General Interest

Pet Owner New Years Resolutions

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

At first glance this may appear to be just another article on New Year’s Resolutions, but we’ve gone further than that.

It goes beyond the usual “exercise more, eat better” mainstays (which we have included) and incorporates resolutions to improve the quality of life not just for you, but your pet, homeless pets and even the community. Adopt some of these ideas as your own and make a difference in 2013!

1. Regular exercise

Overweight pets are at risk for heart disease and other health problems. Going for a walk is the perfect exercise for pet owners. Dog owners tend to walk about twice as much as non-dog owners, according to

Routine walks will keep both of you healthy. An added bonus is that a tired dog equals a well-behaved dog. Exercising can help ward off bad behavior. Cat owners, also, shouldn’t forget that Fluffy needs playtime too. Dedicate at least five minutes a day to engaged, interactive playtime.

2. Mix It Up

Venture to a new dog park, try a new walking route or hike through a nature trail. Introduce yourself to another pet and owner at the park and make a new friend. Determine to get out of your comfort zone and see what comes of it—you might renew your enjoyment for exercise in the process.

3. Get Groomed

Keep Fido washed, brushed, nails trimmed, etc. Routine care and maintenance can prevent costly vet visits (for issues such as matting) and improve his quality of life. Don’t you feel better after a visit to the salon? And so will your pet, Debbie Davis of Muddy Paws Grooming says.

“Yes, little doggies that are unkempt come to us with their heads down and sad. After they are groomed, they come to life and strut around proudly,” she says. An added bonus is the bond it builds between you and your pet. “Since most of us consider our dog a part of our family, caring for our pet’s needs is a natural nurturing process,” she says.

4. Clean Bill of Health

Ensure your pet’s health by making an appointment with your veterinarian. Mark Shackelford, DVM, recommends all senior pets—7 years and older—have wellness blood tests once yearly to screen for potential problems that may not be apparent at the time of the physical exam.

“We can find early pathology of some organ systems that can be reversed or at least slowed in their progress,” he says. “We also recommend that pets receive their heartworm and flea/tick preventatives all year due to our mild winters.

We’ve found that using flea and tick preventatives all year greatly decrease the probabilities of infestation during the spring and summer. Heartworm tests should be performed yearly, along with vaccinations, due to possible gaps in timing in administering the heartworm preventative.

Occasionally, we will recommend radiographs to diagnose and/or monitor the progress of arthritis in older pets as well. Also, glaucoma screening is done during the yearly checkup for some older animals that are high risk.”

5. Ensure Those Pearly Whites

Dental health is just as important as the rest of his physical health. It should be an equal priority. Make teeth brushing part of your daily routine. Use a toothbrush specially made for pets or a children’s soft-bristle type.

Pet toothpaste is optional, but never use a product intended for humans. It may take some time for it to become a habit, but it’s well worth it for your pet’s health sake.

6. Training Classes

Don’t get exasperated over your pup chewing on shoes; be proactive. It is never too soon to think about training, according to our resident expert Mary Green.

“I believe that training or learning is a process, rather than an event. Learning begins when the dog comes home, and there’s never a day when the process is complete,” she says.

“A dog’s education is as important to his wellness as are food, water and shelter. For most pet owners, training should involve integrating the dog into your family life. The foundation that all well-mannered pets should have includes proper house training, chew-training, responding to basic commands such as sit, lie down, and come.”

7. Take Time for Thanks

Be appreciative of all the good things in your life, such as how wonderful your dog is. This can play into training time for example. One of the biggest elements of successful training is looking for desirable behaviors and reinforcing them with something your dog likes and appreciates—a treat, a butt scratch, a game of tug or the opportunity to go for a walk. Never miss an opportunity to thank your dog for good behavior.

8. Clean Out Clutter

While cleaning out your own clutter, such as documents or old clothing, go through Fluffy or Fido’s toys and donate anything he or she no longer plays with to a local shelter. Your pet’s trash may be a homeless animal’s treasure.

