What to do when your cat is one of Satan’s minions

Sashabelle, Satan’s minion

On a good day, I say my cat is one of Satan’s minions. On a bad day, I say she is Beelzebub himself. It seems her one goal in life is to eviscerate, blind, slash, rip, rend, disable, incapacitate, mutilate, disfigure and otherwise maim all living creatures in our household. And if a plant or two has to go down along the way, so be it.

My daughter, the only human the cat will allow contact with, has even written a book, told from the cat’s deranged point of view, about her plans to end us all and take over the world. But this cat is the only cat we’ve ever had with a perfect record of peeing INSIDE her litter box and thus we are willing to overlook her persistent lethal attacks. After all, skin will heal but cat pee on suede boots is forever. Besides, she has somehow mesmerized my daughter into believing they are soul mates, so we are stuck with Lucifer Jr.

Of course, many of you might not feel as magnanimous about your misbehaving feline hell spawn as we do. Perhaps you would like to walk through your home without holding a bucket over your head to fend off kitty’s aerial strike? And now you are seeking some advice to that effect?

Well it just so happens that some of the country’s most knowledgeable feline folk hail from right here in Boulder.

For instance, we have New Yorker turned Boulderite, Annie Bruce. Annie is a black cat aficionado, ardent critic of declawing and author of Good Cats Wear Black. She has created CatBeGood.com, possibly one of the most comprehensive guides to training and caring for your cat.

She outlines creative cat training tips, solutions for litter box issues, aggressive cat behavior and furniture scratching. CatBeGood.com is also an excellent resource for all cat-related basic information from how to choose the best cat for you to setting up your home for the new kitty, cat safety issues, giving medicine, the best diet, how to say goodbye to an aging cat, and much more.

Another Boulder cat expert is Jackson Galaxy, known also as the Cat Daddy and host of Animal Planet’s wildly popular show, My Cat From Hell. Jackson gleaned much of his experience and cat wisdom during his many years of working at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. He co-founded Little Big Cat, Inc. with Dr. Jean Hofve where they helped cats and their humans understand each other better by focusing on the connection between physical and behavioral health.

Jackson now lives in California and is not able to do much private consultation outside of his TV show. But he sometimes answers questions submitted via Facebook and Twitter and on his blog. Most likely, your question has been asked before and you can find the answers are here on his blog.

On his website you will find info on a myriad of behavioral problems and their positive solutions (including play therapy, how to put up cat shelves, socialization with other animals and strangers, NO squirt bottles! He also provides helpful hints like why you should think twice about using one of those automated or self-cleaning litter boxes, why claws are vital to a cat’s emotional well-being, and the truth about laser toys.

Your pet can boost your child’s reading skills this summer

Reading to dogs improves skills and builds confidence

Studies have shown that over the summer break children lose an average of 2.6 months of the knowledge they gained in the school year. It’s a problem known as “brain drain,” and luckily, your family pet can help prevent it. How? Simply have your child read to your dog (or cat) for about 30 minutes a day.

As any teacher will tell you, the key to being a good reader is practice, practice, practice. The more your child reads the better she will be at reading; the better she is at reading, the more she wants to read. But for many children, reading is such an onerous task that getting them to practice is nearly impossible. Kids often find reading to be very stressful, either because they struggle with learning issues such as dyslexia or because they get nervous and self-conscious, they worry about making mistakes or they worry about looking dumb in front of their friends.

That’s where Fido comes in.  Reading to a dog is an ideal way for kids to practice without pressure because a dog is completely nonjudgmental.   Plus, the dog’s presence immediately decreases the child’s blood pressure and heart rate, allowing them to relax and enjoy the experience.

In a University of California, Davis study, children who read to dogs in the R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) program were not only more confident and enthusiastic about reading,  their reading skills also improved 12 percent in just 10 weeks. In another study conducted by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, researchers found that children who read to dogs for 30 minutes once a week increased their words per minute and showed improved engagement with reading.  Children in the same study who read to humans actually experienced a decrease in words per minute.

Here’s how it works: in the R.E.A.D. program, which takes place in schools and libraries across the country, children are allowed to choose any book they want, then they snuggle up with the same dog each week and read for about 30 minutes. They pet the dog, the dog  helps them turn the pages with their nose or paw, in general they bond.

