Monday, November 28, 2011


Helpful Buckeye hopes that all of our readers had a wonderful time with their families and loved ones over the Thanksgiving weekend.  Unless your family has an organized reunion some other time during the year, this was probably your "reunion" for the year.  Hope it was a rewarding one....

Helpful Buckeye also would like to thank Holly, from Pennsylvania, for her very gracious comment at the end of last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, "The Rising Costs of Pet Companionship" case you missed it:


I stopped by today specifically to let you know I include you and your work here as one of the things for which I am thankful. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

One other thing that my Vet does which helps is that he offers a multiple pet discount. If I bring Rory & Fiona in at the same time for visits, I get a small break. And, (you're only the first person to know this bit,) with a new puppy Scottie arriving in December, it will really help us keep the medical maintenance in line. I really, really like my vet. It's one of the only things that I can say I've liked in my move from Baltimore! (Please say the following, "Geeze Holly, get over it, you've lived in Greensburg seven years now!")

November 21, 2011 7:11 AM

Thank you, Holly, for taking the time to share your experience and for the very kind words!

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye will be out of the loop for a couple of days over the, Helpful Buckeye is offering a couple of fun and interesting accounts of animals other than dogs and cats for your enjoyment.

Agriculture commissioner talks invasive species with CBS

The threat of invasive species has become familiar to Floridians, especially those living near the Everglades.

Invasive species — which are those that have been imported from other parts of the world, often by accident — can be extremely dangerous to local ecosystems. Some estimate their costs to the U.S. economy to be about $120 billion annually. Though species like kudzu and Asian carp are problematic to areas across the country, few places are as plagued with invasives as South Florida.

Trade, international tourism and international cargo all contribute to the proliferation of invasives in Florida, which is home to one of the highest numbers of exotic plant and animal species in the world. In South Florida, approximately 26 percent of all fish, reptiles, birds and mammals are exotic.

Speaking to CBS News, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said that the giant African land snail, which can grow up to eight inches long and lay 1,200 eggs a year, is the invasive species currently on his radar.

“With something like the snails we’ve got the trifecta,” said Putnam. “It carries human Meningitis, so people are concerned. It eats 500 different plants, so agriculture’s concerned. And it eats houses, so homeowners are very concerned.”

The snails, which can eat stucco, have brought together a team of 70, all engaged in the fight against it.

A simple Google search turns up dozens of results for the sale of the snails, though most seem to be in the U.K. But access to exotic pets, which owners often can’t properly take care of, is part of the problem.

Though the African land snail has gained notoriety in recent months, perhaps Florida’s most infamous invasive species is the Burmese python. Pythons can be purchased at a relatively inexpensive price, but, as is the case with many exotics, they can grow to incredible sizes — in some cases, more than 20 feet long. Those who are ill-equipped to deal with a 20-foot snake might set them loose, as many pet owners in South Florida have done, where they make their mark on a local ecosystem. Last Thursday, workers from the South Florida Water Management District captured and killed a 16-foot-long Burmese Python that had ingested a 76-pound female deer.
(For more on this story, along with a great photo, go to: )

The key to keeping a lid on the problem, Putnam told CBS, is educating Floridians about the dangers of invasive species. ”Wherever you’re coming from, leave all that stuff behind,” he said, “because any one of those things can carry the larvae that’s going to become the fly that’s going to wipe out a $100 billion industry in our state.”

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, the last reported outbreak (and eradication) of the Giant African land snail in Florida occurred in 1966, when a boy smuggled three Giant African land snails into Miami as pets. Seven years after the boy’s grandmother released the snails into her garden, more than 18,000 snails were found, which cost the state more than $1 million and took an additional 10 years to successfully eradicate.

Adapted from:

OK, now I'm asking you to name what you think are the 5 smartest non-primates.  Take a few moments to think about this one...I'll give you a hint: neither dogs nor cats made the short list.  Check out this list and see if you agree with the conclusions:

The 5 Smartest Non-Primates on the Planet

#5 Pigs

As it turns out, being piggy is actually a pretty smart tactic — pigs are probably the most intelligent domesticated animal on the planet. Although their raw intelligence is most likely commensurate with a dog or cat, their problem-solving abilities top those of felines and canine pals.

One study showed that domestic pigs can quickly learn how mirrors work and will use their understanding of reflected images to scope out their surroundings for food. The researchers cannot yet say whether the animals realize that the eyes in the mirror are their own, or whether pigs might rank with apes, dolphins and other species that have passed the famed “mirror self-recognition test” thought to be a marker of self-awareness and advanced intelligence.

Neat human trick: In a 1990s experiment, pigs were trained to move a cursor on a video screen with their snouts and used the cursor to distinguish between scribbles they knew and those they were seeing for the first time. They learned the task as quickly as chimpanzees.

#4 Octopuses  (or is it "Octopi?")

If pigs are the most intelligent of the domesticated species, octopuses take the cake for invertebrates. Experiments in maze and problem-solving have shown that they have both short-term and long-term memory. Octopuses can open jars, squeeze through tiny openings, and hop from cage to cage for a snack. They can also be trained to distinguish between different shapes and patterns. In a kind of play-like activity — one of the hallmarks of higher intelligence species — octopuses have been observed repeatedly releasing bottles or toys into a circular current in their aquariums and then catching them.

Neat human trick: The octopus is the only invertebrate which has been shown to use tools. At least four specimens have been witnessed retrieving discarded coconut shells, manipulating them, and then reassembling them to use as shelter.  (Did someone mention coconut?)

#3 Crows

In many branches of mythology, the crow plays a shrewd trickster, and in the real world, crows are proving to be quite a clever species. Crows have been found to engage in feats such as tool use, the ability to hide and store food from season to season, episodic-like memory, and the ability to use personal experience to predict future conditions.

One species, the New Caledonian Crow, has been witnessed using knife-like tools cut from stiff leaves, and it will drop tough nuts onto streets busy with cars to smash them open. Crows in Queensland, Australia, have even learned how to safely eat a species of toxic cane toad. They flip the frog on its back and stab its throat, where its poisonous skin is the thinnest, in order to munch on the non-toxic innards.

Neat human trick: Recent research suggests that crows have the ability to recognize one individual human from another by facial features, and that they can remember human faces for years. So be careful when you cross a crow.

