Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Celebrate Adoption

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. It’s a great way to bring a little love into your life.

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Last month we lost our little Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix, Gemma, to cancer. She was probably 16 or 17 years old, so she had a good, long life, but losing an old and beloved dog is always hard on the heart, even when you’ve had her for only four and a half years. She was not the dog we were expecting when she joined our family, but she soon let us know that she was the dog we needed.

Gemma came to us in January 2013, about two months after the death of our black-and-tan Cavalier, Twyla, who collapsed and died unexpectedly during a visit to my parents. That left us with only one dog, 6-year-old Harper. When we returned home, I told my friend Maryanne Dell, with Shamrock Rescue Foundation, which pulls and places dogs in shelters at risk of euthanasia, that we could foster a dog for her. She brought us Gemma.

This tiny dog -- she weighed in at six pounds -- walked into our lives and quickly took over, despite her unprepossessing appearance. She had a large bare patch on her back, and the rest of her fur had been trimmed short. She had a mouth full of bad teeth, all of which were removed except for a couple of fangs. The shelter estimated her age at 12 or 13 years. By the time we’d had her a few months, though, she could have been a poster dog for shelter adoption.

Except for a brief squat beneath our bird’s cage to mark her new territory, Gemma turned out to be perfectly house-trained. Despite her age, she set a rapid pace on our walks around the block. Sometimes she went so fast that I had to break into a jog to keep up with her. She demanded to go to nose work class with Harper and me and turned out to excel at the sport. Once it grew out, her coat was long and flowing. It was clear she was used to living in a home where she was spoiled, because she insisted on sleeping under the covers. I fought it for a while but eventually her persistence won out.

I hoped that Gemma would be one of those tiny dogs that live into their twenties, but her disease came on suddenly, and she was gone two and a half weeks later. I can’t think of a better way to honor her special personality than to spread the word about ways to help shelter dogs.

--Foster a dog. That was originally the plan with Gemma, until she informed us she was staying, so that’s a risk. After we adopted Gemma, we fostered another dog a few months later. His name was Kibo. Now he’s our Keeper. Yes, we were foster “failures” twice in less than a year.

--If you can’t run the risk of being a foster failure, help in other ways. Rescue groups that pull dogs from shelters often need help transporting the dogs to their foster or adoptive families. Donations of dog food, other pet supplies or money to be used as needed are also welcome. Check to see if your local shelter or favorite rescue group has a wish list on Amazon.

--Spread the word about adoptable dogs through social media. Petfinder suggests posting on Facebook or Twitter that October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, or you can share a post about a different adoptable dog every day of the month.

--If you can adopt a dog, don’t overlook one with a little mileage. The love you’ll get back is everlasting, even if the dog isn’t.

Q&A

New love triggers

feline jealousy

Q: My cat is jealous of my boyfriend. She hisses and runs away whenever he comes over. We’re thinking of getting married, and I won’t give up my cat, so we need to figure out how to improve their relationship.

A: Cats can definitely develop seemingly unreasonable dislikes of certain people. When I was first dating my husband, his cat Sam apparently didn’t like the invasion of their bachelor household and ran away. I love cats, so I’ve always felt bad about that. I’ve since learned a number of ways to woo disapproving cats, and some of them may help you and your boyfriend smooth the path to true love among the three of you.

It sounds counterintuitive, but have your boyfriend start ignoring your cat. He shouldn’t look at, talk to or touch her. Cats prefer people who don’t force attention on them. They like to be the ones to make the first move. In other words, have your boyfriend play hard to get.

You can encourage your cat to get closer to your boyfriend by laying a treat trail that leads to him. Use really good treats that she can’t resist, such as dried salmon, tiny bits of cheese or some other favorite food she doesn’t get often. If she comes close, he can toss some more treats in her direction, while still not looking at or touching her. Other than treat tossing, be sure he doesn’t make any sudden movements when your cat is near him. That could scare her and set back your efforts.

Gradually, let your boyfriend be the one to offer playtime with your cat’s favorite feather toy or catnip mouse. He should also be the one to prepare and provide your cat’s meals. By making him the giver of all good things, and being patient and persistent, love will likely win the day. -- Kim Campbell Thornton

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

New cat takes job

as hotel ‘ambassapurr’

--Meet Hamlet, the new “directfurr” of guest relations at New York’s Algonquin Hotel, where he is taking over from the recently retired Matilda. The hotel has had a resident cat ever since a stray orange tabby wandered into it on a rainy night in the 1920s. Then-owner Frank Case allowed the cat to stay and named him Rusty, but actor John Barrymore, a regular guest, suggested calling the cat Hamlet. Since then, all the male cats have been Hamlet, with the current resident being the eighth of that name. A good Samaritan brought him to Bideawee Shelter after finding him in Long Island, ill and in bad shape. The Algonquin has always promoted feline adoption, and Hamlet was brought to their attention when they put out the word that Matilda was seeking a replacement so she could retire. Hamlet VIII is friendly, loves people and will do anything for a tummy rub, reports journalist Sandy Robins.

“He is going to be a great feline ambassador for anyone missing their own cats and wanting a fur fix while visiting New York,” she says.

--People around the country who are fostering or have adopted pets transported from Texas and Florida after last month’s hurricanes should have them screened for infectious diseases such as heartworm and leptospirosis that may be uncommon in their area. Even if they aren’t showing signs, those pets may be incubating infections and should be kept at home until they receive a clean bill of health.

--Smoke from wildfires can cause health problems in pets, especially birds. If you can see or smell smoke from fires, the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests protecting yourself and animals by keeping pets indoors except for brief potty outings, limiting outdoor activities and keeping windows closed. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.