Helping pets in Belize!

November 1st, 2010

I recently returned from a trip to Belize in Central America.  This trip was a fairly last minute endeavor for me that was intended to be pure escapism filled with relaxation and adventure.  More importantly it was meant to give me a much needed break from walking dogs, training dogs, boarding dogs, anything dogs.  It’s not that I don’t love my job, but it is, in fact, because I love it so much that I need to take these solo trips every year to stay fresh and rejuvenated.  So off I went to the tropics for some scuba diving, reading, sleeping in hammocks and perhaps a fruity cocktail or two…

The Plan… 


The Reality…


It turns out that when you are passionate about something, it makes it very difficult to escape it.  On just my second day of vacation, I was fortunate enough to meet a remarkable group of women who were traveling from Mississippi and volunteering their time to help local animals.  The group included some amazing veterinarians, vet techs, former nurses and humane society directors.  The end result of these vacationing volunteers along with some great individuals on the ground has been the establishment of the Hopkins Village, Belize Humane Society (Facebook:  Hopkins Belize Humane Society).  The group travels with rotating members several times a year to Belize and performs free veterinary services for local residents and their pets.  Everything from spaying/neutering, to treating infections and basic grooming and overall healthcare is provided to the local animals.  After meeting this wonderful group of people, I simply couldn’t resist offering my time to help in any way that I could.  So I spent one of my vacation days much like I spend my days at home, helping take care of some four legged friends.  In the end, the day I spent at the Hopkins Village Humane Society is the most memorable day of my trip! 

The Clinic…



The Recovery Wing of the Hopkins Village Belize Humane Society!


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March 17th, 2010

Dogs Likely Evolved From Wolves in Mideast

AOL News

(March 17) — If you have a basenji, Chinese shar-pei or chow chow snoozing at your feet, you’d better pamper your pet. You’re living with blue-blooded canine royalty.

Those three are among the most ancient of dog lineages, according to a new study of doggie DNA. They have heritages tracing back for centuries — even millennia – and also show the greatest genetic similarity to wolves of all of the breeds studied, the research found.

In what is sure to be a controversial claim, the study also concludes that the dog was probably domesticated in the Middle East, not, as other research has indicated, in China and nearby countries.

Chinese Shar-Pei puppies are displayed for sale in Havana, Cuba, 2006.

Javier Galeano, AP
According to a new DNA study, the Chinese shar-pei is one of a handful of dog breeds that share the greatest genetic similarity to wolves. These puppies were displayed for sale in Havana, Cuba, in 2006.

The genetic makeup of dogs sends “a very strong signal for origin in the Middle East,” says study leader Robert Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles. “This really contradicts the prevailing notion that dogs originated in East Asia.”

To determine the origins of modern dog breeds, Wayne and his team compared the DNA from 912 dogs with the DNA from 225 gray wolves from around the globe. Experts agree that thousands of years ago, the fierce and independent gray wolf somehow evolved to give rise to the first domestic dogs.

Many of the dog DNA samples came from the pageant queens of the dog world. As dogs were being primped to enter U.S. show rings, the scientists brushed the inside of their mouths with a swab.

Nearly all modern strains of dog have much stronger genetic ties to Middle Eastern wolves than to wolves in Europe or East Asia, Wayne and his colleagues found. That suggests that Middle Eastern wolves were the founding fathers of today’s parade of pooches.

The study also found a handful of pedigrees that stretch back further than the rest. Historical and cultural evidence has painted the basenji, chow chow and shar-pei, among others, as ancient breeds. His DNA evidence backs that up, Wayne says. His team’s roster of ancient breeds also includes the Afghan hound, saluki, Akita and Samoyed.

Asian and European wolves also contributed to today’s breeds, but the main center of domestication was in the Middle East, Wayne says.

One of the scientists whose research points to Southeast Asia as the birthplace of the domestic dog disputes Wayne’s interpretation of his own data.

“Their data clearly says there were two flows of genes from wolves into dogs, one in the Middle East and one in China, and that’s the same thing we find” in a different form of DNA, says Peter Savolainen of the KTH-Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. He says the new study didn’t examine enough Asian dogs and used a DNA study method that would have biased the results.

Wayne disagrees with Savolainen’s assessment.

“I hope it doesn’t become a big fight,” Wayne says.

Whatever the dog’s origins, Wayne points to a remaining puzzle: not where but how wolves were transformed into dogs.

The dog was domesticated earlier than any other kind of animal, earlier, even, than agriculture. Dogs weren’t developed for eating, herding or protection.

“One can’t imagine why you’d pick a large carnivore for the first domesticated species,” Wayne says. “You have to feed them meat. … And they potentially attack children and even adults. And what functions they provide, I don’t know. My own dog, a Boston terrier, never provided that much of a function, except affection.”

The study was published today in the online version of the scientific journal Nature.

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Put your pet on a diet!

