Watch Tip: Non-pro Petsitters

Posted on February 26th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

Weekly Watch Tip for week of Feb. 28

Watch to make sure your neighbor’s petsitter is visiting regularly while your neighbors are on vacation. If you don’t see evidence of visits such as fresh food and water, lights on, or new tracks in the yard, check with others nearby, or call your neighbors wherever they are.

Petsitters and animal caretakers can always be trusted to do their jobs, right?

The short answer to that question is NO, not always. And with the owners far away, who would ever know? Professional petsitters and animal caretakers are excellent resources who deeply care for animals; making this less lucrative career choice tells you something about their commitment to and love for animals.  Non-professionals such as trusted friends who are also animal lovers may be excellent as well. Casual non-professionals can be extremely high risk, as these two recent stories illustrate.

A couple in Newfoundland, Canada arranged for a “friend” to care for their two dogs, a female Golden Retriever and an elderly male retriever mix, and cat. They leash-tied both dogs and let the cat roam in the house. Food was enclosed in a bathroom with the door shut. Weeks later, law enforcement officials found a heartbreaking scene. The female Golden Retriever was found dead, flat on the floor in the kitchen, extremely emaciated, still tied. The elderly dog had slipped his collar and was nearly dead (he survived perhaps by eating feces of the others, and is recovering). The cat was found dead in a cat crate in a dumpster in a nearby town!

Read more here, but the photo is very graphic and will haunt you.

A couple in Wisconsin, USA left their 6 horses and 4 dogs in the care of a housesitter for the winter while they were down south. The housesitter was picked up for drunk driving and was in jail for a few days. The animals suffered lack of food and water during that time, and one mare became very ill with a suspected troubled pregnancy. When the caretaker returned he was unwilling to call the vet despite urgent requests by local rescuers, and the mare declined further. With intervention of local law enforcement and a state HSUS official, she was euthanized to end her extreme suffering. But with timely professional care, she might have been alive today to graze on hay in the sunshine.

If your neighbors’ pets or domestic animals are under the care of someone else while the owners are away, please keep a watchful eye every day to make sure visits are occurring, and take appropriate action if you suspect a problem.

If you’re looking for a laugh out loud book, check out Bad to the Bone: Memoir of a Rebel Doggie Blogger by Bo Hoefinger! You’ll chuckle, giggle and guffaw.   Bo is a shelter dog with a killer combination of enlightening humor and the ability to type.

Many of us know Bo from his prolific blog — Bo Knows, He just doesn’t listen.  We also know his human parents Lisa and Horst from their memorable tenure at Dogster’s For Love of Dog Blog. Now we get the story behond the dog and the blogs. And what a story it is!

Our tour through Bo’s life is filled with hilarity. But at the same time, we hear the undertones of potential pain shadowing Bo and other animals. We laugh as Bo talks to the dog who smuggles in things for other dogs trying to get chocolate to commit suicide. He thinks he’ll never get adopted by a good family so he wants a quick way out. Fortunately for Bo, his family and his readers, Bo can’t afford the candy. But what about the other dogs? Will they make it out? Will they get adopted? We don’t know. But by pulling us in with his humor, Bo is able to remind us of the hard questions of how we view and treat our companion animals.

Bad to the Bone is a fun read, perfect for anyone who has ever loved a dog.

Watch Tip: Winter Feed Needs

Posted on February 20th, 2010 by Anna Nirva


Watch for “outside” pets during cold winter months—they need more food to maintain weight. Winter fur can minimize the signs of starvation. Can you see two humps protruding above the rump—could they be hipbones? Food bowls could look full but be inedible. Talk with the owners or call the authorities today to save a life.

Food bowls look full but the dog or cat is starving in winter? Yes!

