General Interest


posted November 16th, 2013 by
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by P.J. Witte

May 3, 2001, I was living in Cluj- Napoca, Romania, studying for a Romanian language test with the windows wide open to embrace the warm spring afternoon. I heard the sound of a cat wailing in the distance, not an unusual sound as stray animals roam in abundance in Eastern Europe.

Soon I heard the sound again but now it seemed to be from across the street on a weedy hill which was home to squabbling hens and roosters. I set out to investigate and met Vali, the downstairs neighbor boy. We climbed the steep slope toward a circle of agitated fowl that were pecking at a small cleft partially covered by weeds.

There, crouching and making a pitiful sound, was a tiny black kitten. Vali immediately warned me not to touch the animal, but I was already bending in for the rescue. The creature leaped into my outstretched hands and clawed her way up and onto my shirt.

On closer inspection, we noted the peanut butter markings and caramel sprinkled black fur—our little find was a Torti. While the kitten clung to me, and Vali tried to dissuade me from the venture, I carried the trembling cat to my home. After coaxing some milk and giving her a bath, washing off the chicken stench, we set out to find a litter pan.

I found a copy paper box lid along with some sand and settled in to decide what was next. I put her on a towel for the night, and she never moved for the next 12 hours. She was exhausted from trying to stay alive on the mean streets of Cluj.

I knew finding a home for her was highly unlikely so my choices became euthanasia, returning her to an early death on the streets, or making her a part of my household. Clearly, the latter was my only real choice. Now I needed a name.

She was in poor shape, bony and parasite ridden, so I wanted a hopeful name. Zoe, which means “life of God,” seemed hopeful. Zoe it was. The vet estimated she was 8 to 10 weeks old.

Finding pet accessories was not easy in Cluj, but I did find a mini litter pan and some very odd litter. Since I could not find toys, I balled up tin foil and was surprised to watch her play with it. She quickly made a game of “paw ball” in my foyer, batting the ball at the wall and running to hit it again and again.

She also was quick to learn hide and seek. I would run and hide behind a door. She would find me and then run and hide behind a door. (I am not joking.) Every day she would greet me after work and want to play a game.

After the first night and every night until the end of her life, she slept with me with one paw stretched out to touch me. Don’t get me wrong though. This was no snuggly kitty. Zoe was very feisty and would snap and bat at you if she didn’t want your attention. I attribute her survival to that scrappy attitude.

In late summer, I unexpectedly moved back to the United States. My choices were to leave her to fend for herself or bring her home. The vet warned she was too young and frail to travel in baggage. Also, although she had her shots and her kitty passport, there was a rabies outbreak in our area, and it would be difficult to get her over the border.

Having no animal sedation, the vet gave me a children’s Benadryltype substance for the transatlantic flight. I also packed the mini pan, litter and some dry food. Zoe was in a nylon carrier. Happily, all three legs to Tulsa were open to an animal in the cabin.

During the eight-hour van ride to Budapest, Hungary, Zoe slept unmedicated in her carrier. Although I had told the driver I had her and had given him her papers, he didn’t mention her to the border guard.

I wish I had a video of us in the airport bathrooms. Putting litter in the pan, I would put Zoe in it. What cat eliminates on command? Sometimes the bathroom matron could come in and see me squatting in the corner with a kitten. No one thought it cute or interesting though.

Finally, in Amsterdam, I found an unused concourse and let her run around a bit. She was delighted to be out and enjoyed the large windows. Near flight time I found a single handicapped bathroom on the empty concourse and decided to give her the meds there. She freaked; I chased and had more of the sticky substance on me than in her. When we emerged there was a handicapped person waiting.

I felt awful and got quite the look. After seven hours in Amsterdam, we boarded for the long flight home. Zoe remained quiet until about an hour from landing. When she started to wail, the flight attendants took her in the galley and gave her ice cream.

We went through Memphis customs. I had marked the customs declaration where it asks about “having plants, food, or animals.” I was literally the last person to go through. The agent looked at my declaration and asked sarcastically if I had brought in a granola bar.

