell every pet with a certificate of good health, which guarantees it has been vaccinated and wormed.

The certificate protects both you as the new owner of a pet, and also the business that sold it to you.

It is illegal to sell pets from casual markets. It's not unusual for these animals to have received no suitable veterinary examination, and as a result, they may not be free from physical defects.

Without a certificate, there is no guarantee covering the animal's health, and if you decide to return to the seller to ask questions about your newly acquired pet's health, you may find the seller has moved on (some sellers have just one or two litters to sell and then disappear). Never purchase a puppy or kitten that looks unwell.

In summary

Once you have decided that you can give a pet the care and attention it needs, the next important decision is to choose the right pet for your lifestyle and priorities. These decisions are the basic building blocks for responsible pet ownership, which is good news for you, your pet and the wider community.

Adapted from:

If there has been a younger child involved in the decision to get a new dog, it's never too early to to educate these children about the need for a sense of safety around dogs:

Remind kids about safety around dogs

Hardly a day goes by when there isn't a news story about a dog attack somewhere. When school starts, children may become especially vulnerable, walking and biking through their neighborhoods to class. That's why every year we like to remind parents to review safety around strange dogs with their children.

To be fair, dogs aren't the biggest risk that children face growing up. Organized sports, for example, are 10 times more likely to result in a child's trip to the emergency room than are dogs.

And although in most cases the dog involved in a serious attack is the family's own, it's also true that many neighborhoods are not safe for walking or biking because of a dog. These animals are accidents waiting to happen because their owners either don't know or don't care that their dogs are a public menace.

The experts say the signs are usually there long before a dog attacks. The dog is typically young, male and unneutered. He is usually unsocialized, a backyard dog with little to no interaction with the family. He is often inadvertently trained to be vicious by being kept full time on a chain or in a small kennel run.

Is there a dog like this in your neighborhood – or in your own yard? If it's the latter, call your veterinarian and arrange for your pet to be neutered, and then ask for a referral to a behaviorist who can help you rehabilitate your pet. Don't put this off: Your dog is a danger, and your own family is at risk.

Of course, you can't control what other people do with their animals. That's why you have to make sure your children know how to behave around dogs to protect themselves. Here's what everyone should know, and what parents need to teach their children:

• Never approach a loose dog, even if he seems friendly. Dogs who are confined in yards, and especially those on chains, should also be avoided. Many are very serious about protecting their turf. If the dog is with his owner, children should always ask permission before petting him and then begin by offering him the back of a hand for a sniff. Further, they should pat the dog on the neck or chest. The dog may interpret a pat from above as a gesture of dominance. Teach your children to avoid fast or jerky movements around dogs, since these may trigger predatory behavior.

• Be a tree when a dog approaches, standing straight with feet together, fists under the neck and elbows into the chest. Teach your children to make no eye contact, since some dogs view eye contact as a challenge. Running is a normal response to danger, but it's the worst possible thing to do around a dog, because it triggers the animal's instinct to chase and bite. Many dogs will just sniff and leave. Teach your children to stay still until the animal walks away, and then back away slowly out of the area.

• If attacked, "feed" the dog a jacket or backpack, or use a bike to block the dog. These strategies may keep an attacking dog's teeth from connecting with flesh.

• Act like a log if a dog knocks you down: face down, legs together, curled into a ball with fists covering the back of the neck and forearms over the ears. This position protects vital areas and can keep an attack from turning fatal. Role-play these lessons with your children until the instructions are ingrained. They may save a child's life.

Discuss safe behavior with your children and role-play how to approach dogs, when not to approach and what to do if confronted or attacked.

You don't need to scare your children, but you do need to make sure they're ready, just in case. And going over the "what ifs" isn't a bad idea for you as well.

Adapted from:

There is similar advice available concerning cats and your kids:

Good behavior for kids with cats

Any advice about cats for a family with three children from preschool to fourth grade? We're adopting a shelter cat – our first "big" pet after success with hamsters and guinea pigs – but we don't want anyone bitten or scratched.

Children and cats are natural together, but you need to lay some ground rules for the safety of both from the moment your new pet comes home. Kittens can be injured by the loving attention of children, especially young ones. And with about a half-million cat bites reported every year in the United States, you can clearly see that some cats give as good as they get.

The key to keeping children and cats together safely is to make sure that their interactions are supervised and to teach children how to handle and respect cats.