9. Buy American Obviously, it’s good to buy U.S. products for economic reasons, but more importantly, there have been numerous recalls on products made in China and Korea, including pet treats. Even if it’s cheaper, it may not be safe. Buy American made, and even better, buy local when possible.

10. Give Back

There are therapy dog programs which greatly benefit the community through the animals’ contributions, but this particular resolution is directed at you, the human. There are many small ways you can be a part of animal welfare initiatives right from your own home. Whether you are limited in time or physical ability, there is a way to be involved, Ruth Steinberger of SpayFIRST says.

“This is the time to resolve to use them!” she says. “Signing a petition does not always replace hands on work, but make no mistake; petitions have resulted in policy changes, procedural changes and even prosecutions in cruelty cases which looked like they may go unaddressed. Sign them and pass them on to others on your email list.”

Steinberger says part of the reason animal cruelty has not been taken as seriously as domestic violence, child abuse or drunk driving—all of which were not seen as “real crimes” just a few decades ago—is that the other issues have been made into local election issues. She advises to “make these issues local and watch what happens.

Mailing money to a different state because we are appalled by cruelty does not get one single message to our own leaders. Resolve to write at least one letter a month to one of your own elected officials reminding them that you are a voter and your vote depends on their compassion toward animals.

“Eyes in the courtroom have prevented creeps from getting out of cruelty cases and have changed the way the courts view cruelty prosecutions,” she says. “The judge and prosecutor know that the concerned citizens sitting in the courtroom are likely voters. Resolve to attend a cruelty hearing on behalf of an innocent animal victim who went through much worse than a single boring day. Your time, even a small amount of it, can make a huge difference if you spend it locally!”


posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Lauren Cavagnolo

It’s early on a Friday morning, and Pink Poodle Grooming is hopping. Many of the arrivals seem to be regulars, and all of the pooches are more than eager to greet Owner Heather Davis and the rest of the staff. The grooming facility, located at 907 S. Memorial Drive, also offers doggie daycare.

As Davis’ own brood of dogs and cats also greet the newcomers, it starts to get noisy.

At first glance, most customers would just see a group of happy dogs wagging their tails. But look a little closer, and you might start to notice one of those little dogs has a curly tail, a round, smooth snout and hooves.

Penelope, Davis’ mini potbellied pig, fits right in with the gang at Pink Poodle and holds her own when it comes to chasing toys and running with the big dogs.

“Everybody loves her,” Davis said. “She bosses those dogs around.”

Some customers have even mistakenly asked Davis, “What kind of dog is that?”

And in fact, Penelope shares quite a few traits with her canine friends. She loves to have her belly rubbed, wags her tail and comes when her name is called.

Davis has even taught Penelope how to sit on command using the same method dog trainers use with treats and is now working on teaching her to take a bow.

It only took two times before she mastered the command. Now, when Penelope sees a treat, she automatically sits, Davis said.

Penelope even shares a few less desirable dog traits and can get herself into trouble.

“She loves to eat paper and she will destroy things. She’s had some important papers or a bill, and I have to chase after her,” Davis said. “She can be really, really naughty, but part of that is just because I am a new pig owner.”

Some of Penelope’s other “tricks” include taking the leashes and collars and carrying them off, “for no other reason than she wants to, it’s her playing,” Davis said.

She has even stolen keys out of an employee’s purse. “She is a thief!” Davis said. “In fact, my favorite comb had fallen off my table, and she had taken it and put it in a kennel.”

Of course, it isn’t all mischief. Penelope can use her tricks for beneficial reasons if she so chooses. “Sometimes another groomer will drop something, and Penelope will pick it up and bring it to me,” Davis said.

She brought home Penelope when she was just 2 months old. “At the time, she was half the size of my Pomeranian,” Davis said. “She was really cute when she was little; it almost didn’t seem real.”