I was so exhausted I didn’t know what he meant at first. He pointed to the check mark. I sharply retorted, “No, I have a cat!” and gave him Zoe’s papers. I did not know what to expect bringing an animal into the U.S. I didn’t expect what happened. Nothing!

The agent never even looked at her and waved us through. I was relieved but also conflicted. Should it really be so easy to bring in a foreign animal? I knew she was fine, but how did he? He couldn’t even read what her papers said.

At last we boarded our final leg into Tulsa where we were met by family, and Zoe began her new life in America.

Zoe and I were together for 12 years and eight weeks. She was feisty and funny to the end. I was saddened to be in the position we all dread with our critters, of helping her leave this life. On June 28, 2013, I said goodbye to Zoe. It was an honor to have known her. I will miss her!

The Luv Train – A Cat Tale

posted November 16th, 2013 by
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by Camille Hulen

The story begins in June, when Dorothy, a hard-working professional woman in her 50s, died suddenly. She lived alone with her two cats: Hara and Ama. Dorothy had no children or family; what is more, she had no living will or other instructions. What would happen to her beloved cats?

Co-worker Jenny knew that something must be done, and sprang into action. She retrieved the scared felines from under the bed at Dorothy’s home and took them to her vet. They were given a medical check-up and remained there for boarding. However, after a few days the kitties remained terrified, cowering in their cages. These 5-year-old girls had never been away from their safe and comfortable home.

It was then that I met Jenny, when she brought Hara and Ama to board with me for socialization. She knew that if they were ever to find new homes, Hara and Ama must learn to trust people. At my facility, they would be in a relaxed setting, not in a cage, co-mingling with other cats and people.

Meanwhile, a fund in Dorothy’s memory was established to care for her kitties. What an awesome tribute! Even former colleagues from out of state contributed, in addition to her local friends—a display of love for a deceased person, as well as for the cats.

As the kitties began to adapt, another crisis ensued. They began to show some symptoms of upper respiratory illness, probably induced by stress. To avoid transmission to other boarders, back to the vet they went, this time, in isolation.

After a two-week stay, they were deemed healthy, so they came back to me. Now they adjusted quite quickly, head-butting and demanding to be petted. They became more comfortable with other cats as well as people. Giant strides, but it was now August; we needed to find a permanent home. Emails were circulated.

An amazing thing happened! A former colleague from Boston wanted to adopt them! She was a real cat person with one cat of her own and had loved Hara and Ama when she had visited Dorothy in the past. Only one dilemma remained: how to get the cats to Boston.

Air travel was not an option. The danger of transporting cats as cargo is well known. Someone could fly with one cat accompanying her in the cabin, but not two cats. Someone might drive the 1,600 miles, or perhaps meet the new owner (“meowmie”) halfway— it still remained a long journey.

Then another friend, Samantha, discovered the Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network (URRKN). And so the saga of Hara and Ama’s journey begins. The URRKN is a volunteer organization working to transport rescued cats anywhere in the United States. A route is mapped out, and the trip is divided into manageable segments so as not to be a burden for any one person.

In this case, 17 volunteers participated. Hara and Ama left Tulsa on August 10, arriving in Cambridge, Mass., on August 17. The route was Sapulpa to Vinita to Joplin to Springfield to Lebanon to Rolla to St. Louis to Toledo to Elyria to Youngstown to Brookville to Bellefonte to Bloomsburg to Wilkes- Barre to Milford to Danbury to Hartford to Cambridge and their new home! Whew!

Is it any wonder that we choose to call this operation “The Luv Train?”

At last report, Hara and Ama have settled comfortably into their new home. According to their new meowmie, “The only fatality thus far has been the couch as they take turns shredding it.”

To volunteer or learn more, visit the Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network on Facebook ( ).