Toddlers can really try a cat's patience, even though they aren't being anything but normal. Young children can't understand that rough poking, squeezing and patting aren't appreciated. Although most cats figure out quickly that children this age are best avoided, your child could be bitten or scratched if your cat is cornered or startled. Keep an eye on all interactions, and consider putting a baby gate across the entry to a "safe room" for your cat, so he can have a place to go where he isn't pestered.

From the time a child is in school, he or she can start learning to care for a pet and take on an increasing amount of responsibility – under supervision, of course. One way to teach younger school-age children to play carefully is to play the "copycat game." If your child pets the cat gently, stroke his arm gently to show how nice it feels. Teach your children, too, how to hold a cat properly, with support under his chest and his legs not left dangling. A cat who feels secure and safe is far less likely to scratch or bite.

Adapted from:

Let's assume you have decided on getting a dog.  Do you suppose you might have dog-breed bias?  For more on this aspect: 

What Is Your Dog-Breed Bias?

We know you love dogs. All dogs. But there are so many different breeds, so many variations among the species, only a liar could claim to love every sort of dog equally. It's OK to admit it: you have a dog-breed bias. We all do. The "Doggie Dish" understands that, and they think we should be open about it, so they're leading the discussion.

The "Doggie Dish" is a site for dog lovers where dog bloggers from across the web come together to talk about the issues that go along with their beloved pets. In this "Doggie Dish" video, discussing their most favored and least favored dog breeds are Amelia Glynn of the San Francisco Chronicle; Bernie Berlin from A Place to Bark; "Stunt Dog Guy" Chris Perondi; Dr. Robyn Barbiers, President of the Anti-Cruelty Society; and Matt Drew of Drew's Pawspective.

To watch this informative and entertaining video, go to:

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By this point, you should be pretty well zeroed in on whether you want a dog or a cat.  Helpful Buckeye will follow up this advice in next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats with more information on what first time dog or cat owners should know, finding the "perfect" dog or cat, and locating a veterinarian you can feel comfortable with to take care of your new pet.

The NFL owners and players are taking this work stoppage right down to the last possible date it appears.  Helpful Buckeye predicts both sides will agree in the next few days and get on with their training camps.  Before we know it, the regular season will be here, the first coin toss will take place, and every team will start the season hoping to de-throne the Green Bay Packers.


As August approaches, Desperado and Helpful Buckeye are assembling several prospective destinations in Arizona for a short, 2-3 day trip.  We have quite a few from which to choose and may have to resort to throwing darts at a board to make the final decision.

On a related note, Helpful Buckeye was talking with some friends over breakfast this past week and found out something interesting about my previously-planned (but, later postponed) trip to bike over the Vail Pass in the Colorado Rockies.  They had made the drive on I-70, which goes right along most of that bike trail, and reported that large portions of the trail were under water as a result of the big snowmelt in the Rockies.  I've done a lot of riding on my bike, but have yet to show any promise of riding it on water (of undetermined depth).  Sometimes, the best things that happen are those that don't...I don't know who said that first but it surely applies here! 

You might not imagine a humorist commenting on the wonder of summer days, but James Dent, humorist and cartoonist, weighs in right here: "A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, ...and the lawn mower is broken."

As soon as Desperado and Helpful Buckeye throw that dart at the map of Arizona, we will begin chasing that perfect summer day...and we don't even own a lawn mower (or have any grass, for that matter).

~~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.~~

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Did any of our strange "tails" last week remind you of any of your dogs and/or cats?  Helpful Buckeye received several e-mails from readers saying that one of the stories sounded a lot like something that had happened at home.  That's one of the interesting things about pets...that there is always something unexpected right around the next corner.

Due to several e-mails from readers asking about dog and cat grooming problems, Helpful Buckeye will address these questions in this week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.  Most grooming questions come from dog owners...but there have been a few also showing up from cat owners.

Why Pets Shed and How to Keep Fur from Flying

Shedding may be a big hairy deal, but it is normal. Floating fur increases the challenge of keeping just-washed apparel a Fido-free zone. Unless you're a passionate pet lover who considers pet hair to be a condiment, understanding how to tame the hairy mess will keep your pet's coat and skin healthy and simplify housecleaning.

Why Pets Shed

It's not the temperature that prompts shedding. Light exposure, either to sun or artificial light, determines the amount and timing. More hair is shed during the greatest exposure to light. Outdoor cats and dogs living in the northeastern United States shed with the seasons, with the most fur flying in late spring for the several weeks during which daylight increases. But house pets under constant exposure to artificial light shed all year long.