Sometimes the owner thinks that their dog or cat “just doesn’t eat much in winter.” Ask if the bowls are metal. Bowls should be plastic, and better yet, be electrically heated. If metal bowls are used outside, tongues can freeze to the bowls. After an animal has had that painful experience, they may stop eating from the same bowl. Moreover, kibble can freeze just like the water will. If the kibble is a frozen inedible lump stuck to the bottom of the bowl, the hungry dog or cat will attempt to knaw on it. Knawing and licking frozen food lumps and ice in the water bowl lowers the body temperature. The risk of hypothermia always increases with dehydration and starvation—a winter triple-threat. That hungry, thirsty animal can freeze to death in only moderately cold temperatures, especially if very young, very old, or sick.

Twice-daily feeding and watering is required in winter, along with increased amounts of food. But if the food and water bowls look full, they may not be replenished enough. And because winter fur covers the body, who will discern that the dog or cat is in serious danger? Please watch your neighborhood for outside or chained companion animals in winter. Look and look again, and always take action if you see hipbones or a narrow waist. If not you, who?

Watch Tip: Paw Pads at Risk

Posted on February 13th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

Tip for week of Feb. 14:

Watch for bloody dog and cat tracks caused by cracked and frozen pads. Find the pets and help them get the care they need.

Paw pads do not protect dogs and cats from injury like your winter boots protect your feet

Dogs and cats can suffer from extreme weather just like people can, and their paws are no exception. You might be surprised to learn that injuries to thick paw pads and tender spaces between the pads are actually slow to heal, according to Read about common risks to paws in cold and snowy conditions–which may be especially useful in the wake of recent storms in warm climates.

  • Frozen pads: extreme cold, dry conditions cause pad surfaces to freeze or get overly dry, and they can crack open, causing bleeding. Companion animals who are susceptible to this need improved shelter, or better monitoring during playtime or walks.
  • Ice balls between pads: consider a non-toxic spray “paw de-icer” for pets or try canine boots. Some rub petroleum jelly between the pads. If your dog has a lot of hair between the pads, keep the hair clipped short to prevent larger ice balls from forming.
  • Salt and chemical de-icers: wash off their paws with a wet towel after walks, or use a bucket of warm water for paw-dipping, to ensure your pet won’t ingest toxic chemicals.
  • Cut feet and legs: snow conceals sharp objects, so stay on known paths and walkways to avoid injury to your companion animal.


And a word of caution about antifreeze drips in the garage: it tastes sweet, and your furry friends may lick it; children might also! Even small amounts of antifreeze can be deadly! Wipe drips and spills immediately and clean the cement with a safe detergent. Some state legislatures are considering requiring antifreeze manufacturers to add a bitter flavorings to their formulations to prevent deaths of children and pets. Call your legislator to learn of any efforts in your state.

Watch Tip: Too Cold to Run?

Posted on February 6th, 2010 by Anna Nirva

Weekly Watch Tip for Week of Feb. 7:

Watch for dogs running (exercising) with owners in frigid weather. Paws and lung tissue can freeze and dogs might not show obvious signs of distress. Speak with the owner.

Dogs and cats and other animals are not invincible!

Without thinking too much about it, many people seem to believe that animals have abilities to withstand nature’s worst, just because they are animals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Companion animals, domesticated animals, and wild animals are vulnerable to extreme weather to extents that are determined by type and breed, and also by the individual animal’s knowledge and experience. I’ve written this before: extreme winter weather will kill even healthy heavy-coated buffalo.

Runners in bitter winter weather might wear excellent gear from head to foot, complete with eye, nose, and mouth protection, and not consider for a moment their dog’s paws or lungs. And their valiant dogs might not show obvious signs of distress before collapsing. (Sled dog types are less susceptible to suffering in extreme cold weather.)

These runners might be intelligent, responsible pet guardians in most ways; they might love their companion animals very much. But could they have incorrect assumptions about animal invincibility? Yes, and vet clinics treat the four-legged victims of this misconception often during cold snaps.

