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.~~

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