Hair grows in cycles beginning with a period of rapid growth in the spring, followed by slower growth, and then ending in a winter resting stage. Mature hairs loosen in the follicles over the winter. In the spring, another cycle of hair growth begins, and new hair pushes the old loose ones out, resulting in an all-over shed.

Furry Offenders

All cats and dogs shed -- even shorthair pets -- but some breeds prompt more aggravation. The so-called "non-shedding" curly coated dogs like poodles just have much longer fur-growing seasons in which hair continuously grows for years at a time. They tend not to lose huge amounts of hair all at once. Shed hairs get caught and held in curly coats so shedding isn't as obviously left on the furniture.

Shorthair pets shed just as much, but the tiny hairs don't create furry drifts. "Double coated" shedding German shepherds, chows, and Persian cats may look moth-eaten when they shed clumps of fur at a time.

Mats, Hairballs & Hotspots

Thickly furred pets develop mats when fur is trapped and tangled next to the skin. Mats are terrific flea habitat and create bruises. Dogs also can develop painful hot spots -- a moist bacterial skin infection -- from mats. Hairballs develop when the dog or cat swallows shed fur during self-grooming.

6 Tips for Controlling The Shed

You can't stop shedding, but you can reduce the aggravation to yourself and health risks to your pet.

1--Groom every day. Religious fur care prevents problems and keeps skin and coats healthy. Make sure you groom outside or in an area easy to clean, or you'll deal with a furry tornado inside the house.

2--Choose good tools. EZ-Groomer is a cheap, light weight, claw-shaped tool that works well to break up established mats and to pull off shed fur. The pricier Furminator won't work on mats, but the close-fitting teeth pull off 80 percent of loose fur. A standard comb, or curry or pin brush also works.

3--Pet away fur. For shorthaired pets that hate grooming but love petting, try rubber-nubbed grooming "gloves." Or slip the foot-end of old pantyhose over your hand and pet to pull off shed fuzz.

4--Target problem areas. Pay particular attention to mat-prone areas behind the pet's ears, beneath his tail, and in the "arm pits" and groin regions. Longhair cats also develop tummy mats.

5--Take your time. There is no rule that says you must comb or brush the entire pet at one setting. Space it out over several hours or days. Most dogs and cats have "sweet spots" they love to have scratched, so finish on the cat's cheeks or the dog's chest. End each session with a favorite treat or game so your cat or dog identifies grooming with good things.

6--Ask a pro. If you aren't able to manage grooming yourself, have it professionally done by a groomer or veterinarian. "Lion cuts" that shave wooly pets for the summer can prevent problem mats or hotspots.

From Amy Shojai, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and adapted from:

Moving on toward more questions on dog grooming:

The Lowdown on Doggie Shedding

Most dogs shed. Even the ones that the breeder or pet store call "no shed dogs" are still bound to leave some fur behind. It's a nuisance, but it is the small price we pay for our pet's love and companionship.

Still, shedding raises many questions: Why do dogs seem to shed more in winter? Does heavy shedding indicate a health problem? Is it possible to prevent or reduce shedding? We chatted with Dr. Donna Spector, a board-certified veterinary Internal Medicine specialist from VCA Animal Hospital to get the lowdown on the shed.

Do dogs shed more in the winter?

Dogs appear to shed more in the winter, however, this is most often an illusion! Most dogs shed year-round. In the winter these dogs spend more time indoors and therefore owners tend to see more hair, giving the impression that they are shedding more. Some breeds do indeed have a seasonal shedding pattern and they tend to lose their heavier winter undercoat in the spring.

Can brushing your dog reduce shedding?

Shedding is an expected part of dog ownership and the hair is going to fall out one way or another. It is best to remove it and throw it away, rather than to let the hair fall out all over your house! I recommend brushing your dog once daily. Brushing cleans the coat, removes loose hair and stimulates the oil glands of the skin to keep skin soft and supple, which is especially important during the dry winter months.

It is also important to not bathe your dog too frequently as this can be very drying to the skin. Do not bathe more than once weekly and choose a natural and fragrance-free shampoo that doesn't strip the coat of natural oils.

Does dog diet affect shedding?

It is important that your dog is eating a complete and well-balanced diet to insure no nutrient deficiencies are contributing to hair loss or dry skin. Supplemental fatty acids (commonly provided as fish oils) can often improve the quality of the skin and hair coat.

Which brushes work best?

There are three basic brush types and your veterinarian can help you choose the brush that is right for your dog. Bristle brushes can be used on all coat types, and in general, the longer the hair coat, the more widely spaced and longer the bristles should be. Wire-pin brushes (with or without rubber ends) are the best choice for dogs with medium to long hair and those dogs with curly or very thick coats. Slicker brushes have very fine wire bristles and are useful for removing tangles.