Any corrections or comments are made through the dog’s handler and attributed to the dog so that the child doesn’t feel criticized.   For example, the handler might say, ” I don’t think Fido understands what has happened so far in the story, could you explain it to him?”  Or the handler could ask, “Can you explain what that word means to Fido?”

While these programs were created for children who faced challenges with reading, they are just as effective for kids who have no difficulties but need to log more practice time.  Reading to dogs is equally beneficial for children of all ages.  Speaking from personal experience, my 13-year-old daughter read the entire Hunger Games series to her cat and they both thoroughly enjoyed it.  Of course, now her cat is crushing on Peeta Mellark.

Therapy dogs are trained for the R.E.A.D. programs, but  you can set up a do-it-yourself program at home with your own dog as long as he is calm enough to sit beside your child and relax for a while.  If your dog is a little high strung, a nice walk before reading will help him be calmer.  If you don’t have a dog, cats also make excellent listeners. If you have no pets at all, use the links below to find a R.E.A.D. or similar program near you and banish the summer brain drain for good.

For the rest of the story and lots of helpful links about READ programs, suggested reading and more, visit my Examiner page

10 tips for running with your dog

In honor of National Running Day this week, let’s consider the joys of running with a canine companion.  Why run with your dog?  Dogs love it, they provide inspiration and motivation for you, running together offers a chance to bond with each other and it can be healthy for your dog.  With a few simple precautions, running with your dog can become a favorite pastime for both of you.

  • 10.  See the dog doc.  Just like you, your dog shouldn’t embark on any new exercise regime without a checkup first.  Make sure his heart, lungs, joints are in tip-top shape and have your vet recommend a good routine for your dog to begin with, i.e., an appropriate time and distance for the beginning runner.  Also, get updated on any necessary shots.
  • 9. Be consistent.  Run every day.  Start short, then build up his (and your) stamina over weeks or months. Frequent, short runs are better for most dogs (and you!) than weekend warrior marathons followed by a week off.
  • 8. Understand your dog.  What kind of runner is he?  Most dogs are sprinters, designed for short bursts rather than long distances.  Some shorter-nosed breeds like pugs or bulldogs have respiratory issues which make it hard for them to run.  Older dogs with arthritis or joint problems will need frequent breaks and may need to run slower or less far than they did when they were youngsters.   Pay attention to your dog while you run and read his body language because he can’t speak up to tell you when it hurts.  If he shows any signs of limping or discomfort, stop immediately.
  • 7. Leash up!  For his safety, always keep your dog on leash while running.  He’s already in motion so it doesn’t take much to prompt him into the street to chase an enticing squirrel.  Leash laws in Boulder require all dogs to be on leashes unless confined to their guardian’s property (in Boulder we never refer to the human as an “owner,” always a “guardian”).
  • Boulder has 144 miles of Open Space & Mountain Parks trails,  90 percent of which are open to dogs and many of those are “voice and sight control” areas where an Open Space and Mountain Parks voice and sight tag allows you to run off leash on trails/parks that participate in the program. Even if you’re running in a V&SC area,  it’s a good idea to stick with the leash — you’ll be able to prevent your dog from tangling with a rabid skunk.   For a list of Boulder’s voice and sight trails, see this FIDOS page.  FIDOS (Friends Interested in Dogs + Open Space) is an organization that promotes responsible dog guardianship while protecting natural resources of our public lands.

  • 6. Get legal.  Boulder law requires that your dog have a city license and must wear his license tag at all times if he’s over four months old and lives in city limits. For more info on City of Boulder animal laws click here.
  • 5. Safety first.  If you’re running on Open Space trails, take all the normal precautions such as having your dog wear bear bells and/or carrying a can of pepper spray.  Take your cell phone with you even though coverage on the more remote mountain trails may be spotty.

Click here to see the full story – and 4 more tips – at my Examiner column…

How to Find Your Missing Chihuahua

Having just lived through the harrowing experience of having Fiona, our teensy four-pound Chihuahua, go missing in a fox-ridden golf course neighborhood for 16 hours, I thought it might be useful to share what we did that eventually resulted in a happy human/canine reunion.  Feel free to add any of your own advice in the comments below if I’ve left anything out.