#2 Dolphins

Dolphins are among the smartest of the animal kingdom, partly because they live such social lives. They're also thought to have a sophisticated "language," though humans have only begun to unravel it. Dolphins use tools in their natural environment and can learn an impressive array of behavioral commands from human trainers. Like many of the most intelligent animals on Earth, female dolphins remain with their young for several years, teaching them all the tricks of the dolphin trade. Recent tests show that dolphins understand numbers of things, and they have displayed self-recognition — a feat reserved for animals of the highest smarts.

Neat human trick: As of 2005, scientists have observed groups of bottlenose dolphins around the Pacific Ocean using a basic tool. When searching for food on the sea floor, many of these dolphins were seen tearing off pieces of sea sponge and wrapping them around their "bottle nose" to prevent abrasions.

#1 Elephants

Elephants top our list of the wisest non-primates. They live in close-knit societies with an intricate social hierarchy. Elephants also exhibit altruism toward other animals, and pregnant females have learned how to eat particular leaves to induce labor.

They can also use tools and quickly adapt to new situations — elephants have also been known to drop very large rocks onto an electric fence either to ruin the fence or to cut off the electricity. A 2010 experiment revealed that in order to reach food, "elephants can learn to coordinate with a partner in a task requiring two individuals to simultaneously pull two ends of the same rope to obtain a reward", putting them on an equal footing with chimpanzees in terms of their level of cooperative skills.

But what really sets elephants apart is their complex death rituals; other than elephants, humans and Neanderthals are the only animals known to pay respects to the dead. Often, elephants will gently investigate the bones of the newly deceased with their trunks and feet while staying very quiet. Sometimes elephants that are completely unrelated to the deceased will still visit their graves.

Neat human trick: In the recent study, the elephants even figured out ways that the researchers hadn't previously considered to obtain food rewards. Outsmarting the humans? Not just for the apes anymore.

Adapted from:

If you're interested in looking for the book, Life's Little Mysteries, this list came from, it is available at:

~~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, November 21, 2011



For any pet owner faced with a possible bill for veterinary services that might be more than your budget can allow for...but you just feel that you have to go ahead with the expensive procedure, there are some options for you to consider.  To put yourself in a better position to handle some of these unexpected expenses, a little pre-planning goes a long way toward peace of mind when the expense shows up.  Some of these ideas should be researched before anything happens that requires a financial outlay and some will require some investigation on your part after they happen. 
13 Tips To Cut Your Pet's Veterinary Bills

By Erica Sandberg

Americans love to own pets, and like all living things, they need care. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 43 million households in the United States own a dog, and 37 million households own cats, and they cost us a mean of $200 per dog and $81 per cat, per year. But sometimes, the high cost of pet care can drive people into debt.

Bruce Silverman, VMD, of Village West Veterinary in Chicago, shared these 13 tips to reducing the cost of veterinary care:

1. Know your vet's fees in advance. The cost of basic care shouldn't come as a shock. Don't be afraid to call around to compare.

2. Look for places with alternative payment policies. If your vet's policies don't meet your financial constraints, find one with more flexible payment arrangements.

3. Get pet credit or insurance. Advances in medical technology allow specialty veterinary centers to offer the same high tech care offered to human patients. But without pet insurance or good credit to qualify for a pet health credit card, you may not be able to afford it.

4. Ask even the most uncomfortable questions. It's difficult to decide on what to do or pay for in an emergency. Ask your vet what he would do in your situation, and use the vet's response as a baseline for your decisions.

5. Research your pet's health problem. The Internet has a lot of unsubstantiated information, but it also has some great sources to learn about what's ailing your pet, and the type and cost of care it may need.

6. Beware of "bait and switch" advertising. Sometimes a free exam becomes a strong-arm tactic to sell you more than your pet needs.

7. Understand all options. Pet care at both the high and low ends of the cost spectrum may be only minimally helpful. Often there's a happy medium offering the broadest treatment success.

8. Request detailed explanations. If your vet says your pet needs a specific procedure, ask why. Get a second opinion if the answer leaves you with more questions than answers.

9. Practice preventative care. Early intervention is always the best medicine.

10. Read online reviews. Websites such as Yelp can help you find vets who offer the best care at the best price. Be skeptical about comments that are repeated by multiple reviewers -- they could be placed by the vet's friends or foes.

11. Prepare for end-of-life (palliative) care. As your pet ages, medical treatment often becomes more frequent and expensive. As the benefits get lower, you may need to weigh what your limited resources may be buying for your loved one.

12. Negotiate fees respectfully. Haggling with your vet is not recommended, but it never hurts to ask for a price reduction if you truly need a break.

13. A new or improved hospital may directly translate into higher fees. If you've been a loyal client for years, and have noticed the sudden markups, let them know how you feel -- in a tactful manner.

Adapted from:

Good Dog, Bad Bill: Compare vet care financing options

Learn how to pay the tab when Fluffy or Fido need expensive care

By Allie Johnson

With veterinary costs on the rise, and more sophisticated treatment options more readily available for pets, it's likely the average pet owner will one day face the prospect of a large veterinary bill. Before you and your furry -- or scaly -- companion find yourselves on the other side of the receptionist's counter looking at a jaw-dropping estimate, it might be a good idea to learn about veterinary care financing options.

 The increased veterinary treatment choices and costs can put a strain on pet owners' finances and credit. In 2006, the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association listed advances in pet medical care as one of the pet business trends of the year -- noting that more veterinarians are being trained as specialists who offer diagnostic tools such as MRIs and CAT scans and treatments such as canine dialysis, brain surgery and hip replacements.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in 2007 there were 8,885 certified veterinary specialists -- over 5,000 more than there were 20 years ago. Veterinary specialists include ER doctors, cardiologists, oncologists, neurologists, dermatologists and even ophthalmologists.

 Unlike humans, only a very small percentage of pets in the United States are covered by insurance. "It's becoming more and more of an issue. Sometimes, it's 'Am I going to eat or pay for my dog's surgery?' " says veterinarian Shana Savikko, who is a veterinary adviser for the American Animal Hospital Association.

How to pay a big vet bill

Though large veterinary bills can sometimes cause sticker shock, there are financing options that can help. Planning ahead for a veterinary emergency or illness by saving some money each month might be the best strategy.