Shout out if you see runners and their dogs braving the fierce winter cold to say that dog lungs can freeze. Even if you don’t appear to have an immediate impact, hopefully the runner will watch more closely for signs of discomfort in their dog.

Rescue Chocolates Hit the Sweet Spot for Dogs in Need

Posted on February 3rd, 2010 by admin

How’s this for a double-duty Valentine Day present? Really good chocolates with all the profits going to rescue groups to help dogs in need? Very cool! Check out Rescue Chocolate for tasty selections such as Peanut Butter Pit Bull and Pick Me! Pepper. Thevegan, kosher chocolates are made in NY and 100% of the net profits are given to rescue groups.

Just remember that chocolate is poisonous to dogs so no sharing with those furbabies!

Westie Has Bad Reaction to Canine H1N1 Vaccine

Posted on February 3rd, 2010 by admin

If you’re thinking about having your dog vaccinated against the newly emerged canine H1N1 you might want to read the following letter I just got from one of my neighbors here in St. Louis. The letter is from her sister-in-law. I asked my neighbor Heather to validate it and she quickly okayed its publication.

Just FIY:

Yesterday we went to the vet for Annie’s annual vet appt. The vet told me that she was a perfectly healthy 10 1/2 year old Westie, and he couldn’t believe how “young” she still seemed. She received her normal bloodwork and vaccines, then I was told that this new canine virus was going around and that there is a new vaccine was 100% effective in lowering the severity of this virus H3N8. It is initially a 2 shot procedure followed by a booster once a year. I had no reason to question it, so we went ahead and got this vaccine. After we were home for an hour, Annie started limping, then she became lethargic, she stiffened up, wouldn’t eat or even take a bone (which she LOVES). She stared off into space and started breathing really quickly. I was so scared that I took her back to the vet a few hours later, he examined her and said he thought she was just in pain from her vaccines. She has had 10 years of vaccines and has never acted THIS way afterwards.

Her behavior worsened when we got home, so  I went on line only to find out that this vaccine is BRAND NEW…has only become available in US since 8/09.
The drug company, Schering-Plough says it had been tested on 700 dogs with no side effects. So I guess, we were the 701st dog! The Government approval certificate is “conditional” b/c they seem to be waiting to see what will happen to these dogs. This vaccine is completely optional, and I was just trying to do what I thought was best for Annie. If I knew this, I would have never tried such an “experimental” drug.

We were up with her all night and were ready to take her to the emergency vet if her breathing got any worse. Finally, at about 2am her breathing slowed down and she was able to fall asleep. By morning she seems to be back to normal, no limping, and took her bone. I will not take her back for her follow up shot next week, and I recommend to all of you, do NOT to put your dog through this. I will contact the drug company about this, but I’m not sure it will make a difference, so I wanted to tell all the dog lovers in my life! I really thought we were going to lose Annie last night.


Whenever I see a little animal’s body by the side of the road, I always double back (even if that means getting on the off ramp, getting back on the highway and then retracing my route) I stop by the side of the road (out of harm’s way — traffic realy whizzes by) and check on the animal to see if it is still alive. If it’s a deer, I stay away from the horns or the feet– if the deer is still alive it can kick and/or gore the individual.

Owl the cat is LUCKY to be alive because of a compassionate young lady!!

Read his story:

Hi there! I’m Joy Ward and I’m one of your Sunbearblogsquad bloggers! My advisors (also known as the Ward pack) are Weimaraners Sol and Star and Beagle Beatrice.And we are pleased to be here! I’m going to share a bit about us and I am sooo looking forward to hearing from you.

You might know us from Dogster’s For Love of Dog Blog. I was the founding editor and am still listed as Editor Emeritus. We spent a little over two years writing about dog (and sometimes cat) issues, reviewing books, movies and products and talking about the marvelous Dogsters and Catsters. If you read the For Love of  Dog Blog way back in my day then you know I am passionate about changing human awareness of animal needs and changing laws to protect animals from abuse such as puppy mills and dog-fighting.