1. Put up signs.  This was our best tool.  Be sure to put your pet’s picture and your PHONE NUMBER clearly on the sign.  Preferably a cell phone number so you don’t have to keep going home or calling in to check it.  (Do not put your pet’s name on the sign;   you don’t want to give people the ability to bond with the dog and keep it.)   Using the last place you saw your dog as home base, post signs at every intersection you come to while walking in a spiral outward from home base.  By spiraling you will reach everyone in a nearby radius.   Call your pet’s name loudly and frequently while you’re walking or biking this spiral.  The pet may be too freaked out to come to you but it will let people know that they should be on the lookout for a missing pet.

2. Pass out flyers.  While we were posting signs in a spiral we also made extra flyers to hand out door-to-door at every house and to everyone we passed on the streets.   The object was to get as many people as possible involved in the search.


3. Contact your local Humane Society or SPCA or shelter(s).  They may already have your pet!  If not, you can file a missing pet report with them and they will contact you if an animal comes in matching your description.

4. Post online. Craigslist has a Lost and Found section that you can post in.  Also, be sure to check their Pets section. I had a tip from Avery Angelo that sometimes unscrupulous people will find an animal then list it as their own in the Pets for sale section as a way to make money.   Also post on PetHarbor.com (FREE),  FidoFinder.com (FREE), MissingPet.net (FREE),  and any local publications.  You can also use PetAmberAlert.com but they charge $39.95.

5. Notify your vet and then fax the “Missing” poster to all nearby veterinarian’s offices and animal hospitals, especially the 24-hour emergency vets.  Take your poster to all local pet shops, pet food stores, groomers, etc.  In Boulder this includes PC’s Pantry, Whole Pets, Only Natural Pets, Petco, Petsmart.

6.  Follow up on leads immediately.  We started getting calls about four hours after we posted our signs.  One spotter called us while she was following Fiona through the neighborhood.  Fiona is tiny but quick, like a furry lightning bolt, so this poor woman was really pounding the pavement to keep up with her. She gave us a play by play account of Fiona’s every move but by the time we caught up to her,  Fiona had ducked into some bushes and disappeared.  But at least we knew where she was 45 seconds earlier so we were able to focus our search on that area.

7. Live in Boulder, CO.  Or some other great dog city.  I lost count of how many total strangers dropped, literally dropped, what they were doing on a lovely Sunday morning to hop in their cars or onto their bikes and help us search.  We would never have found her if it hadn’t been for the help of our entire neighborhood pulling together, calling us with sightings, following her, tracking her every move.  When we finally found her it was because of a woman who was gardening in her back yard when she saw Fiona dart by.   She remembered hearing us calling for her so she ran out the street,  found one of our signs and called us to come right away.

Fiona seemed disoriented when I found her, she didn’t recognize me or the sound of my voice until I was about five feet from her.  She collapsed with relief (my interpretation because my own knees went weak with relief at the same time!) and crawled to me for a very slobbery reunion.

When you find your pet, I think it’s a nice, courteous touch to replace some of the “Missing” signs with “Thank You!” signs to let everyone know your fur baby is safe and sound and they can stop looking.   Be sure to call or go back to all the places where you posted notices and let them know all is well too.

2011 POTL Biggest EVER Fundraiser for Humane Society of Boulder Valley

Reposted  directly from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley’s  email:

Last week’s Puttin’ On The Leash was the BIGGEST and most successful fundraising event in the Humane Society of Boulder Valley’s 109-year history!  A big wet sloppy dog kiss goes out to each and every one of the 1,200+ people who attended our event.   Thanks to your support, we raised more than $340,000 of the $4.7 million annual operating budget which helps the 9,000 homeless animals we serve each year.   We couldn’t have done it without you!

To see more photos Under the Sea, visit our Puttin’ On The Leash photo gallery.