"Whenever I had a new puppy walk into the clinic, the first thing I'd recommend was starting a savings plan," says Savikko, who used to practice in Oregon. "You can make it real simple -- $10 a week. That's two coffees you don't grab at Starbucks, or a pizza you don't order." Or, Savikko recommends pet insurance that covers catastrophic illness or injury, which she says can be a better value than a plan that includes routine care.

Many pet owners, however, put off saving or getting pet insurance, thinking they can start later or gambling on the chance that their pet might never have a major problem. Unfortunately, that gamble sometimes doesn't pay off.

For that reason, a few medical credit cards marketed for human health care needs also may be used to pay for pet health needs. CareCredit is endorsed by the American Animal Hospital Association and is widely accepted by veterinarians across the United States, and the Citi Health Card also may be used for veterinary care. Both cards offer zero or low fixed interest rates for periods of up to 18 months. Pet owners who expect to use one of these cards should check with veterinary emergency and specialty clinics to see which cards are accepted, then apply ahead of time to prevent the stress of having a pet's treatment hinge on approval.

Some pet owners choose to keep a standard credit card for emergencies, which might mean paying a higher interest rate. That's what Shirley Zarda, of Blue Springs, Mo., did after her 10-year-old black-and-white pit bull, Bella, woke her up in the middle of the night. "She could hardly walk, and she looked really bloated," Zarda remembers. At 3 a.m., Zarda rushed Bella to a 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic and learned that the dog had gastric torsion -- a dangerous condition in which the stomach twists, usually after a dog gobbles food too quickly -- and needed immediate surgery that would cost $3,000. "I had to put it on a credit card, and I'm still paying for it," Zarda says.

Setting up a payment plan with the veterinarian is an alternative option, but one is a fast-disappearing one. Some veterinarians offer flexibility only to longtime clients whose checks have cleared in the past, while others do not offer payment plans at all. "Vets get stiffed a lot," says Allyson Regas, founder of Help-a-Pet, a nonprofit organization that helps disabled and low-income owners pay veterinary bills for dogs, cats, ferrets -- and even iguanas. Regas, who works with veterinarians every day through Help-a-Pet, says, "Many offered payment plans in the past, but just got burned too many times."

For pet owners who can't pay for a procedure without help -- usually those who fall into a certain income bracket or who are unemployed or cannot work because of a disability -- nonprofit organizations and other funds can be tapped. Usually, you have to apply for a grant online or by phone and provide proof of income and a written cost estimate from a veterinarian. "We also ask each pet owner to pay a portion of the bill," says Regas. "It helps spread our dollars further."

Yet, says Regas, "If someone were to give me a million dollars tomorrow, it wouldn't be enough. The demand is overwhelming. There's really not a structure out there to help people with emergency vet bills or surgeries."

Cut veterinary costs

In some cases -- Zarda's for example, since Bella needed surgery within the hour, or she'd die -- doing anything but immediately whipping out your credit card or checkbook isn't an option. "I tell people that when there's an emergency, it's not the time to be shopping around," Savikko says.

In other cases -- such as when an animal needs to see a specialist, but is not in immediate danger -- it is possible to cut costs. Here are some options:

  • Shop around. If there is more than one specialty clinic in your area, call around to get an estimate on the procedure your pet needs. Consider meeting with the specialists, too. "If you don't have a good rapport with the specialist, you're not going to feel like you're getting your money's worth," Savikko says.
  • Consider a teaching hospital. Universities with veterinary schools often offer services at teaching hospitals, which can be an option for pet owners on a budget. But don't expect the services to be cheap. "Teaching hospitals are usually less expensive, but not vastly less expensive," Savikko says. "And sometimes they will redo procedures, such as blood work, that have already been done at the primary veterinarian to give the students a chance to practice."
  • Use the best veterinarian for the job. Some pet owners have their regular veterinarian perform a procedure, only to end up having to take their pet to a specialist anyway. Savikko recommends asking your veterinarian about the complexity of a procedure, the veterinarian's comfort level with performing it -- and whether seeing a specialist might be best. "By the time people get to a specialist, sometimes the specialist has to do a more difficult procedure," Savikko says. And, of course, more difficult means more expensive.
The pros and cons of financing your pet's medical care will vary depending on the method chosen:
  • CareCredit Veterinary Financing.  Prior Planning: Set up an account. The Pros: Quick approval. Can apply and get approved before your pet needs a procedure. Card cannot be used for new clothes, an iPod or anything other than health care. No-interest options for three, six, 12 or 18 months and extended payment plans for 24, 36, 48 or 60 months at a fixed 11.9 percent interest rate, for treatment fees of $1,000 to $25,000. Monthly payments as low as $25 on a $1,000 bill. The Cons: May be used at participating veterinarians only. Credit limit depends on your credit history and might not cover full cost of procedure. All plans not available at all providers. Late payment can result in interest of 26.99 percent and a late fee up to $39, depending on the balance.
  • Citi Health Card.  Prior Planning: Set up an account. The Pros: Like CareCredit, can be used only for veterinary or health care. No sign-up or annual fee. Account can be used immediately after approval. No-interest payment plans for three months for treatments of $99 or more; for six months for treatments of $299 or more; for 12 months for treatments of $499 or more; and for 18 months for treatments of $599 or more. Offers a budget payment plan at 12.96 percent interest rate for treatments of $1,000 or more; usually can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted. The Cons: Credit limit varies, so it might not cover the full amount. Plans available depend on providers. Regular revolving interest rate of 21.98 percent. Late fee is $29 on balances up to $1,000; otherwise $35.
  • Traditional credit card. Prior Planning: Maybe.  The pros: Peace of mind. Convenient. You might already have one that could be used. The Cons: Possible high interest rate might cause you to pay hundreds of dollars more for the procedure. Temptation to use card for other purchases. Need high enough credit limit to pay for emergencies that could cost $1,000 to $5,000 or more.
  • Catastrophic pet insurance.  Prior Planning: Yes.  The Pros: Peace of mind. Less expensive than a comprehensive pet insurance plan that covers routine care such as vaccinations and teeth cleaning. The Cons: You might never get your money's worth if your pet never gets sick or has an accident. You usually have to pay the veterinarian and then wait for reimbursement, so you still need a credit card, savings account or loan.
  • Creating an emergency pet savings account. Prior Planning: Yes. The Pros: You can earn interest instead of paying interest. You don't pay premiums you might never get back. No worry about whether a procedure will be covered. If your pet never has an emergency, you benefit financially. The Cons: Requires discipline. Temptation to take money out for other expenses. Chance that an emergency could happen while your pet is still young, before you've saved enough to cover it.
  • Payment plan with veterinarian.  Prior Planning: Maybe.  The Pros: You can negotiate terms in person; a veterinarian who usually does not offer payment plans might make an exception for a regular client. Possibly more flexibility and lower interest rate than a credit card. The Cons: Many veterinarians do not offer payment plans, and it's becoming even less common. Specialists and emergency clinics are even less likely than family veterinarians to offer payment options.
  • Grant from a nonprofit. Prior planning: No.  The Pros: Money does not need to be repaid. Possible option for owners for whom other options are not feasible. Some veterinarians have "Good Samaritan Funds" available to clients in need; the Animal Friends Rescue Project offers a partial list of organizations that help with veterinary bills. The Cons: Usually have income ceilings and require proof of need. Rarely covers entire cost of treatment. Usually have an application process and waiting period. Most nonprofits have waiting lists and must turn some qualified pet owners away. Some nonprofits, such as Help-a-Pet, serve all 50 states and all types of pets while others are breed-specific or location-specific.
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As a specific example of what can happen in tough economic times when a pet owner is facing a decision about whether or not to take their pet to a veterinarian, consider this about cats:

As you've heard from Helpful Buckeye many times, a few dollars spent on regular examinations for your pets may well help you avoid a lot more dollars being spent later on for a complicated health problem that could have have been avoided. 

Cats are another victim of the poor economy

By Julie Damron

Felines are becoming victims of the poor economy when it comes to routine medical care. In the past few years, a large number of pet owners are not bringing their cats in for annual examinations, vaccinations, spaying or neutering, or routine dental cleanings. This means that these pets are not getting the preventive or necessary care they deserve. This is surprising given that more households are homes to felines over canines, and that most often these are multiple cat homes.

The annual wellness exams are about much more than vaccinations. This head-to-tail evaluation looks at the eyes, teeth, ears, heart, coat, abdomen, bones and everything in between. For senior patients (7 and older) a health visit is recommended twice a year. Keep in mind that animals age more rapidly than people do.

The main value in these exams is to identify disease or illness at the earliest stage possible. Cats are very good at hiding illness. This is a survival trait. This means that pet owners may often not always realize when health issues are present. If you do notice problems, bring your pet in for an evaluation. This will help give comfort to your feline sooner, and helps to provide the best possible prognosis for your cat.

Remember that your veterinarian is the best person to provide medical guidance for the care and welfare of your cherished feline. Preventive care will help extend the longevity of as well as quality of life for your cat.

Adapted from:

Of course, even with regular exams, emergency situations can arise and might require some expensive treatment.  To be ready for that possibility, make yourself more aware of the options presented in this discussion.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a bye this week.  Our divisional rivals, the Ravens and Bengals, played each other today.  It's hard for a Steelers fan to cheer for either one of those teams, but Helpful Buckeye had to pull for Cincinnati since that would have helped the Steelers in the standings.  Well, it wasn't meant to be...the Ravens quoth:  "Nevermore"....

Helpful Buckeye felt fortunate to be able to sneak in an outdoor bike ride this past week.  Now that we've already had a couple of snows, there were several places where cinders had accumulated in the bike lanes and those spots required some careful navigation.  But, it was still great to be riding outdoors!  I also saw a male tarantula on one of the roads, which is about a month later than I've ever seen one.  It's getting pretty cold for one of those to still be out looking for a female.

If you're traveling this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, be careful on the road and be sure to return home safely. 

~~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, November 14, 2011


For many pet owners, the last several years have provided an almost perfect storm of rising expenses.  On the one hand, the arena of veterinary medicine has been rapidly expanding its capabilities for diagnosis and treatment, which have then led to increasing fees for such services.  On the other hand, many pet owners have either found themselves out of work or with fewer working hours available.  A lot of people that do still have their jobs have found that their wages are not keeping pace with their expenditures.  As a result, many pet owners are having to make uneasy decisions about how and where to spend their money.  Historically, most pet owners will sacrifice something in their life in order to keep their pets healthy and fed.  However, is there a point beyond which that sacrifice cannot go?

Helpful Buckeye will present some background discussion on both sides of this difficult situation, followed by some timely suggestions that might help you make your decisions with a little less uncertainty.

The Rising Costs of Pet Companionship

If Wall Street protesters ever figure out how much is spent on pets, their next protest may be on the edge of the doghouse.

For as cute as Fido or Fluffy may be, they also demand a variety of services that show no sign of getting any cheaper. A recent report from the American Pet Products Association shows that Americans are expected to spend $50 billion on their pets by the end of the year. The amount spent has steadily increased over the past 10 years, with a 5 percent increase from last year.

Mounting pet costs come at a time when many pets are being abandoned and left in the streets. In south-central Idaho, it’s not uncommon to find shelters filled to capacity with abandoned animals.  “Really, it’s the lucky ones getting pampered,” said Debbie Blackwood, director of the Twin Falls Animal Shelter. “It’s alarming the number of owners getting rid of their animals.”

Blackwood said her shelter is filled with abandoned pets that are in need of expensive medical services or high-maintenance grooming. And as more people recover from the recession, she’s also seeing more people ditch their pets because they can no longer afford to feed them.  “A lot of people would love to own a pet but they are completely overwhelmed at how to pay for everything when things get hard,” she said.

Americans may be spending more on their animals because pet health care services are also climbing. The APPA report shows that the average surgical vet visit for a dog costs owners $410 and the regular vet visit costs close to $250.

Dr. Zsigmond Szanto of Twin Falls Veterinary Clinic & Hospital says he sees clients traveling from Boise and Salt Lake City to his office in hopes of finding a better deal.

As pet medical researchers require more money to fund their projects, vet supply companies are required to raise their prices. Veterinarian offices must then pay higher amounts to fill their supply closets and in turn, charge their clients higher rates.  “We may not charge the same as Boise does but we have to pay the same price for the same supplies,” he said. “We’ve been lucky to not raise our rates lately.”