Solving the Mutt Mystery – DNA

posted November 16th, 2013 by
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If you ever walk through the kennels of just about any animal shelter, you’re likely to hear the same question repeated over and over: “What kind of dog is that?”

by Nancy Gallimore

I often get a good chuckle when people tell me with absolute certainty that their dog is a Catahoula mixed with a Polish Lowland Sheepdog because “that’s what they told me at the shelter.” Oh, you shelter workers… you crafty shelter workers. Way to make a total hybrid into some exclusive, have-to have- it cross.

But, this is part of the fun of having a mixed breed dog—you get to decide what type of dog you have and who can really tell you otherwise?

In reality, there are a lot of dogs out there that would cause even the most veteran dog experts to scratch their heads in confusion. Identifying the parentage of a majority of mixed breed dogs is a total shot in the dark. You can look at size, coat type, the shape of the head, the type of ears, the tail carriage, and all will give you an educated guess, but it’s still just that—a guess.

In the last several years, however, technology has stepped in to try to take away some of the guesswork. Thanks to advances in DNA testing for animals, the possibility of uncovering the breeds that came together to create your four-legged best friend is not only becoming readily available, but also affordable.

Basically, there are two routes you can take in choosing a DNA test. You can purchase a home kit that you administer yourself, or you can ask your veterinarian to perform a test for you.

A quick online search reveals that the Wisdom Panel® kit by Mars Veterinary™ has pretty much cornered the market in canine DNA testing. They offer a couple of options in home test kits, as well as the Wisdom Panel Professional kit that must be administered by a veterinarian.

According to information provided by Mars Veterinary, the Wisdom Panel canine DNA analyses are based on more than a decade of extensive research drawing from experts around the world. The Wisdom Panel testing development included the analysis of more than 19 million DNA markers from more than 13,000 dogs, enabling the detection of breed composition of dogs with unprecedented accuracy.

The home kit contains thorough instructions, a submission form, two cheek swabs and a prepaid mailer. Now, don’t be like me. I kind of wanted to dive right in and swab away. Who needs instructions, right?

In the interest of this article, however, I made myself stop to read those instructions from start to finish before I started. Good call.

There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to collect your dog’s DNA sample, and customer error can make an accurate test impossible. The good news is that the instructions are clear, and the process is fairly simple.

You might just need an extra set of hands on board to help convince your dog to accept two 15-second cheek swab procedures, which are painless, but, according to my dog, annoying.

Once you have completed the process, you simply seal up the swabs containing your dog’s DNA samples, place them in the postage paid mailer, register your kit online, and drop it off at the post office. You will receive a confirmation email acknowledging your registration and an overview of the process.

The Wisdom Panel Professional is only available through your veterinarian. It requires a blood draw that is then submitted on your behalf. While this test does cost more, it should be more accurate, and it’s up to your veterinarian to follow those darn instructions on your behalf.

The blood sample is less likely to be contaminated than the cheek swab, which can be compromised if a dog has eaten something recently, chewed on a toy, or played with another dog. Both tests take two to three weeks to process, but in the meantime you can login to to check the progress of your dog’s test.

The Wisdom Panel home kit claims to identify 200 breeds and varieties of dogs including all breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The Wisdom Panel Professional recognizes more than 235 breeds, types and varieties, also including all AKC breeds. A complete list of the breeds in each test’s database can be found on the Wisdom Panel website.

So why test at all? You love your dog whether it’s a Chihuahua/Bulldog cross or a Poodle/Irish Wolfhound hybrid, right?

Information on the Wisdom Panel website counsels that uncovering a dog’s ancestry can help owners understand their dogs’ natural tendencies. Physical traits and specific behaviors like digging, herding and barking can all stem from the various breeds that make up a dog’s family tree.

According to Dr. Angela Hughes, veterinary genetics research manager at Mars Veterinary, the Wisdom Panel tests can unearth a breed history that owners never suspected.

“Knowledge of the true breed makeup of a dog can help owners work with their vets to be on the lookout for certain diseases they never would have suspected and increase the chances their dog lives a healthy and happy life,” she says.