Combs can also be used and are often helpful for removing mats. Curry-type combs are great for massaging the skin and removing loose hair from short-haired dogs.

Can shedding be a sign of disease?

Medical conditions such as skin infections, cancer, mange, ringworm, and even hormonal problems can cause increased shedding. If your dog has abnormal amounts of shedding and hair loss, leading to thin hair and bald spots, be sure to see your veterinarian.

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On becoming more comfortable with the hairbrush and blowdryer:

Overcoming Grooming Fears: The Hairbrush and the Blowdryer
The condition of your pet's fur may be less than flattering due to their affinity for romping in mud and sifting through garbage cans, but what can you do if your mangy-looking friend is terrified of the grooming tools needed to clean up their act? The razor-toothed hairbrush and loud, scary blowdryer may send many pets bolting to the nearest hiding place, but there are ways to help your pet become accustomed to, and possibly even comfortable with, these grooming necessities.

The Hairbrush

Once you're ready to combat your pet's tangles, put them into proper grooming stance. "While you are brushing your pet, it is often best if it's in a standing position," says Jen Quick, Director of the Fur Institute, a grooming school located in Alberta, Canada. "You can keep them standing by placing one hand between their back legs and resting it on their belly."

Another crucial step in maintaining your pet's patience with grooming is to give them frequent breathers. "You may want to give your pet a little bit of a break if it is taking more than a half hour to remove all tangles from their fur," suggested Quick.

Some animals may become agitated while you're brushing their tangles out, and could wiggle or even try to snap at you. In this situation, "place your hand around the animal's muzzle to keep their mouth closed, and in a stern voice, tell them 'no,'" advised Quick. If your pet continues to bite or growl, you must regain control over the situation. "You can flip them on their back, make eye contact, and tell them 'no,'" said Quick. "Do not break eye contact until they look away first." If all else fails, you may need to muzzle your pet to avoid getting hurt.

It may seem easier to forgo brushing between visits to the groomer, but the benefits outweigh the difficulty of struggling for your furry friend's compliance. If you neglect your pet's fur, it may become matted which "can restrict blood flow and air reaching that area of the skin, and there can be serious health issues," according to Quick.

The Blowdryer

"If your pet is afraid of the blowdryer, they may need to be reintroduced," said Quick. The first step is getting your pet comfortable with being in the vicinity of the blowdryer. This can be done by leaving the blowdryer in an area where the pet spends a lot of time, and it cannot be accidentally turned on. Once the presence of the blowdryer is no longer frightening to your pet, leave it running for a while so they can become accustomed to the noise. "Make sure to have a safe place for your pet to go (like a kennel) if [the noise] scares them," said Quick.

Quick cautions that it may take several attempts, but once your pet is comfortable with the noise of the blowdryer, you can start blowing air onto them. "You always want to start at the back end of the pet and slowly work towards the front, leaving the head last."

When all else fails, treats can often save the day. Acting as a positive distraction, treats will often convince your pet that sticking around to get dried off may not be all bad. "Pets often respond in a positive manner when they are rewarded for doing a good thing," said Quick.

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Keeping dogs and cats clean can involve choosing tips from different sources and finding out which ones work best for your situation:

Keep Dogs and Cats Clean

Washing a dog or watching someone else wash a dog: moment of Zen. (Depending on the dog, of course.) Washing a cat: not so much. Here are some tips from groomers and veterinarians on the best way to get the job done.

How often should dogs be bathed?

"I kind of go with 'Wash them when they're dirty,' " says Margaret Silvius, a veterinarian at Lakewood Animal Health Center in Lee's Summit, Mo. Wash some dogs too frequently and their skin will dry out.

Every four to six weeks is typical, says Amanda Stoufer with Quivira Road Animal Clinic in Lenexa, Kan., but it depends on the dog. She bathes her own dogs every week in the summertime to remove allergens and pollen.

What if your pooch is antibath?

Make it a positive experience, Stoufer says: lots of rewards (treats) and praise. Make sure a bath doesn't seem like punishment.

What kind of shampoo should you use?

Don't use human shampoo. Dogs "have completely different skin than we do," says Jessica Quinn, 20, who works at Brookside Barkery & Bath in Kansas City, Mo.

What about cats?

"I've never given my cat a bath, and we've had her five years," Silvius says. "Most cats are really good self-groomers." But you do need to comb or brush your cat.