At 4 months old, Penelope was weighing in at about 15 pounds. At full size, Penelope is expected to weigh between 30 and 40 pounds.

“A lot of people say, ‘Thirty, 40 pounds, that’s big; that’s not mini!’ But for a pig, it is mini,” Davis said.

Though Penelope will be about the size of a medium-sized dog and shares many common qualities, there are still plenty of differences that make owning a pig a far stretch from owning a dog.

“Potbellied pigs have a life expectancy of up to 20 years, so that’s a big commitment,” Davis said.

Bathroom training is another difference between Penelope and her canine buddies.

“I was trying to housebreak her like a dog,” she said. “I think instead we are going to switch to a litter box because she goes so frequently. I was doing some more research, and I found most people do use a litter box, so that’s what we’re going to start working on, too.”

Pigs also require a different diet from dogs. “Fruit is good for them but more as a treat. Vegetables are a good part of their diet,” she said. “They aren’t supposed to eat dog food; you have to go to the feed store to get mini-pig food.”

“And you know the saying, ‘Eat like a pig?’ There’s a reason for that,” Davis cautions.

While people have a trigger to let them know when they are full, potbellied pigs do not, Davis says.

“They can literally eat themselves to death, so you have to be careful about over feeding,” she said.

Pigs are also highly intelligent animals that require plenty of mental stimulation.

“You have to be careful because they By Lauren Cavagnolo Penelope TulsaPets JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013 31 are so smart. You can make them aggressive very easily,” Davis said. “If you don’t stimulate them and just throw them in a cage while you’re at work all day, it’s not good. That’s why I knew she would be a good fit with me, because I can bring her to work.”

Davis said she spent time researching mini potbellied pigs before bringing Penelope home.

“I am really big on researching what you’re getting first, even cats and dogs. It really is important,” she said.

Davis, who is no stranger to exotic pets, has been through the process before. She currently owns four sugar gliders and two skunks, in addition to her six dogs and six cats.

After researching the animal itself, Davis recommends finding a vet that can care for the kind of exotic animal you are interested in adopting.

“Not all vets can care for exotic animals,” Davis said. “You also want to make sure the area where you live is zoned for the type of animal you want to own.”

Davis and her animals live on unplotted land outside of city limits. Despite all the work, Davis says she loves having a pig.

Room for One More

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Camille Hulen

Last March, a friend asked me if I could help with some kittens she had found. They had been abandoned by their mama cat on a patio in a “not so nice” neighborhood from which she had rescued several other cats.

She transported the kittens to my home in the filthy box in which they had been found, and I was horrified. These babies were probably about 10 days old, barely trying to open their eyes, which were covered in matter.

Abandoned kittens usually have fleas, but this was worse; these kittens were covered with both fleas and maggots. I later learned that the yellow crud on them was actually maggot eggs. We set about bathing them in Dawn, picking off fleas and maggots, and then started the feeding.

I stayed awake that night, feeding them every two hours, and continued cleaning. I took them to my vet the next day because I was so uncertain about treatment for the maggots. As he flushed the maggots from their eyes, his advice was to simply continue what I was doing. They were too frail for any other medical treatment.

From experience, I knew that the best care for starving kittens is to feed them small amounts very frequently, for they would naturally be nursing on mama continuously. As the week progressed, I knew that I had three survivors!

My personal cats, of course, were curious but not happy. The older ones tried to ignore them because they had seen this act before. “Mom’s at it again,” I imagine they were thinking. One cat, though, was so incensed that he hissed and growled every time he walked by the room they were in. My two big dogs were interested too, but I dare not introduce them to a tiny critter smaller than one of their big paws.

About a month later, the kittens were sure on their feet and stable enough to scamper about, so it was time to meet the dogs. It was love at first sight—my dogs had been taught as puppies to respect cats. They sniffed them gingerly as I watched carefully.