Dr. Lauren Johnson, a veterinarian at Hammond Veterinary Hospital, has administered the professional test and agrees that the information gleaned can be helpful to dog owners.

“Once an owner has an insight to the breeds that came together to create [his or her] dog, it can make it possible to create a tailored training, exercise, nutrition and care program to fit the dog’s specific needs,” she says.

Dr. Johnson does find, however, that most people seem to run DNA tests just out of curiosity. “A lot of people who adopt a dog just want to know what kind of dog it really is,” she says. “It’s a fun process and the results can sometimes be quite surprising. “

So let’s see how well we can pit our breed identification skills against the actual tests. Here are four dogs, all tested by curious owners who just wanted to learn a bit more about their furry companions.

First we have cute, little Rowdy. An adorable, scruffy little guy, I guessed Rowdy was a miniature Poodle crossed with some sort of small Terrier, maybe a miniature Schnauzer. The verdict? Rowdy’s test revealed that he is just a mix of two breeds: Shih Tzu and Chihuahua. I totally missed the mark on this one.

Next up is the lovely Liara. I thought that Liara might be Husky and maybe something like Akita, with a little Pit Bull in the mix. After testing, it was discovered that Liara is a German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, and American Staffordshire Terrier mix, with one part of her ancestry a bit too mixed up to decipher. I’m going to give myself a solid B+ on my guess here.

Then we have sweet Elmer. To me, his head shape suggests Shar Pei, and I defaulted to Labrador Retriever mix since it is such a popular breed and his owner is a lab fancier. Surprising to me, there was not one bit of Labrador Retriever detected in the primary breeds identified in Elmer’s DNA.

Instead, Elmer was determined to be a Weimaraner, Shar Pei, Samoyed cross. Well, I’m giving myself a pat on the back for the Shar Pei guess, and Elmer’s beautiful eyes do remind me of a Weimaraner, but Samoyed? A white fluffy dog? That gene is buried a bit deeper, isn’t it, boy?

Then there is Tatum. Tatum is the only dog of the four who was tested using a blood draw, which was done by Dr. Johnson. Honestly, this one had me stumped. He’s just all ears with brindle markings and a 17-pound body. All I could guess was some sort of Terrier.

Tatum’s owner believed he might be some sort of Boston Terrier mix combined with Chihuahua. After testing, it was discovered that our little mystery mutt is actually 50 percent Boston Terrier and 50 percent Jack Russell Terrier. That has to be one busy, fun little guy!

While all of these results seem pretty believable, Dr. Johnson admits there is still debate in the veterinary community about the accuracy of the tests, though she agrees the tests have improved greatly since first hitting the market in 2007.

The reality is, once samples are properly collected, the tests are only as good as the database from which they draw. The more breeds recognized by a test, the better your chances of uncovering your dog’s mystery parents and grandparents.

Overcome with curiosity, I have now submitted a test for my own little mixed-up mutt, Tink. My best guess is that Tink is one part Jack Russell Terrier, one part Australian Cattle dog, and two parts Tasmanian Devil. The test will soon tell the tale… or is that tail?

What Exactly is a Wolfdog?

posted September 21st, 2013 by
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by Sherri Goodall

Perhaps the easiest way to answer the question, “What exactly is a wolfdog?” would be to start with what it isn’t.

It is not a hybrid.

A hybrid is a result of two different species breeding. For example, a liger (lion and tiger) or a mule (donkey and horse) are both hybrids. The offspring is always sterile. Wolves and dogs are the same species. There is only a .2 percent difference in their DNA. In fact, if you go back far enough, all dogs trace back to wolves. My Westies would have to go back hundreds of generations to find the wolf in their ancestry.

It is not a dog in a wolf’s body or vice versa.

Today’s wolfdogs are the result of dozens or more generations of wolfdogs bred with wolfdogs or canine breeds. It is very rare for a wild wolf to breed with a domestic dog. Years ago, wolfdogs came into existence because of fur farms. Breeders bred wolves to Northern breeds such as Malamutes and Huskies for their pelts, thus getting what we know now as the wolfdog.