Stoufer says long-haired cats may require baths. And any cat that gets into something — motor oil, for instance — needs a bath.

Stoufer has noticed that cats seem to be calmer at the clinic than they would be at home; they're out of their element. "Most cats just kind of sit there and let us do what we do," Stoufer says. "Everybody assumes that cats hate water, but most of them don't seem that traumatized by it."

Still, for cats, a treat afterward may not help. Their attitude seems to be, "You humiliated me! I want some space from you," Stoufer says.

How about "pocket pets" such as guinea pigs, hamsters and mice?

They self-groom, too, for the most part. "I would just spot-clean them if they happen to get messy," Stoufer says.

Can pets be blow-dried?

Yes, but use the coolest setting. Dogs and cats can easily overheat. Stoufer's office uses no-heat fans that hook onto cages.

Quinn's tip: Be sure to dry the dog completely; it helps prevent matting.

Do you really need to brush your dog or cat's teeth?

"That's definitely the ideal thing," Silvius says. Brush their teeth every day if you can (with pet toothpaste, available in flavors such as poultry). Dental treats and water additives can help. Tartar buildup and periodontal disease can affect pets. The good news: Brushing is enough. You don't have to train your pet to rinse and spit.

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For some good information on a specific and unpleasant clean-up problem, check out this from the Humane Society of the United States:

De-Skunking Your Dog

Skunks are everywhere—in the country and in the city. If your dog gets sprayed, there are ways you can rid him of the scent without using your entire ketchup (or tomato juice) supply to do it.

Over-the-counter products such as Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover, which is available at most specialty pet retailers, are a quick fix, but if you don't have that on hand, try the following:

Step 1: Keep Fido outside

While you prepare the de-skunking solution, keep your dog outside after he's sprayed so he doesn't carry the smell into your house. Check his eyes; if they're irritated or red, immediately flush them with cool water.

Step 2: Mix the Ingredients

Mix together:

1 quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide (available at your local pharmacy)

1/4 cup baking soda

1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap

Wearing rubber gloves, wash your dog with this solution immediately after he's been sprayed. DO NOT get the solution in the dog's eyes. (If you don't have peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap on hand, use vinegar diluted with water.)

Caution: Do NOT save this mixture or make it ahead of time, as the mixture could explode if left in a bottle.

Step 3: Clean and rinse

Rub the mixture through his fur, but don't leave it on him too long (peroxide can bleach his fur). Rinse him thoroughly.

Step 4: Shampoo

Next, wash your dog with pet shampoo and rinse thoroughly. By now, he should be de-skunked and smelling sweet. Thoroughly towel-dry your dog, and be sure to place him in a warm, sunny room for the next couple of hours so that he doesn't get chilled. He should also have a large dry towel on which to lie down. If you dog has long fur, you may need to use a hair dryer to dry his fur.

Owner cleanup

If your dog rubbed some of the stink onto you, you can rid your clothes of the smell by using regular laundry detergent mixed with a half-cup of baking soda.

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One more source for information on shedding solutions:

Spring and summer can be a hairy time for pet owners. Shedding hair is one of the biggest annoyances of dog and cat owners. So how can you rid your home and your clothing of unwanted hair?

Regardless of age or breed, all dogs and cats (except for hairless pets like a Sphinx feline or an American Hairless Terrier) lose their winter coats and begin to shed when warmer weather arrives. While you can't stop your pet from shedding, you can create an effective strategy to deal with the loose hair.

If you are tired of tackling pet hair, use these fur fighting tips and pet product recommendations to alleviate shedding throughout your home:

1. Read shampoo labels before bathing.

Not all pet shampoos are the same; and like food, you need to read the labels. Use an Olive shampoo like Nikki's Green Rosemarino Olive Oil Dog Shampoo, which is rich in Vitamin E and other antioxidants to moisturize dry and brittle hairs, returning your pet's coat to its natural strength, luster and beauty. $16.00.

2. Keep your pet bed fur-free.

Schedule the cleaning of your pet's bed in conjunction with monthly grooming appointments or in-home grooming sessions. To remove pet hair, use a static cling preventative product to loosen pet hair and a vacuum pet bed. New odor free, antimicrobial and stain resistant pet beds like Jax and Bones Crypton® fabric beds make it much easier to remove dead hair and dander. $169.00.