You might also know me as the author of Haint: A Tale of Extraterrestrial Intervention and Love Across Time and Space. We might have met at one of the many conventions I’ve attended over the last four years. Since Haint came out a few years back I’ve been busy on some other products including some short stories (one of which is included in the 2009 compilation Dragons Composed which is a USA Book News Best Books Award Finalist). I’m still working on the Haint sequel but it keeps getting pushed to the back of the writing bus. Right now I’m working on what I hope will be an amazing book with animal translator Melissa Dixon. No title yet but we’re shooting for a Spring release.

Before Dogster and Haint, you might have read one of my columns or articles I’ve been writing since 1994 or thereabouts. I was a staff and freelance writer with a wide variety of publications covering politics, business, technology, women’s issues, shopping and pretty much anything else you can name except maybe sports.

Sol Ward

That’s a bit about me on the writing side but what about dogs and other animals? I was raised with all kinds of  animals. My family was very animal friendly! We had dogs, horses, chickens, a myna bird, turtles, snakes, hamsters, goats and probably more species I just can’t remember. I spent a lot of my early teen years hanging out with my horse (who would probably have said I was his girl) Red. You haven’t lived till you’ve woken up with a horse knocking on your bedroom window or opening the kitchen door to find him standing on the steps headed inside!

I also spent a good bit of time with our Weimaraners. My mom was a responsible breeder who showed and occassionally bred what I will humbly call a great line of dogs. One of her females was probably one of the most photographed dogs in the world. She left that passion some years ago so don’t write in to tell me how we should all stop breeding dogs. I’ll agree with you to some extent but maybe not as far as you’d like.  So I learned how to birth babies when I was around eleven or so. Some day I might even tell you about waking up to my Mischka delivering her first puppy in my bed while I was asleep. Talk about a wake up call!

Sol and Star are father and daughter. He is one of the loves of my life and she is his only daughter, the last of my mom’s line.

Star Ward

Beatrice invited herself into our lives.  I was on the way to a concert in Iowa City with a dear friend and her daughter. We stopped for lunch in Hannibal, Missouri. When we emerged Beatrice was sitting next to my car. For all the world she looked like she was waiting for us. After some back and forth (you can imagine how my friend felt about putting a strange dog in a car with her eight-year-old daughter) Beatrice jumped in the car and well, you know how this goes. I planned on turning her over to a no-kill shelter or even a responsible rescue but, well, take a look at those eyes and you tell me you could give her up.

Beatrice Ward

We share a home in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the most dog-friendly places in the US. Really. I often wonder if there is some regulation requiring that every other home MUST have a pet, preferably a dog. Sol’s not keen on all our neighbors but he and the other dogs love having lots of squirrel TV to watch.

I’ll be writing about animal issues of course. I’ll also be giving you reviews of books, movies, products and who knows what else. I already have a pile of books and movies to review but if you’ve got something you think other animal lovers would love to watch or read, feel free to let me know about it.  As many of you already know, I am also passionate about sharing creative work that many people might miss because it comes from a small press or producer.  Some of the best and most exciting work is coming from these relatively unknown sources.

That’s pretty much it for now. I look forward to getting to know you and your furfriends.  Bark in and let me know what you want to talk about.

Are You Ready for Tweets from Your Dog? Not me!

Posted on February 1st, 2010 by admin

Mike Sachoff over at WebProNews reports that Mattel is coming out with a device to go on dog collars to let them tweet. I am so not ready for this!

I don’t read human tweets. I’m not ready to read doggie tweets. How many times can I read Sol’s tweets that he wants more chicken or Beatrice’s tweets complaining that Star is a wiggle butt. I’m all for listening to dogs but reading their tweeted interpretations may be a bit beyond me. If dogs want to go online tell them to write full blogs like Bo!

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