Phenotyping is based on lineage, behavior and characteristics and is used to determine how much wolf is in a wolfdog. High content would be 75 percent wolf; mid-high content would be 50 to 74 percent wolf; low-mid content would be 1 to 49 percent wolf. The higher the wolf content, the higher the wolf traits and characteristics.

Wolves are pack animals and depend on the alpha male/female for leadership, protection and food. A lone wolf is not a happy wolf. By nature, wolves are very shy. They depend on their alpha for protection, and if that is a human, then they will expect you to protect them, not the other way around.

They will likely run and hide if a stranger approaches. Wolves mate for life, so when one loses its mate, it can grieve to death. (Wolves are the only animal known to bury their young if a pup dies.) People who care for wolfdogs usually have a pair for this reason.

Wolves are said to have the intelligence of a 5-year-old human; dogs, a 2-year-old. If you own a wolfdog, you will find them extremely intelligent to the point of outsmarting you! They’re Houdinis when it comes to opening gates, digging out of enclosures or just climbing over fences. Now that you have a primer on what a wolfdog is and isn’t, let’s talk about these majestic, soulful creatures in person.

Terry and Karen Lilly rescue and rehabilitate wolfdogs. Their passion began 10 years ago with a wolfdog pup named Bear. He was supposed to be a “trial run” for the Lillys to see how life with a wolfdog would be.

The trial run lasted seven years. Bear passed over the rainbow bridge in 2010. When he was a year old, the Lillys got Cheyenne as a companion for Bear. She was the offspring of two high-content wolfdogs, and what a handful she has been!

Karen says that Terry is the most patient human she knows, and Cheyenne pushes him to the edge. It was then that the Lillys decided to do something about these misunderstood and mistreated creatures. They’ve volunteered their time at Safari Sanctuary in Broken Arrow for several years, where there are four pairs of wolfdogs. They are the Lillys’ “babies.”

I have to admit, I was slightly terrified when the Lillys led me to the first enclosure, housing Tanasi, the male who is part Malamute, and Tseena, the female. When the two saw Karen and Terry walk up, they immediately jumped up on the fence and went bonkers with joy.

Wolves don’t bark, but they howl and whine and “talk” to you. When they settled down a bit, Karen told me these two were the most socialized and would love to “play” with me. I decided to wait a bit, but I did pet Tseena through the fence, and she actually licked my hand. “My, what great big, white teeth you have,” I said.

My terror evaporated as I looked into Tanasi and Tseena’s beautiful eyes. Curious more than anything, they wanted to check me out just as I wanted to check them out. There was no fear or aggression.

Myatuk and Akayla were in the next enclosure. They were typically shy and watched from a distance. They came to the fence when I retreated. No sticking hands in there! (However, there was no danger in doing so.)

Once we got to Apollo and River, Karen became very animated. These were her extra special babies. Apollo is a light gray wolfdog, quite majestic and regal. Both he and River, who looks more Husky, are mid-content. Both were rescued from a woman who wasn’t able to care for them any longer.

It took almost two months of constant visiting and coaxing to capture the pair and get them to the Sanctuary in 2012. They were malnourished and skittish, and River was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on her leg.

Karen spent weeks in the pen, winning the pair’s trust. Even though Apollo takes his cues from River, he is definitely the alpha. When Karen entered the enclosure, River raced over to her, grinning from ear to ear, as only a canine can do. I don’t know who loves whom more!

When River saw me, she retreated and started pacing. I was allowed in the pen, but just stood there. Apollo watched River; River watched Karen; both watched me. It was only when Karen left me and got closer that the pair came to her, but always with a wary eye on me. It was if they knew she would “protect” them.

When l went out, they immediately came over to where I stood, and starting smelling the ground to check me out. I’m sure they smelled my Westies. River appears to be cancer free and just celebrated her third birthday.

It was then that I could feel the “bond” that the Lillys spoke of. Terry said it’s impossible to explain. It’s something that is felt purely in one’s heart, both the animal and the person.