Soon two of the three kittens had been adopted, and Wooly Bully, my 85-pound dog, spoke up. “I want this one, Mom,” he said (not actually, but I’m certain he would have if he could). It was clear that he loved this little white kitten, and the feeling was mutual. Wooly Bully would nuzzle the kitten, sometimes even with open mouth, much to my consternation. The 2 pound kitten would reciprocate and grab the big dog by the muzzle. They would seek each out, chasing around the living room, dog on floor, kitten on top of sofas. What fun!

As the kitten grew, he cried at the door whenever he saw the dogs outside on the patio. Many is the time we had to retrieve him when he was part way out the cat door to join them, for he was still far too little for the outside world. Eventually the day came, though, when he could play chase with “his dog” in the yard. When I would call him and he failed to come, Wooly Bully would find him and point him out.

So what do you do when your dog wants to adopt a kitten? You say “yes,” of course. You name the white kitten Tahoe after the beautiful white snows of Lake Tahoe which you remember fondly, and Tahoe becomes part of the family. What do the other cats think? Most of them have accepted Tahoe, and will cuddle and groom him, while one cat still grumbles. I try to explain, “You were a rescue also. There’s room for one more.” 

The ABCs of Numbers One and Two

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

I am standing outside in my back yard at an hour I can only describe as dark-thirty in the morning. I am shivering in my pajamas and robe while asking… no, make that begging my darling puppy to go potty. Finally, she squats and does her business as I sing her potty skill praises and offer her a celebratory cookie.

Now take this scene and repeat it about 20 times during various hours of the day, and you have a small snapshot of my potty training routine with Brooke, my 10-week-old Dalmatian. It is not the glamorous part of puppy ownership, but it is essential to our happy future together.

As a professional dog trainer, you would think I might have some magical formula for teaching Brooke where and when she should and should not go potty. I do not. It takes patience, supervision and maybe a baggie of yummy treats placed strategically by the back door.

While house-training is one of the most basic lessons we teach our dogs, tales of potty-training woes are among the most common complaints I get from new puppy owners. In fact, I have had more than a few harried puppy parents ask me to whisk their little darlings off for a couple of weeks of toilet boot camp. In most cases, however, it’s not the puppies that need the bulk of the training.

If taught fairly and consistently, puppies are quite happy to learn proper potty etiquette. So it falls on us as humans to understand how the puppy mind works, so we can best teach our little four-legged prodigies the ways of our rule-filled world.

Perhaps more important than discussing how to properly train a young puppy is discussing the many ways people make a mess of this vital step. All too often, people still seem to focus on techniques for correcting a puppy when it eliminates inappropriately.

Rub your puppy’s nose in the mess? Find a puddle and return your puppy to the scene of the crime for a good scolding? Catch your puppy in the act, yell at her and give her a little swat with a rolled newspaper? What is the proper punishment? The simple answer is that there is no proper punishment.

What will punishment accomplish in the house training process? Nothing but a huge set back. It simply does not make sense to correct a puppy for something it absolutely does not understand. It certainly does not make sense to the puppy.

A puppy simply cannot understand why you are upset about a soggy spot on the carpeting that happened five minutes ago, which might as well be five hours ago in puppy time. Punishment does not remind a puppy that she is to go potty outside only. The puppy just perceives it as a senseless attack by the human she generally trusts the most.

But what if you actually catch your puppy in the act of having an accident somewhere in the house? Well, if you get angry, yell at the puppy and scare it while it is going potty, what you have taught her in that moment is that it is very dangerous to potty while the human is watching.

This means you will likely now have a puppy that is afraid to potty while you are present. You just made your house training mission a lot harder, didn’t you? Because your puppy is afraid, she will now become very adept at sneaking off in the house, perhaps in your closet or behind your favorite chair to take care of business. And when you go outside with your puppy hoping for the opportunity to praise her? Well, your puppy does not yet understand that there is a difference between relieving herself inside versus outside. She only knows that when you caught her in the act, you punished her, so now she‘s not willing to potty with you present—inside or out. Since being right there to praise and tell the puppy she’s doing the right thing is key to house training, incorporating any type of correction could lead straight to a tricky little problem.