And while payment plans can be an option for some, Szanto says that it’s unrealistic to pretend the vet’s office is similar to a bank.  “Payment plans are tricky,” he said. “We understand emergency situations, but our margin is so small that we can’t give out loans to everyone.”

However, as costs continue to climb, it appears that Americans will continue to spend large amounts on their pets.  “Pet lovers will find the money, they will do whatever it takes because it’s a family member,” Blackwood said. “That’s what you do, sometimes that means you don’t have Christmas but it means you have your family.”

Adapted from:

The Dog Maxed Out My Credit Card

Paying for the health care of pets can be tough for many people who are struggling with other bills.  Pet owners often spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year to keep their furry friends healthy, observes Dr. Debbye Turner Bell, resident veterinarian of "The Early Show" on CBS. And in this economy, especially, they're often forced to make difficult choices....

...Price hikes are also part of an active push by the veterinary industry to improve the bottom line of its practices. Addressing the disparity between rising tuitions and stagnant salaries has been a top priority of the veterinary association, which represents 81,500 vets.

For one New York family, it has been a pricey few years at the doctor's office: Jake was treated for a malignant tumor on his eyelid—for $7,000—and Daisy recently swallowed a rock that cost $3,100 to remove.  Bernese mountain dog Daisy, owned by the Onichimiuk family in Staten Island, N.Y., has recovered after eating a rock.  "It's hard, the money, but they are part of the family," says Agnieszka Onichimiuk, whose family lives in Staten Island with their two Bernese mountain dogs.

Pet owners are feeling sticker shock at the vet. The average household in the U.S. spent $655 on routine doctor and surgical visits for dogs last year, up 47% from a decade ago, according to the American Pet Products Association. Expenditures for cats soared 73% over the same time frame—on pace with human health-care cost increases. Expenditures for people in the U.S. were up 76.7% between 1999 and 2009, according to the U. S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

More advanced-care options in areas such as ophthalmology as well as treatment of conditions such as cancer are driving up costs for owners, as well as higher standards for routine care.

"All of the innovations on the human side [of medicine] have come on over to the vet side, from MRIs and CAT scans to chemo and radiation," says Dennis Drent, president and CEO of Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.  Last year, VPI policyholders submitted 51,927 claims costing more than $1,000, up 64% from four years earlier. The average annual payout per pet for cancer therapy rose 14% to $2,821.16 last year, according to insurance provider Petplan.

"Prices have gone up much quicker in the last 10 years than in the past 30 years, and it's hitting consumers in the face," says René Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. "Liability-wise, we now get in much more trouble if we've cut corners" on routine matters, she adds. That often translates into more X-rays, more blood work and other tests.

There are about 165 million pet dogs and cats in the U.S. When asked how much they'd spend to save their pet's life, 70% of owners said "any amount," according to a 2006 survey of 5,200 VPI policyholders.

Ms. Onichimiuk, a 33-year-old physician's assistant, and her husband doled out thousands of dollars on oncology treatments, X-rays, medications and lab work trying to keep Jake, their 5½-year-old dog, alive. After he died, she says, "I couldn't imagine losing another dog," so the couple spent whatever it took to save 2½-year-old Daisy after her rock-eating episode.

High student loans and lower salaries than other advanced-degree professions, such as dentistry and law, are putting pressure on vets to raise fees. The average 2010 graduate of a U.S. veterinary college earned a starting salary of $67,359 in private practice but carried roughly double that in debt, according to a study this year by Bayer AG's Animal Health Division.

Higher fees create a separate issue: People tend to take their pets to the vet less, according to the Bayer report, which can lead to costlier long-term health problems if ailments are left untreated.  To discourage such behavior, more vets offer or participate in third-party discount plans that for a monthly fee give pet owners price cuts on treatments or perks, such as unlimited office visits.

One is Pet Assure Corp., a Lakewood, N.J., company that sells discount plans to consumers who then receive savings at participating vets. The plans offer an average 25% discount on most procedures for $7.95 to $13.95 a month, depending on the type and number of animals covered. Pet Assure has signed up 1,700 clinics and 300,000 pets since its 1995 launch, according to Charles Nebenzahl, chief executive.  Rick Katz in Overland Park, Kan., saved almost $200 on an $800 bill through Pet Assure when Max the Wonder Dog, his 14-year-old black Labrador-golden retriever mix, suffered a seizure eight months ago. "We brought him to the vet and had that all-important question you have with pets, which is, 'How far do you go?' " Mr. Katz says. "The vet said he still had life in him, so we went and had him treated." Of the savings, he says, "It's a big deal. It adds up."

..."The human-animal bond is stronger than it's ever been," says Dr. Rene Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. "And so people are really attached to their pets, and they want the best quality care for them"

The average cost of veterinary services and surgery for a dog in 2010 was $655 -- a 47 percent increase since 2000. Vet costs for cats rose 73 percent in the last decade, to $644.

"Veterinary care is expensive," admits Dr. Jennifer Welser, medical director of Bluepearl Veterinary Partners, which has locations in six states, " ... (but) everything is at our fingertips."

More and more veterinary clinics like the Bluepearl veterinary hospital in Manhattan can offer CT scans, MRIs that can image the entire body, complex surgeries, even radiation and chemotherapy.

"Pet owners are definitely willing to go that extra step for their pet," says Welser, "and we can offer it now...."

Other plans are designed to encourage owners not to skimp on preventive care. Enrollment in the "Optimum Wellness Plans" has jumped 15% over the past five years at Banfield Pet Hospital, a chain with 780 offices that is a unit of Mars Inc., the candy manufacturer that makes Pedigree and Whiskas pet foods. Pet owners pay on average between $17.95 and $49.95 a month for adult animals. They receive unlimited free office visits, vaccinations, heartworm tests, two comprehensive exams, annual blood work and in some cases dental cleaning, X-rays and more.  "We're trying to avoid the long-term illnesses," says Harry Smith, a South Carolina veterinarian and a medical director for Banfield. For clients not on the company's plan, dogs averaged 1.4 visits last year, versus almost three visits for those on the plan.

Sandra Fain of Kingwood, Texas, keeps her three pets on Banfield's Wellness plan, including six-year-old JoJo, a Maltese. Without the plan, she says she couldn't give her pets "the kind of care they've been getting." That included a $1,500 surgery discounted from $2,500 to repair JoJo's torn ligament and dislocated kneecap earlier this fall. Amputation was the other, cheaper, alternative, she says.