Now, I was ready for my play date with Tanasi and Tseena. I was told to stand against something and be prepared for paw marks on my visor. Tseena came out first and practically leapt into my arms. Yes, I had paw marks from my waist up to my face. She wanted kisses.

Next, Tanasi came out. He was a bit gentler, and at 120 pounds, tried to climb in my lap (I was sitting by then). Do not try this at home! These are the most socialized of the wolfdog pairs at the Sanctuary. Of course, they also took their cues from Karen and Terry.

The verdict after my encounter with wolfdogs: I was in love! Despite my successful meet and greet, very few people can qualify to own these majestic canines. They are not pets; they won’t curl up in your lap, fetch your slippers or sit on command.

Ever try training a house cat? (Sort of like my Westies.) A wolf does what a wolf wants to do… period. They do not respond to discipline. You must earn their respect and vice versa. They never should be left alone with small children or small pets, neither should any large breed dog.

They require large and secure enclosures, a high protein diet (meat) and can be very expensive to maintain. They require a huge amount of socialization with people and other animals. Each definitely needs another wolf/canine companion. The Lillys do adopt out wolfdogs, but it is a very disciplined process.

The Lillys are in the process of acquiring acreage for their rescue work. A major fundraiser has been launched at sanctuary.

Please visit and show your support! To learn more, visit You can also check it out on Facebook, Freedoms Song Wolf Rescue, where you can read a heartwarming story from the Moore tornadoes involving the rescue and rehabilitation of a severely injured wolfdog.

Stem Cell Treatment Helps Arthritic Dogs

posted September 21st, 2013 by
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by Kiley Roberson

Cassie the Rottweiler is only 2 and a half years old, but her slow and limping steps make this should-be playful pup look like a senior citizen. Cassie suffers from osteoarthritis in both elbows and had a torn ligament in her back leg. Cassie was born with elbow dysplasia that required surgery on both elbows.

Then she tore her ACL six months later, requiring a third surgery. Although surgery was helpful she still had limited mobility from daily pain. She required lots of pain medication, but Cassie’s vet, Dr. Joe Landers of Tulsa’s Heritage Veterinary Hospital, says there’s an alternative.

“Stem cell therapy,” explains Dr. Landers. “It’s taking the individual’s own cells stored in fat, activating them and then injecting them back in, so they repair damaged areas as well as decrease pain. Similar to how a cut heals on your finger, for example, but in a joint.”

Dr. Landers’ clinic (and staff veterinarians Dr. Stephanie Bradley, Dr. Jessica Zink, and Dr. Julie Merrick) is currently only one of two veterinarian hospitals in the entire state that practices this type of regenerative procedure, but it has proven successful across the country for pets and people. Even sports stars like New York Yankees’ pitcher Bartolo Colon and PGA golfer Tiger Woods have received such treatments.

The key is obviously the versatility of stem cells. Stem cells are essentially the body’s repair cells. They have the ability to divide and differentiate into many different types of cells based on where they are needed throughout the body. Stem cells can divide and turn into tissues such as skin, fat, muscle, bone, cartilage and nerve, to name a few. They even possess the ability to replicate into organs such as the heart, liver, intestines, pancreas, etc.

Dr. Landers says it’s important to note that as everyone ages—pets and people—their joints, as well as other organs and tissue, deteriorate to varying degrees. “In geriatrics, the joints are often very worn and have lost mechanical function,” Dr. Landers explains.

“So they can only be repaired so much. Often just the pain relief is enough to help the patient get up and moving and interacting again. But we do caution clients on expectations; a young dog will be much more mobile after treatment than an older dog.”

For pets like Cassie, stem cells can make all the difference in quality of life. “The most common use for pets now is treating degenerative joint disease or arthritis,” says Dr. Landers. “Good candidates for stem cell therapy are older dogs who are not responding well to medical therapy, like antiinflammatory medications, any longer, or dogs that surgery will not help. It’s also great for younger dogs like Cassie with early arthritis in helping to slow the progression of the disease.”