3. Clean surfaces thoroughly.

Vacuum carpets, furniture and car upholstery, using pet vacuums with HEPA filters and motorized brushes for allergen removal and for pet hair pick-up. If necessary, cover furniture and car seats. For those hard-to-reach places and when you need a quick sweep, try the Scotch™ Fur Fighter ™ Pet Hair Sweeper, specially designed to make cleaning up pet hair easy, especially in tricky places like between appliances and kitchen cabinets. $9.99 for the Pet Hair Sweeper and $4.99 for the refills.

4. Supplement your pet's diet.

You are what you eat and your pet's appearance reflects what he eats too! Feed your pet a high quality diet and supplement his diet with Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids to keep his coat healthy and shiny. Try PetSmart GNC Ultra Mega Skin and Coat Essentials for Cats, with Omega- 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids. $5.99

5. Develop a grooming routine.

Depending on the coat type, brushing regularly with a slicker, pin or bristle brush can keep your home clean from shedding pet hair, dander and dirt. Also, utilize helpful tools such as shedding blades and grooming gloves. Also, groom pets outside or in a utility room to contain flyaway fur. FURminator has deshedding products starting as low as $35.00.

6. Shut the closet door.

Keep dogs and cats out of clothing closets. Prior to leaving home, do not pet or allow your pet to rub against you. Carry a lint brush to make sure your clothes are fur-free -- and to prevent aggravating the pet allergies of co-workers, friends or acquaintances.

7. Schedule seasonal medical check-ups.

An allergic reaction, mange or another health problem may cause hair loss. If your pet is losing an excessive amount of hair, take your dog or cat to your veterinarian for a check-up.

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A new product from Dyson might help you with your grooming tasks, as Susan Segrest explains:

Dyson, the maker of upscale vacuums -- and commercials featuring the posh voice of its British founder -- has had a series of powerful animal-and-pet-hair-focused vacuums for years. But now the company is trying to keep that hair from hitting the floor in the first place.

For Medium- and Long-Haired Dogs

The $69 attachment (that works with many but not all Dyson vacuums) is a grooming brush for medium- and long-haired adult dogs. You can see how it works in the video below, but basically it is a brush/suck combo. The brush gathers the hair and then you press a button for the vacuum suction to take it away.

I tried it out on my very thick-coated pug and I have to say, I love it.

Normally a pug wouldn't be a good candidate for the groom tool because of its short hair, but my dog Milo has, what one vet described as, "the face of a pug, the coat of an Akita." And, no matter what I do, he leaves tumbleweeds of dog hair throughout my home. Every day. So I was eager to give this a go. He's also completely deaf, so the noise of the vacuum doesn't faze him.

Two Dogs Put It to the Test

With dog, grooming tool and vacuum at the ready, I quickly get the hang of it. With one hand on the dog's collar and one hand on the grooming tool, I start doing even strokes. The push-and-release action brings the bristles out to brush the dog and then allow them to retract so the suction can pull the hair away. I repeat, going over the thicker parts of the coat and am thrilled to see the hair filling up the clear vacuum canister.

Because the suction on the Dyson vacuum is so powerful, I wasn't sure how the attachment would keep from pulling too hard on the dog's hair and skin, but the company explains that the "suction is split to prevent the tool sticking to the animal, yet capture flyaway hair and dead skin." And it works. No tragic squeals from the pug from the hair getting yanked. Also, the removal of allergens and pet dander is a big draw. I was able to sit on the sofa and do the grooming without being surrounded by dog hair or feel like I was being dusted by allergens. Some hair hit the floor, but I did have the vacuum handy.

I also had my friend Steve test drive the groom tool on his golden retriever to see how well it worked for them and if his dog freaked out over the noise of the vacuum. He practiced using the tool without the vacuum first. And then he ran the vacuum nearer to the dog than normal and then put the two together. He said that the dog didn't love being so near the vacuum, so it wasn't the most relaxing grooming in the world, but it definitely sucked up a lot of hair. He thinks that with time they would both relax into it.

Would It Work for You?

If you have a dog with longer hair and already own or plan on buying a Dyson vacuum, it just might be the right tool to add to your fur-busting arsenal -- if your pooch can stand the noise of the vacuum, that is.

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Susan Segrest also has some suggestions for several other products:

April showers bring flowers -- eventually -- but at the moment all it is bringing is a lot of muddy paw prints into my apartment. To tackle this problem I've put several items to the test to keep a dirty dog, from leaving a trail of ick throughout my home. Here are my favorites:

1. Soggy Doggy Doormat

I am LOVING this large super absorbent doormat. After wiping off my rain-soaked dog's dirty paws with a wet paper towel, I lead him over to the super soft Soggy Doggy Doormat to soak up some of the water. According to the manufacturer, the mat is made from millions of textured, ultrafine strands woven together so there is more surface area to allow it to soak up seven times its weight. It also dries faster than the typical doormat and can be thrown in the washing machine for a cleaning. $39.95 online and at stores nationwide.