"But that's my baby, and I wouldn't just cut off his leg, the same way I wouldn't with a child," Ms. Fain. "Pets need just as much as humans do."

...The best way to keep vet costs down is preventive care, but every pet owner should understand that having a pet is a responsibility -- and that includes providing proper medical care when the need arises....

Adapted from: and

In addition to depicting another situation in which a pet owner runs into unexpected expenses, this article starts you in the direction of working your way through those unexpected veterinary bills:

Pet debt: How animals cost you: Steps pet owners can take to avoid excessive pet care debt

By Erica Sandberg

If only all our beloved pets were as lucky as former hotel magnate Leona Helmsley's Maltese, Trouble. Bequeathed millions after Helmsley's death in 2007, Trouble passed away in December 2010 after living in the lap of luxury. Vet bills? No problem. Round-the-clock care? Covered.

It's the rest of us bourgeois pet owners who routinely fall into debt as we struggle to pay for the care and feeding of our beloved furry, feathered or other nonhuman friends. And this upkeep can sometimes push us over the edge financially.

Upkeep versus over-keep

The real cost of a pet just begins at acquisition. In fact, Americans spend vast sums keeping their animals happy and healthy. The American Pet Products Association estimates that U.S. citizens will drop more than $50 billion on them in 2011, a figure which includes food, supplies, over-the-counter medicine, veterinary care, grooming and boarding.

"I think one of the most important things people forget is how to be a knowledgeable consumer," says Chicago based veterinarian Bruce Silverman. "After working in a huge number of [pet] hospitals, I've seen fees for services, medications and products vary all over the board."

Lynn Edwards, owner of Dirty Dogs Pet Services in Highland, N.Y., has observed the spending habits of pet owners for more than 14 years and notes that some owners go to selfless extremes. "People will give up something like taking their families to a movie or getting their own hair done so that they can get their dog groomed," says Edwards. "People will actually cook for their dogs or buy them a special diet to keep them healthy when they can't afford it."

Prepare for daunting veterinary bills

Of all the expenses that go into caring for an animal, it's the unexpected medical procedures that can derail a budget the fastest. Romping with Fido? A pet's torn knee ligament costs an average of $1,578, says a June 2011 analysis of claims filed with Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., which insures 485,000 pets in the United States and compiled a list of the 10 most-expensive pet injuries.

To get the best care, many pet owners sacrifice their financial stability. For example, Betsy Lampe of Highland City, Fla., says she willingly went into debt to pay for her dog Cheech's renal disease treatment, even while struggling with her own medical bills from her kidney cancer. "My efforts kept him alive for almost two years after diagnosis," says Lampe. "He lived to be 14." Her costs included Cheech's regular erythropoietin shots, which were $70 each, expensive lab work to assess his anemia and kidney function, and a constant stream of vet visits for examinations.

And as Tobi Kosanke, owner of Crazy K Farm in Hempstead, Texas, knows, it's not only mammals that can inspire overcharging. "I spent nearly $4,000 on the chicken love of my life," says Kosanke of her bird Lucy, who was ill and needed several exploratory surgeries to determine what was wrong. She had a specialist flown in, and his bill alone was $2,600. "Would I do it again?" asks Kosanke. "For Lucy, yes. I do not regret spending the money. I only wish she had survived. I am still paying down that credit card debt."

Still, big vet bills can be avoided. Silverman asserts that while top dollar can buy great pet health care, comparative shopping makes sense. "Pet care needs to be a team effort between pet owners and their veterinarian. In this way, people may avoid excessive debt," he says.

Pet insurance to the rescue

Kosanke learned from her experience. Today she has pet insurance policies on most of her animals, which runs just $12 per month in premiums per bird. "I have since had two chickens with similar problems to what killed Lucy, and one passed away under anesthesia, but the insurance covered 90 percent of her $800 bill."

Greg McFarlane, author of "Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense," is an advocate of these pet wellness plans. "The small monthly investment can save you from getting into big debt if you don't have the savings to cover something as common as a teeth cleaning," says McFarlane, who credits the insurance for saving him nearly $5,000 in pet care bills over the past three years.

According to Dr. Jules Benson, vice president of veterinary services at the pet insurance company Petplan, the average premium for a dog is around $30 per month and $17 for a cat. As with all insurance policies, you're hedging your bets. If your animal doesn't need expensive care, you're out the money. But if it does, the benefits can be monumental. "We have clients who have been reimbursed over $40,000 for their pets' health problems," says Benson. "It's simply not realistic to think these families would have been able to stay out of considerable debt -- or even afford the treatments at all -- without pet health insurance."

No insurance? You have alternatives

So what happens if you don't have pet insurance, but you're faced with a large bill that you can't cover with cash? Most veterinarians have partnered with companies that offer no-interest payment plan options.

CareCredit, for instance, offers people a way to pay for vet bills over six to 24 months, finance-charge free. Mind, though, that to qualify you must have good credit and that GE Money Bank (the company offering these credit lines) will assess an annual interest rate of 26.9 percent to the balance if you don't pay in full within the agreed-upon time.

Of course, you can charge the expenses with your credit card, too, and many do. "No one wants to be cheap when it comes to possibly saving a pet's life, and when faced with that choice without an emergency fund there, most pet owners are going to turn to credit cards to plug the hole," says Kelley Long, a Chicago CPA and personal financial coach. If you do charge the bill, delete the balance within a few months to minimize interest from increasing the amount you owe.

Prepare for unexpected pet expenses

Above all else, develop a comprehensive cash flow plan with your pet in mind. Food, regular "wellness visits" to the vet, grooming and even pet-sitting services are easy to predict and need to be budgeted for -- just like one would budget for their own groceries, annual visits to the doctor and dentist, says Long.

Open a separate savings account for your companion's out-of-the-ordinary needs, too. "As far as budgeting for the unexpected illness, accident or even necessary dental cleanings, I advise at least a $500 pet savings fund to help with those times," says Long.

In the end, building the wide spectrum of animal care costs into your budget will go a long way toward avoiding crushing pet debt.