March 2nd, 2010

Has your furry friend put on more than just his winter coat?!


Here are some tips for shedding some pup pounds.

-Make sure your pup gets at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. (Here’s a thought – hire a dog walker!) Sounds like a given, but often they aren’t receiving as much as you think. Schedule it, and stick to it when you can.

-Measure their food. I am guilty of eye-balling….and I’m sure sometimes Beau and Bronco are thrilled when I “over-see”……Try to feed them the same amount daily. Like people, dog’s stomach’s can shrink and adjust to less food.

-Sprinkle seaweed on their food. Ok, I haven’t exactly tried this yet, but I like the sound of how healthy this must be! Adding a teaspoon a day can help to improve thyroid function, which may promote weight loss. (This according to my wife’s Rachael Ray magazine, which says dogs need this. If she starts putting seaweed on my food, I will not be happy.)

-Go easy on the treats. Sounds easy, but we all probably over-do this one. One extra treat a day can add up to significant weight gain, so think about taking one spoonful of kibble out of his dinner-time feeding and giving it to him as a “treat” later. Fido will never know!

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February 16th, 2010

Sweet Photo: NY Sheep and Goat Find Love!

goat sheep

Living with more than 100 sheep and goats can leave a creature with little chance for privacy. But somehow, a sheep named Chico and goat named Dorothy living at New York’s Farm Sanctuary have managed to make love work, against the odds.

Chico was rescued in 2006, after almost going to slaughter following a stint at an “educational farm camp.” Dorothy came the following year, plucked from an abandoned transport trailer in central New York. Now living together in the sheep barn, they’re virtually inseparable.

“Though our sheep and goats get along fine with each other, we rarely see any particular interest between members of the two species,” writes director Susie Coston. “But they spend hours each day grooming, playing and snuggling together. We don’t know how it happened, but these two are obviously smitten.” To that we say: Happy Valentine’s Day!

Consider loving an animal of your own: Visit Farm Sanctuary’s Web site for information on adoption.

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Grass is not a snack! Tell that to Bronco….

February 16th, 2010

Why is My Dog Eating Grass?

Causes for a Canine’s Urge to Eat Grass

by Mia Carter

There are several reasons why a dog may be eating grass, ranging from an upset stomach to an instinctive need for more fiber in the diet.


It’s not uncommon for a dog to eat grass, and some canines exhibit this habit more so than others. But it’s a behavior that leaves many pet owners perplexed.

“This is one of the most common questions I get from dog owners,” explained Dr. Michael Levine, DVM, who added, “Sometimes, it’s an indication of something else, like an upset stomach or a diet low in fiber, but it can also be due to something more simple – some dogs simply enjoy the taste of grass.”

An occasional grass salad is not unhealthy, providing that there are no pesticides or other chemicals present on the grass.

Here’s some of the most common causes for this common canine habit:

  • An Upset Stomach: Many dogs seek out grass when their stomach feels unsettled, upset or overly full. Dogs have very sensitive nerve-endings in their stomach, therefore experts believe that the long thin strips of green stimulate the stomach in a way that triggers vomiting.

In the wild, the ability to induce vomiting can be a valuable skill. Dr. Levine explains: “In the wild, an upset stomach can be deadly. So at the first sign of a problem, it’s a dog’s instinct to try to bring up the meal that’s the source of the discomfort. In the wild, this could save an animal’s life if the food contained a toxin or other dangerous substance and it’s an urge that our domesticated dogs have retained.”

  • A Need for Fiber: Like humans, animals instinctively seek out foods, nutrients and other substances that their body is lacking. Many studies have revealed that dogs who do not have sufficient fiber content in their regular diet are more likely to seek out grass.

“Many owners report a decrease in grass eating behaviors when more fiber is added to the daily diet in the form of fresh vegetables like carrots, broccoli, celery and lettuce. Fresh food supplementation also has the benefit of adding interest to meal time and it’s a wonderful source of nutrients,” Dr. Levine explained.

  • Some Dogs Just Like Greens: In nature, canines are scavengers to a large degree, so plants are a natural part of the dog diet, often indirectly as many prey animals are herbivores and by consuming the animal, the dog also consumes the plant matter that’s present in the prey’s digestive system.

So if a dog is not getting sufficient fiber from their prey, it’s not uncommon for a dog to seek out plant matter like greens, fruits, vegetables and berries. These foods have been a part of the canine diet for thousands of years, and it’s reasonable to expect that dogs will continue to seek out roughage in the years to come. Grass is perhaps among the most accessible of plants, even in an urban environment, so, many dogs have developed a taste for grass simply due to its wide availability.

Dr. Levine concluded, “As long as your dog is eating fresh grass that’s free of chemicals, there’s really no reason for concern unless it’s excessive – that may suggest a problem such as chronic gastrointestinal upset, which is something we would want to investigate. But otherwise, it’s really nothing to worry about – it’s just a normal part of a dog life.”