2. Microdry Memory Foam Luxury Pet Mat

I found this sleek super-absorbent slip-resistant pet mat when I was looking to upgrade the mat for my bathroom floor. Made by the Microdry company -- which manufactures a range of super-absorbent household products -- the pet mat features quick-wicking fabric along with a half of a inch of memory foam to amp up the softness and comfort for the pooch. I keep the pet mat in my bedroom so if the dog is still damp, he can hang out there drying off without getting his bed wet. I also put down Microdry's longer runner in my hallway when it is a particularly wet week and it keeps messes to a minimum. $19.99 - small, $29.99 - large, at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

3. Swiffer WetJet

For quickly cleaning up muddy paws in the kitchen, I pull out my Swiffer WetJet and give the floor a fast once over. The WetJet has a dual-nozzle sprayer, special cleaning solution and a pad which locks in the dirt as your mop. There is also a special scrubby strip for breaking up dried hardened dirt. (So much faster than dragging out the mop and bucket.) From $23.35 at and stores nationwide.

4. Dogs Unleashed Microfiber Pocket Pet Towel

Another great strategy for dealing with wet, muddy pets, is having several towels designated only for the dogs. This mini microfiber towel with pockets is clearly labeled so you won't get it mixed in with the rest of your wash. Just slide your hands into the end pockets and you can quickly wipe the dog down and clean off dirty paws. $9.99 at Petco

Adapted from: and there are some clickable web sites for each of these products.

Should you find that your pooch has gotten into some cockleburs, Kathy Salzberg has this advice:

Q: My neighbor just brought home a dog from the shelter. She took a long walk with her new dog and came home to find cockleburs throughout the dog's coat. What should she do?

A: Once you discover cockleburs on your dog, you need to remove them as soon as possible. The longer they stay in the coat, the deeper they will dig in, making it more difficult to get rid of them. The best way to remove them depends on how many your furry friend has picked up. If there are just a few, you can usually remove them with a coarse brush or a stainless steel comb. If some are already stuck in, you can try splitting them with scissors to make brushing them out easier. Do this very carefully; always point the scissor’s tips away from the dog’s body to avoid injury.

Detangling spray or coat conditioner will make it easier to remove the cockleburs. You’ll be able to work them out without tugging too much on your dog’s coat. In a pinch, a little vegetable oil will also do the trick.

You’ll need to bathe your pet after using any of these products. Any good pH-balanced pet shampoo will do, but if the coat is extremely oily, you might want to use de-greasing shampoo or Dawn dish detergent followed by a soothing crème rinse or conditioner. After the bath, brush and comb the coat to make sure you haven’t missed any cockleburs. Check your dog thoroughly, including the pads of his feet. These tiny tanglers can find a home in any crevice, including armpits, ears and even the genital area.

When dogs loaded with cockleburs come to the grooming shop, we normally clip them down and start the coat over again. Even if it were possible to remove them with a dematting tool, it would be extremely time-consuming and painful for the pet. In fact, if your four-footed friend loves to romp in the woods and fields, keeping his coat in a short trim will help you to easily detect the burrs. When you are enjoying the great outdoors, avoid any areas that contain cockleburs. If they are growing on your property, remove them – wearing gloves, of course. Their prickly dry seedpods are usually visible on plant stems, protruding above other wild vegetation.

Another serious botanical hazard for dogs that romp outdoors is the foxtail, a hard seed-bearing structure on some kinds of wild grasses that contains sharp points at one end with microscopic barbs that allows it to embed like a fish hook. Like cockleburs, these become stuck in the hair, especially the paws and ears, and sometimes even in nostrils and eyes. If they work their way into the skin, they can cause serious infection. These grasses are common in weedy areas around roads, paths and woodland trails. As annuals, they are soft and green from January through March or April, but after the seed heads dry in the spring, they become dangerous, remaining that way throughout the summer and fall. Foxtails can cause severe injury, so if you uncover any on your pet, be sure to get all of them out with your brush and comb. If they have become embedded, take your dog to a veterinarian for removal.