Top 10 most-expensive pet treatments

Condition--Number of claims--Cost per claim

1. Intervertebral disc disease--879--$3,282

2. Stomach torsion / bloat--372--$2,509

3. Ruptured bile duct--102--$2,245

4. Laryngeal paralysis--126--$2,042

5. Intestinal: foreign object--1,005--$1,967

6. Tumor of the throat--124--$1,677

7. Broken leg / plate--350--$1,586

8. Torn knee ligament / cartilage--6,831--$1,578

9. Stomach: foreign object--954--$1,502

10. Ear Canal Surgery Ablation--104--$1,285

Source: VPI Pet Insurance, June 2011 analysis of 14,000 claims submitted by its 485,000 pet insurance policyholders in the U.S.

Adapted from:

As you have just seen, there are some ways to put yourself into a position to be able to deal with unexpected veterinary expenses.  Helpful Buckeye will pursue these and several other methods of watching your pet dollars in next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had to go to Cincinnati this week to play the division-leading Bengals...on the heels of that last minute loss to the Ravens.  The Steelers overcame a good effort by the Bengals to win by 7 points.  Combined with the upset of the Ravens by Seattle, the Steelers are, at least until next Sunday, 1/2 game in front of Baltimore.  Thank you...(for not being sleepless in) Seattle! 

Sorry to say it...Helpful Buckeye came to the conclusion 2 days ago that not only had my calf muscle not regained sufficient strength, but also my stamina hasn't returned to the level to which I am accustomed.  Therefore, the Tour de Tucson 79-mile ride will have to wait until next year.  Needless to say, it hasn't been a very good year for my planned athletic events...the only one completed was the 70-miler to Mormon Lake Village and back.  The other three events of the 2011 Quadathlon had to be canceled due to circumstances beyond my control...or, as I prefer to look at it, they were merely postponed until a later date...hopefully 2012.  Thanks to the many of you who expressed your support for my efforts this understand that those missed opportunities were important to me.  I'll be back....

As our friend, Mark Twain, was fond of saying:  "A man may plan as much as he wants to, but nothing of consequence is likely to come of it until circumstance steps in and takes the matter off his hands."  From:  "The Turning Point of My Life"

~~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, November 7, 2011


Helpful Buckeye appreciates all the interesting e-mails after last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats...most of which had to do with the spider pictures that began the issue.  No, Helpful Buckeye did not take care of pet spiders in my hospital and, no, spiders don't need any of the vaccines that are regularly given to dogs and cats.  I'm not afraid of spiders and I always look forward to my sightings of marauding male tarantulas here in northern Arizona in October when I'm out biking.  Now that we've taken care of that, here is the conclusion of the topic of necessary vaccinations.

Here is a reprint of an article written by "The Irreverent Veterinarian"...a source we've heard from in the past.  Hope you enjoy his take on the vaccine question:

What Vaccines do Dogs Really Need?

This is the answer.  It depends upon the age and risk factors of a dog.  I'll tell you what I think and even tell you how I vaccinate my own dogs.

Puppies should receive a full series of vaccines beginning at 6 to 8 weeks of age and repeated every 3 to 4 weeks until they are 16 to 20 weeks of age to protect them against all the common diseases.

Unvaccinated adult dogs should also receive two full sets of vaccines spaced 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Adult dogs should received vaccines as required by law (rabies) and other vaccines at least every 3 years.

Vaccine Recommendations


Puppies should receive immunity against some diseases through their mothers milk but this disappears during the first few months of their life. To protect puppies during this critical time, a well-researched approach is taken: A series of vaccines is given every 3 to 4 weeks until the chance of contracting an infectious disease is very low. The typical vaccine is a "combination" that protects against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus (the four viruses are commonly abbreviated DHPP).

Many veterinarians also recommend incorporating leptospirosis in the vaccination series (this combination is abbreviated DHLPP). Rabies vaccines are given between 16 and 26 weeks of age in most states (governed by law).

Dogs between 20 weeks and 2 years of age

It is typical to booster the puppy shots in young adult dogs to ensure adequate lifelong immunity against deadly viral diseases. Your veterinarian will likely "booster" your dog to protect against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, parainfluenza, and canine parvovirus (the four viruses are commonly abbreviated DHPP). Many veterinarians also recommend incorporating leptospirosis in the vaccination series (the 5 components are abbreviated DHLPP).

Many dogs are also immunized against bacterial infections (e.g. bordetella and leptospirosis). The immunization for these diseases typically do not persist for more than a year making yearly (and occasionally more frequent) booster vaccines advisable.

The bordetella protects against "kennel cough" and is often a requirement of boarding facilities. Bordetella is also recommended for dogs that attend dog parks, conformation shows or agility competitions.

There is currently a vaccination available for canine influenza virus. The vaccine is recommended for dogs "at risk". Dogs that frequently interact with other dogs, participate in activities with other dogs or are boarded are considered at risk and can benefit from this vaccination.

The rabies vaccines should be given as recommended by local law.

Newer vaccines effective against specific forms of the bacteria leptospirosis may be important in some areas.

Adult dogs (over 2 years of age)

Annual revaccination (a booster) is recommended for the first year after the "puppy vaccines"; thereafter, you should discuss the benefits and risks of annual vaccination with your vet.

In the past, the DHLP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus) vaccine was typically given each year. These recommendations are changing. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) came out with new guidelines in 2006 that suggests that adult dog vaccines boosters may be adequate if given every 3 years. Specific vaccine requirements for individual dogs should be discussed with your veterinarian.

The most appropriate vaccination program for your pet should be followed, something you should discuss with your veterinarian.

Again, if the risk of kennel cough or canine influenza virus is great, a vaccine against bordetella and canine flu is recommended. Both vaccines need to be given twice initially then each year. You and your veterinarian should assess whether it is required.

The rabies vaccine should be given as recommended by local law.

Newer vaccines effective against specific forms of the bacteria leptospirosis may be important in some areas. The need for the vaccine should be determined based on the area of the country your dog lives in and his or her life-style. If given, they should be administered once to twice a year.

Other vaccinations that are sometimes given by your veterinarian include coronavirus, Lyme and giardia. These are not routinely given to every animal, and their use should be discussed with your veterinarian. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) came out with new guidelines in 2006 that suggests that coronavirus and giardia vaccines are not recommended for dogs at any age. The Borreliosis/Lyme disease vaccine is recommended for dogs that live in an endemic area where risk of exposure to the tick vector is high or dogs that travel to endemic areas.