“That grass sure looks delicious!”

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Hazards in the Home

January 26th, 2010

Sometimes Beau and/or Bronco will come tearing through the house with something seemingly innocent that they’ve picked up – say an old fabric softner sheet or my personal favorite, when I look out in the living room and Beau is eating a plant. Household items to keep away/out of reach of your furry children include the following:

-Any kind of medication (aspirin, etc)

-Vitamins. My wife loves nothing more than a Fred Flinstone snack, but don’t share it with your dog.

-Home insect products

-Rat and Mouse bait


-Diet Pills

-Fabric softner sheets (much to my pets’ dismay)



-Paint thinners and other solvents

-Flea and tick products (keep stored where they cannot reach)


-Oven cleaner sprays

-Fly bait

-Aeresol products.

hair lady

-Tobacco products. None for you either (unless you want to share) :)

-Detergents. As much as your pet may want to help you do the chores, don’t let him lick up any detergent lying around.

If you think your pet has been exposed to any poisonous substance, call the  ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435).

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From the Who Knew files….

January 16th, 2010

Missing your pet when you travel? Just borrow one

by Katie Hammel (RSS feed) on Jan 9th 2010 at 12:30PM

I love my two cats and I miss them dearly them when I travel for extended periods of time. Though there are more and more options for traveling with a pet, I’m still not about to bring them with me. It’s just too expensive, too much of a hassle, and too much stress on the pet to fly them with me for a two-week jaunt. So they stay home and I snuggle-attack any furry friends I happen to make along my travels.

For dog lovers, there’s another option available. As Peter Greenberg showcases in a video posted on his site, several hotels around the country are now offering special pet “rental” programs. At select Fairmont hotels, guests can borrow a dog for a day to take it out on a walk around town.

At the Fairmont Tremblant in Quebec, Gracie the canine ambassador is available for walks. At the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, Catie the former guide-dog fills the role. Other hotels offer similar programs, like the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek. Greenberg also highlights a program run by a shelter near Aspen. The shelter “rents” out dogs up for adoption for play dates. Many local hotels like the St. Regis and The Little Nell even allow the dogs to stay overnight. Of course, as Greenberg points out, the hope is that the temporary owner will then become a permanent one.

So next time you are traveling and missing your pets at home, you may not be out of luck. Just look for a hotel that offers one of these innovative pet-lover-friendly programs.

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Pet Poisons

January 16th, 2010

We have covered this (in my old school – gasp – PAPER newsletters) but it bears repeating. This is just out from the ASPCA and it’s definitely worth taking a look at.  Keep your pets safe!


  • Top dishonors—once again—go to human medications, which accounted for the most calls to the ASPCA’s 24-hour poison control hotline in 2009. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up meds accidentally dropped on the floor. Remember to keep all medications, including pain remedies, antidepressants and decongestants, in a cabinet far away from pets’ prying paws.
  • Cats and dogs are often the unwitting victims of our efforts to battle flea infestations. The misapplication of spot-on flea and tick products can be especially problematic for our feline friends. Talk to your vet about choosing the right, species-specific flea treatment for your pet and never use products made for dogs on cats, and vice versa.
  • Some of the most delicious people food—including citrus, avocado and raisins—can be poisonous to pets. Chocolate ingestion accounted for nearly half of all people food-related cases in 2009, so be sure to keep cocoa hidden from your resourceful cat or dog.
  • Pet parents also need to remember to protect their cats and dogs from common household cleaners such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants. These products, when inhaled by our furry friends, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.
  • Household plants may keep your house green and your air clean, but some can cause serious gastrointestinal problems for companion animals who nibble on them. Check out our toxic plant list before your next visit to the nursery.
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When Your Dog Bloats…..

January 13th, 2010

Just like us, dogs get bloated! (Particularly the following breeds: Great Danes, Retrievers, St Bernards, Standard Poodles and Setters.) Your pups might still have some leftover holiday bones or treats – don’t let them eat them all at once and get upset stomachs.  Bloating in a dog has the following symptoms: excessive vomiting, a swollen abdominal region – it may even be painful to to the touch, possible change in gum color, rapid heart rate and general lethargy. Larger dogs are more at risk for bloat, and are generally older.  Bloating is actually a serious condition in dogs and should be treated immediately – get your dog to the vet if you suspect he is suffering from this.


To prevent this problem: Feed your dog the highest possible quality food, feed your dog two or three times a day (as opposed to one big meal), and do not feed him immediately before or after vigorous exercise. Of course in general, just do not let your dog eat too much! Think of it as a New Year’s Resolution.

Now if I can just remember these rules for myself when I am standing in the buffet line at Sizzler!

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Pet Hotels

January 11th, 2010

This is a fun link from People magazine ( from their pet-friendly section…..check out these great hotels that allow pups!


Happy new year!

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