The stem cell treatment that Dr. Landers performs was actually developed by MediVet America of Lexington, Ky., one of several companies that sell equipment and training to veterinary clinics around the world. MediVet has more than 500 clinics and participating vets, like Dr. Landers, who have performed over 5,000 stem cell procedures so far.

A typical stem cell operation like the one Dr. Landers recommended for Cassie takes several hours. To start, the veterinarian will anesthetize the pet. He will then surgically remove a couple of tablespoons of fat. This is a quick and simple procedure that is generally easier than performing a spay. They will then spin the fat cells in a centrifuge to separate out the stem cells that are naturally present in fat. This generally takes a couple of hours.

Next, the cells are mixed with special enzymes to “digest” any residual fat and connective tissue, which are then “activated” by mixing them with “plasma rich platelets” extracted from the animal’s blood cells. The mixture is stimulated under an LED light for 20 minutes or so to further concentrate the stem cells. Finally, the newly awakened cells are injected back into the damaged joint and also intravenously.

The therapy works well because stem cells are the only cells in the body that have the ability to transform themselves into other types of specialized cells, making them a potent tool for repairing damaged and deteriorating joints. There are 50 to 1,000 times more stem cells in the fat than bone marrow, a source that was used more when the procedure first became popular.

While still largely unavailable to owners, stem cell therapy from fat cells has been offered to our furry friends for several years. With fewer regulatory hoops to jump through in veterinary medicine and no contentious religious debates, experimental procedures are often tested and perfected on animals decades before they’re green-lighted for use on humans.

One of the things veterinarians and owners alike praise about the MediVet procedure is it is done all in one day. Thus a larger number of viable cells are available and are not lost in shipping and processing in an outside lab. Stem cells can also be banked for future injection, so the animal does not have to endure extraction again.

While every animal is different, MediVet says they’ve seen positive clinical improvements in 95 percent of the arthritic cases performed nationwide. Some owners have even reported seeing a difference in as little as one week. While quick results are possible, Dr. Landers cautions that this type of treatment is not a cure and isn’t right for every pet.

“This therapy will not work on a pet with cancer,” Dr. Landers says. “The stems cells will actually increase the tumor and make it worse. Also, the animal needs to be healthy enough for anesthesia, and we do blood work beforehand to check internal organs. There is a risk, as with any anesthetic procedure, but we monitor the pets closely and keep them under for as short as possible.”

Cassie was a great candidate for stem cell therapy. Dr. Landers performed the procedure in his office and the whole process went off without a hitch. In just a few weeks, Cassie was already showing progress. “She has done fantastic,” Dr. Landers says. “She plays again and can even go up the stairs.”

If you’re interested in stem cell therapy for your pet, talk to your veterinarian. You can also read more about the procedure on the MediVet website at

“Stem cell therapy is important for pets,” says Dr. Landers. “It gives a powerful option to pet owners to treat chronic pain and thereby increase their pet’s overall quality of life.”

Reiki for Rover

posted September 21st, 2013 by
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by Lauren Cavagnolo

Photos by Foshay Photography

Eyes closed, legs crossed and palms open, Karren O’Sullivan sits on the floor deep in meditation surrounded by kennels of barking and howling dogs. A 3-monthold Lab Retriever desperately paws at the blanket she is sitting on. Meanwhile a Catahoula stares her down, quietly growling, and various other dogs continue their barking and whining.

Her calm presence amid the chaos of anxious and confused animals is quite a sight and garners several curious stares from passersby.

Moments later, animals begin to settle down all around her. She has turned her back slightly to the growling Catahoula and has offered her hand to the puppy who craved her attention.

O’Sullivan is a level III Reiki practitioner, making weekly visits to the shelter to offer the holistic therapy to homeless cats and dogs since January.

“To be loved by an animal is truly a blessing,” says O’Sullivan. “And that’s why I’m here. I don’t care if people think I look strange sitting down in an aisle in a meditation space.”