Another option to determine what vaccines your dog needs is to do vaccine titers.  This involves a blood test measuring the response your pet has produced to a specific vaccination.  Your veterinarian can help you decide if this is necessary.

If your adult dog has an adverse reaction to the vaccine (fever, vomiting, shaking, facial swelling or hives) discuss the risk of annual revaccination with your veterinarian.

Adapted from:

"The Irreverent Veterinarian" brought up the topic of the dog "flu" vaccination in his presentation.  How much do you know about this disease in dogs?  Have any of your dogs ever been diagnosed with this disease?  Has your veterinarian ever discussed this vaccination with you?  Do you think you and your dog can catch the "flu" from each other?  This should answer all those questions and more for you:

Canine Flu Vaccines: Necessary or Not?

As the cold weather begins to blow in, it brings flu season with it. Influenza can affect dogs the same way it hits people - with fever, runny noses, lethargy, aches and pains - leaving your pet bewildered and feeling not so hot.

The question, then, remains: to vaccinate, or not to vaccinate your dogs to protect them from influenza?

It depends, says Kimberly May, DVM, the Director of Professional and Public Affairs at the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA.

Canine influenza vaccine is classified as a lifestyle vaccine, as opposed to a core vaccine, like rabies, parvovirus and distemper. That means that like Bordetella vaccines, recommended when a pet is boarded in a kennel or at a daycare, canine influenza vaccines may be a good idea if a pet is regularly exposed to strange dogs - whose medical histories you can't always ascertain - in close surroundings, like at the dog park.

The same would then go for dogs that are boarded, May says.

"We're starting to see some boarding facilities strongly encouraging canine influenza vaccines," May said. "We also recommend it for dogs doing dog shows, who are traveling and who are living in certain areas of the country where it is considered to be epidemic."

In 2009 canine influenza was documented in about 30 states, including Colorado, Florida and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, D.C.

Canine flu isn't all that different from the flu in humans - pet owners can look out for lethargy, their dog or dogs not eating well, a fever, runny eyes and nose, coughing, and other "non-specific" signs of illness, May says.

In the early stages, it could be confused with kennel cough, but the flu will typically last longer.

The flu itself isn't life threatening and requires simply supportive care to help a dog recover as quickly as possible and to feel comfortable while the symptoms still appear.

"You kind of have to let it run its course, but the key is keeping them feeling as good as possible and you want to prevent it from going to a pneumonia stage," May explained.

If the flu develops into pneumonia, the situation can become much more serious and may require IV fluids and other forms of intensive therapy.

"A few dogs have died from it, but a lot of dogs recover and there is not a very high death rate," May explained.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the canine influenza virus was first identified in 2004, when cases of an unknown respiratory illness in dogs were reported. It was later found that the illness was caused by the H3N8 equine influenza virus, known to exist in horses for more than 40 years.

The CDC estimates that while all dogs can be potentially at risk for the disease, not all dogs that contract the disease will show symptoms and about 80 percent of them will have a mild form of the flu.

Dogs can get tested for the flu at veterinary diagnostic centers and there is no known risk of dogs passing the disease on to humans - only on to other dogs.

Adapted from:

OK, you've done your due diligence as far as learning as much as possible about vaccinating your pets; you've discussed it with your veterinarian; and you finally came up with an approach that seems right for your situation.  Now what?  Once you've had your pets vaccinated, you should observe them for any peculiar response:

What to expect after your pet's vaccination

It is common for pets to experience some or all of the following mild side effects after receiving a vaccine, usually starting within hours of the vaccination. If these side effects last for more than a day or two, or cause your pet significant discomfort, it is important for you to contact your veterinarian:

• Discomfort and local swelling at the vaccination site

• Mild fever
• Decreased appetite and activity

• Sneezing, mild coughing, "runny nose" or other respiratory signs may occur 2-5 days after your pet receives an intranasal vaccine

More serious, but less common side effects, such as allergic reactions, may occur within minutes to hours after vaccination. These reactions can be life-threatening and are medical emergencies. Seek veterinary care immediately if any of these signs develop:

• Persistent vomiting or diarrhea

• Itchy skin that may seem bumpy ("hives")

• Swelling of the muzzle and around the face, neck, or eyes
• Severe coughing or difficulty breathing

• Collapse

A small, firm swelling under the skin may develop at the site of a recent vaccination. It should start to disappear within a couple weeks. If it persists more than three weeks, or seems to be getting larger, you should contact your veterinarian.

Always inform your veterinarian if your pet has had prior reactions to any vaccine or medication. If in doubt, wait for 30-60 minutes following vaccination before taking your pet home.

Adapted from:

That's it for the topic of whether or not vaccinations are really necessary.  Hopefully, our readers will now feel a lot more comfortable with setting up a program of healthy protection for their pets.  Any further questions or comments should be directed to Helpful Buckeye at:

The Baltimore Ravens came to Pittsburgh this evening for a re-match of the opening game of the season, in which the Ravens humiliated the Steelers.  Due to the structure of playoff seedings, the Steelers couldn't afford to have 2 losses to the Ravens.  The Steelers had the lead with only 2 minutes to go, the Ravens had to go 92 yards with only 1 timeout remaining...and that's exactly what they did...scoring the winning touchdown with 8 seconds to go.  A really tough loss to swallow....

This was the second of really great football games this weekend...the first being the #1 LSU at #2 Alabama battle.  Helpful Buckeye says that a team that loses on its home field and with issues in its kicking game (Alabama missed 4 field goals) shouldn't receive much attention in the discussion about who's #1.  Case closed...right now, it's LSU and a couple of pretenders.


Helpful Buckeye broke out another new recipe Friday night for an appreciative audience...Chicken Souvlaki.  This is just a slight variation on the Greek Souvlaki, which normally contains lamb or sometimes beef.  We served it in rolled flatbread...ummm!

Got the chance to shovel our first snow of the season Saturday morning.  It was good exercise.

Training continues for the Tour de Tucson...stamina and muscle strength are still the highlights...whether I'll get back to the proper combination in the next 2 weeks remains to be seen.  However, at least one important thing has been taken care of...made reservations today for dinner the night of the race at our favorite restaurant in Old Tucson.  Hopefully, I'll feel that I've earned the dinner!  Desperado is almost as excited as I am...she, after all, will be my main cheerleader and road groupie.

~~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.~~