One interesting cocklebur factoid: Despite their nuisance quality, they are responsible for an invention that has become ubiquitous in our daily lives. In 1941, Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral noticed that his wool socks, his jacket and his dog’s fur were covered with cockleburs after a walk in the woods. Observing them under a microscope, he noticed their hundreds of hooks and how easily they attached to fibers, especially if those fibers were looped. By 1948, he had duplicated this hook and loop configuration in nylon, naming his new creation Velcro.

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After last week's issue on strange and unusual "tails", a couple of readers sent e-mails about other interesting dog and cat "tails".  First, was Jamie, from Chicago, who sent this tidbit about:

Let Fido Sniff Out Winning Pet Stocks
Last year, an octopus named Paul proved quite adept at predicting winners in the FIFA World Cup. While his stock-picking prowess never was tested, his skills do suggest an interesting idea for investors -- consulting the domesticated animal kingdom for investing ideas.

It's not as far-fetched as it might sound: Historical returns have shown that growth in pet products has proceeded at a steady pace. And more than half of households have a built-in product focus group -- a furry, fuzzy or scaly pet that is probably more than eager to test the latest and greatest pet products.

Want to throw your portfolio a bone? Follow your dog's nose and see what pet products make his tail wag in delight.

The cost of unconditional love

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent $48.4 billion on their pets in 2010, and as of 2008 more than 62% of households owned at least one pet.

Almost $20 billion of that amount was spent on pet food, $14 billion on veterinary care, and $11 billion on supplies and over-the-counter medicine, according to the APPA. These revenue figures have nearly tripled since 1994 and are even more reason to consider investing in the pet products sector.

Cashing in on Fido and Fifi is long gone, but thankfully we're left with a few highly profitable places to dig for investment opportunities:

Note that all of these companies have strong double-digit growth expectations, yet none are trading at a ridiculous valuation. As gravy, PetMed Express pays a very delectable dividend -- currently yielding north of 4% -- while PetSmart also pays out 1.2%, a figure I predict could rise in the coming years given its dividend growth rate of more than 100% in the past two years.

Also, don't discount what owners are willing to do to ensure the health of their four-legged family members. A typical visit to the vet usually costs hundreds of dollars and translates into healthy margins for pet companies like MWI and VCA Antech, which supply various products to veterinary clinics.

Big retailers hopping on the gravy train

The appeal of high-margin pet products is even attracting large names that want a piece of the pie. Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT), and online retailer (AMZN) have expanded the amount of pet food and toy products they carry in the hopes of cashing in on this high-margin gravy train.

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And, secondly, a note from Albert, in NYC, about a cat that had survived a fall from the 20th floor:

The owners of one lucky Upper West Side cat were talking about nine lives after he survived a 20-floor fall from a high-rise building.

Forget about black cats and bad luck – this cat is one amazing animal.

“They told me that he was a miracle,” owner Barry Myers said.

“Gloucester,” better known as “G” to his owners, was the subject of plenty of fireworks on the Fourth of July after surviving a 20-story plunge from an apartment building. The cat crash-landed on the pavement with barely a scratch.

“According to the vet, when you’re 10 floors or above, you actually have an increased chance of surviving it, because you have a chance to kind of right yourself and get ready to land,” Myers said.

Myers has owned “G” since he found the cat in an abandoned building 16 years ago. Members of the family mistakenly left a window cracked when they left for a long weekend, not knowing the danger in store for their curious cat.

“In all the years we’ve been here, he’s never even looked at the window, let alone peeked his head out or anything,” Myers said. “I assume he saw something and leaned out and tried to take a swing at it.”

This is not only a miraculous example of our discussion last week, but also even more so since this cat is 16 years old!

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Desperado and Helpful Buckeye were glad to watch the NL beat the AL in baseball's All-Star game this week.  Now, it would be nice if the LA DODGERS could maintain the momentum they had generated before the All-Star break.  It sounds like the NFL lockout might be heading for a resolution.  Helpful Buckeye suspects that most NFL fans will quickly forget their displeasure with the owners and players once the first coin toss of the season occurs.


Helpful Buckeye fell back on wise counseling from Desperado this past week by putting more miles in on my bike, planting more flowers and herbs, playing some fairly decent racquetball, getting back to sharing some good times with friends, and, of course, communing with Desperado over some great meals.  Life can be good...but, sometimes, we have to give it some help.

If certain things start falling properly into place, Desperado and Helpful Buckeye would like to start making some plans for a few short trips, much like the ones we made earlier this year.  There are still several 2-3 day trips available right here in Arizona that we'd really enjoy.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson (author and poet) said:
"Never lose an opportunity to see anything that is beautiful.  It is God’s handwriting—a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower."

~~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.~~