Instead of looking for ways to correct a puppy, a far more effective and positive route to potty nirvana is to create and maintain a safe routine for teaching your puppy when and where to do her business.

If you watch a litter of tiny puppies— even so young their eyes have barely opened—you will see them squirm their way off their immediate bedding when they need to eliminate. This is the first thing you have working in your favor. Puppies have a natural desire to keep their bed clean if given the opportunity. The trick is that we have to convince them that our entire house is their bed.

This is the stage I am currently in with Brooke. She is very good at keeping her bed tidy. She understands that she should not potty on my bed when she is having her snuggle time. As for the rest of the house, it’s still fair game in her mind, but that’s where I come in.

Brooke has to be supervised 100 percent of the time. I will leash her to me if need be to ensure that I can keep an eye on her. While we are in the training process, I must be diligent to keep accidents inside to a minimum and to create as many good experiences outside as I can.

If she is playing with a toy and then gets up and starts to wander, I know I need to scoop her up and head out the door for a potty break. If she takes a nap, I have to be right there when she wakes up to once again head outdoors with her. When she finishes eating a meal, we go outside. When she gets a big drink of water, we go outside. What goes in seems to come straight back out.

If I can’t keep an eye on her or if I need to be away, she is confined in her crate but only for a limited amount of time. A good rule of thumb to follow is that your puppy can hold her bladder in a crate about one hour for every month of age. That means a 2-monthold puppy can be crated for about two hours. I can’t rush a young bladder, and I sure don‘t want her to be forced to have an accident in her crate. If I have to leave Brooke longer than an hour or two, she stays in her puppy pen with a piddle pad to allow her an appropriate alternate potty spot. I feed her three consistent meals a day, so that we can establish a poop routine (there are no delicate words for it). I know that when I take her out first thing in the morning, I should not be fooled when she comes to celebrate with me after “number one.” Yes, we celebrate; but then we stay outside, not playing, but focusing on “go potty” again, because number two can’t be far behind.

I know that even if she just went, she may well go again within the next 10 minutes. I cannot let my guard down. Puppies pee a lot, and they pee often.

At night, I take her out for a last potty break. Once she is settled in bed, she is generally good to go until early the next morning. However, occasionally she will get restless in the night, and I take that cue to get her out the door for a quick toilet visit and then straight back to bed.

If I ever catch her starting to squat in the house, I am very quick to say “uhoh!” followed by “outside,” said in an easy, encouraging voice. I don’t scare her; I don’t make a huge deal. I pick her up and head out the door to help her do the right thing. It is only through keeping our routine safe, positive and consistent that I am going to soon see the little light bulb of understanding go off over her head.

What it boils down to is this: I chose to get a young puppy. It is no secret that puppies have to be taught where to potty, and it should not be a shock that they will have accidents in the house. I have a job to do. It will likely take several weeks for me to feel that she really understands the difference between the right place to potty and another-indoormess- I-have-to-clean-up. But Brooke is worth every minute. She is worth every freezing trip outside. This is but a small blip on the road to hopefully 15 or 16 years of joy. I can handle this.

So be patient, be positive, buy some good enzyme cleaner and relax. Your puppy will catch on. Technically, we are willing to house train human babies for two to three years, right? What are a few weeks with a darling little puppy? Oops! I have to run. Brooke just woke up… 

Holiday Cuteness

posted November 25th, 2012 by
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• At least 40 percent of American households own at least one dog and 30 percent own at least one cat.

• Although sea turtles are air breathing reptiles, they can hold their breath underwater anywhere from four to seven hours.

• If you lift a kangaroo’s tail off the ground, it can’t hop; it uses its tail for balance.

• A flea can jump up to 200 times its own height—the equivalent of a man jumping over the Empire State Building.