Maggie the Mermaid escorts two adorable, adoptable pups down the runway

One of the many amazing auction items at the Puttin' On The Leash event

Humane Society’s Great Catsby event was a record-breaking cat’s meow

dana rogers photography

The 1920’s themed Puttin’ On the Leash was a roaring success for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.  The event, entitled The Great Catsby this year, had over 1,000 attendees – decked out in flapper dresses, feather boas and zoot suits – and raised over $300,000!  That’s an incredible accomplishment at any time but especially in the current economy.

“We are so inspired by the generosity and commitment of our community to our organization,” said Lisa Pedersen, CEO of Humane Society of Boulder Valley. “Puttin’ On The Leash is truly a celebration of the amazing relationships we share with our pets and the enrichment they bring to our lives.”

Catsby and Daisy, two shelter cats, welcomed attendees at the door then sent them off to snap up nearly 600 silent auction bid items.  While perusing the silent auction, guests were treated to vintage dances performed by “Watch Your Step!”  and sampled delicious goodies from over 20 Boulder-area caterers and restaurants.  Then it was on to the live auction, emceed by Channel 7 News’ chief meteorologist, Mike Nelson, along with his special guest Dr. Lee Woods of Broadway Animal Hospital.

The 26 live auction items included European vacations (the good kind, not the Chevy Chase kind), an Ultimate Training Experience with Lindsay Wood and the amazing Natural Habitat Polar Bears Tour package.

Event co-chairs, the ever-vivacious and charming Renee Shires (my friend and neighbor!) and Patty Young plus Silent Auction co-chairs Amanda Ford and Linda Oliver were on hand to oversee this 18th annual gala which is one of the largest charity events in Boulder and the Humane Society’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

Helping to make it all possible were a staff of 200 volunteers and the evening’s event title sponsors: Colorado Capital Bank, Moet and Chandon Champagne, Nuf Said Advertising, Superior Liquor and UBS, with auction sponsors HW Home.

Proceeds from the event will provide life-saving services, behavioral training, rehabilitation services and various assistance programs offered by the Humane Society.

Dames and daddy-o’s: dont’ miss the Great Catsby Puttin’ On the Leash event for the Humane Society

Calling all flappers and fat cats: the 1920’s will be roaring again at the Great Catsby Puttin’ On The Leash event!  This is the 18th year the Humane Society of Boulder Valley has put on this extraordinary event and it promises to be another humdinger of a fundraiser for them.

Enjoy gourmet food and drinks from your favorite local restaurants and purveyors of hooch. Delight in the vignette dancers hoofin’ it up with the Charleston and the Toddle. Smooch with the adorable shelter dogs that will be roaming the crowd.  Schmooze with special guests Dr. Lee Woods of Broadway Animal Hospital and Mike Nelson, Chief Meteorologist of DenverChannel7.  And of course, join in the silent and live auctions featuring over 500 spectacular items.  (click here to view the auction items)  And all the while, you’ll know you’re helping the homeless animals at the HSBV.

So don’t be a wet blanket all you fellas and dolls, put on your best 1920’s glad rags and come help the Humane Society raise some heavy sugar (that’s big money) — it’ll be the cat’s pajamas!

When & Where:
Saturday, April 24, 2010, 6-10 p.m.
Coors Event Center, CU Boulder Campus – 950 Regent Drive, Boulder, CO 80309
Cost:
General Stadium Seating – $50 per person; Table Seating – $100 per person; Table of 8 – $720 per table
Register and view auction items at www.boulderhumane.org/POTL . For more information call 303-442-
4030 ext. 634 or email Elissa.Smith@boulderhumane.org.

Pooch helps pop the question

“I’d like to arrange a photo shoot as a gift for my girlfriend.  And could you do one extra little thing? …”    So began one of the most distinctive shoots I’ve had so far.   Anthony went on to explain that he wanted photos of his girlfriend, Natalie with her dog, Abigail, and himself.  And at the end of the  session he wanted me to photograph him getting down on one knee and proposing!  To Natalie, not Abigail — just to be clear.  I think Abigail approved when her lady said, “YES!”

Balls, Balloons and Big Sad Eyes

More recent photos from Doghouse Studios shoots.  See lots of adorable dogs and cats at our online gallery

Cockers, Calicos and more …

Slideshow of recent Doghouse Studios shoots.  You can see more charming canines (and cats) at the Doghouse Studios online gallery!

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