Reiki, which is Japanese for spiritual energy, uses a variety of methods such as meditation and breathing techniques, to create a relaxing and healing space. Animals can then choose how they participate, if at all.

“I am just the facilitator of this beautiful spiritual energy and offering, inviting the animal to participate in the space if they choose,” O’Sullivan says. “Animals already have very highly developed senses, and energy is their language. They don’t have a verbal language like humans. And so they sense energy like fear or peace or calm or worry or relaxation. They completely get it.”

Shelter animals who receive Reiki therapy may be able to eat and drink more, begin to perk up, gain a sense of hope and get more rest.

“They’re scared to death here,” says O’Sullivan. “This is a very anxious environment.”

With Reiki, “they can start eating more. The medications the vets are giving them are working faster; they will get rebalanced many times. It’s helpful, and then the next day someone may come in and adopt them,” according to O’Sullivan.

Reiki therapy does not take the place of traditional veterinary care, but is complementary. Reiki practitioners do not diagnose or treat animals. In fact, it isn’t even necessary that they know exactly what is ailing an animal, says O’Sullivan.

“We are there to create this space of calmness and relaxation so that the own animal’s body takes over, and its own immune system becomes strengthened, and their own way of healing themselves becomes stronger,” O’Sullivan says. “When you are relaxed and feel good, you heal faster.”

Manager of City of Tulsa Animal Welfare Jean Letcher says the shelter is lucky to have O’Sullivan as a volunteer.

“Karren is a gift to TAW, and we are going to take advantage of that gift

at every opportunity we can,” Letcher says. “The talent and work she does to maintain the calm in the chaos is amazing and to share that with the animals is a benefit to them. These animals are stressed, and we know that depresses the immune system.”

Letcher says O’Sullivan’s visits not only benefit the animals, but the staff as well.

“Her presence has impacted the staff in that they see her just being with the animals. And for both people and animals, it’s a wonderful and calming presence,” she says.

Outside of the dogs and cats seen at the city shelter, O’Sullivan has offered Reiki therapy to a variety of animals including her own gecko and rabbit, horses, a cardinal, a dove, a paralyzed hog, goats, an owl and butterflies.

Most recently she offered the holistic therapy to a baby hummingbird knocked out of his nest after a heavy July storm. The tiny bird was safely delivered to Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists and later thrived under the care of a WING IT volunteer.

O’Sullivan also offers her services to pet owners who feel their animals could benefit from the therapy.

Kris Allison sought out O’Sullivan when traditional methods of training just didn’t seem to work for her Hurricane Katrina rescue dog.

Allison describes her dog Yoshi as a typical bossy, territorial cattle dog. The problem was helping Yoshi to get along with Allison’s much older dog Greta.

After four sessions of Reiki therapy, Allison noticed a difference in the two dogs’ interactions with each other.

“They got to a point where they were more interested in being around each other,” Allison says of her two dogs. “They interacted a lot more, and it was just much more peaceful. The last part of [Greta’s] life, Yoshi was just much nicer to her. It was a wonderful experience to have that taken care of and not have to worry about that.”

Allison, who is also a TAW volunteer, has since gone through Reiki therapy training with O’Sullivan and says she has used it on both foster dogs and herself.

“As long as you maintain that calm focus, you can see the shift in their behavior and their personalities,” Allison says. “It’s definitely helpful.”

O’Sullivan says she hopes to spread the practice of Reiki to more people like Allison and the community at large through teaching.

“Teaching is really driving me right now,” says O’Sullivan. She has already taught one class at TAW for staff and volunteers with another on the books.

Her dream is to teach the practice of Reiki to veterinarians, staff and volunteers at every Tulsa-area rescue.

“I would love to teach their staff so they have another tool that they can use not only for the animals but for themselves,” O’Sullivan says. “They are in a very high-stress position.”

The two-day class is limited to 10 people because of the amount of content covered and personal attention provided. Those interested in future classes may email O’Sullivan at osullivan. [email protected] or call (918) 636-1220.