• An elephant can use its tusks to dig for ground water. An adult elephant needs to drink around 210 liters of water a day.

• Cats have powerful night vision, allowing them to see at light levels six times lower than what a human needs in order to see.

• A female chicken will mate with many different males, but if she decides, after the deed is done, that she doesn’t want a particular rooster’s offspring, she can eject his sperm. This occurs most often when the male is lower in the pecking order.

The Animal Resource Center

posted November 24th, 2012 by
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 Barbara Lewis, the board president of the Animal Resource Center (ARC) in Oklahoma City, has been the driving force behind an innovative approach to addressing many stumbling blocks for animal advocacy—effectively keeping dogs and cats out of shelters and in their homes. Her goal is to help each rescue organization or shelter to be as effective as possible and to help at-risk pet owners keep their pets.

In order to get there, Lewis did her homework. “We surveyed a lot of the rescue groups to see what they felt would help them best do their job, and the biggest number said a facility they could afford to rent at which they could hold adoption events, fundraisers, etc., was badly needed,” she said. “Also, shelter intakes are not getting better.

The Lockhart Foundation was trying to figure out what could be done to keep dogs in their homes and really saw that there was no central site for services like when someone loses a job and needs pet food, or even simply getting help overcoming problem behavior by talking with a trainer.” The Lockhart Foundation has generously supported the non-profit ARC since its start up. ARC is located in a 32,000-square-foot building in Oklahoma City equipped with rooms for dog training classes, an open bathing/ grooming program, an “animal library” and spaces for rent for animal and nonanimal events. It’s conveniently located at the intersection of I-240 and I-35 with ample parking.

The ARC also holds workshops for the public on responsible pet ownership, adoption events and obedience classes, ranging from puppy kindergarten to agility. On the second Saturday of the month, ARC has a free presentation that is open to the public on an animal related topic, and on Saturday mornings two groomers are on site to provide free baths while teaching owners how to clean ears, clip nails and basically care for their pets (appointments are needed).

The ARC stresses the need to help owners become more responsible in their decisions. “It’s dogs, and it’s cats too,” Lewis said. “Cats often impact the neighbors more than dogs, but there are solutions for those problems… we can help keep someone from surrendering their cat because their neighbor is mad.” The library is open to the public and includes children’s animal literature, dog training books, animal novels and books on pet care and more. “People may just want to read a novel about a dog,” she says. “They can probably find the right one in our library. But if they need help with a serious house training issue, we can probably help them with that as well.”

The ARC’s mission is uniquely inclusive, and this is evident from the fact that those who are a part of this vision are as diverse as are pet owners themselves. Mascotas Latinas, an organization dedicated to assisting pet owners in the Latino community, has an office at ARC, as does Spay FIRST!, an organization dedicated to expanding spay/ neuter options in underserved, low-income communities. Yet multiple dog obedience clubs house their activities in the giant building too, and the Oklahoma American Kennel Club (AKC) dog clubs held an educational event there this year.

ARC has space available for rent for large parties and gatherings and holds events in conjunction with other community service organizations. The 2012 Peruvian Festival was held there, a professional filming of a M*A*S*H style spay/neuter clinic was held there, and during spring break, ARC partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to hold a five-day camp focusing on a different animal each day. Twentyfive at-risk youths, ranging from 6 to 12 years of age, attended. The animals of the day included rabbits, dogs, cats, insects and reptiles. Barbara fondly refers to the insects as “bugs” and said that the camp created art with live maggots that crawled through water-based paint, leaving their creative footprint on paper (and the maggots were not injured in the making of the art).

ARC may replace the bugs with a different animal next spring, but the spirit of creatively reaching out in order to make communities better, safer and kinder to all animals will remain the same. Check out this wonderful facility when you’re in Oklahoma City. Hours of operation are from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday). Call (405) 604-2892 or visit for more information.

Ruth Steinberger