DEAR DR. FOX: There is at least one coyote in our suburban neighborhood, and we blame it for our cat disappearing from our property. What can we do? We worry about our small dog being out there. -- H.M.T., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR H.M.T.: First, never let any companion animal outdoors unsupervised, just like with a child.
The coyote, the "singing dog" of the Southwest -- though it has spread across most of the United States -- is a messenger of life out of balance. Some wildlife biologists interpret this message as a result of the endless war against coyote-competing and controlling wolves and cougars. Once prevalent across America, these animals are being killed by hunters and trappers, and the last of their habitats have been destroyed (by logging, mining, etc.) as state and federal agencies ignore the pleas of wildlife and habitat protectors, sound science and bioethics. Now coyotes are being persecuted as well.
I support efforts to "re-wild" public lands and wilderness areas devoid of wolves and cougars by managed, protective reintroduction, and I deplore the sale of permits to kill these endangered species by trappers and "sporting" trophy hunters. Ecologically illiterate deer and other "game" hunters see these predators as competitors to be exterminated rather than protected and respected as the best managers of wild habitat and deer herd health.
It is absurd that the livestock industry continues to receive public tax dollar-supported "predator control" -- shooting, trapping, snaring and poisoning -- rather than using non-lethal deterrents, such as guard dogs. And ranchers enjoy subsidized grazing rights on public lands that rightfully belong to these indigenous species. The indigenous Native American Indians share a similar history of displacement and extermination, with genocide and ecocide being coins of the same currency of the dominant culture.
For more details, see William Stolzenburg's book "The Heart of a Lion," and visit willstolzenburg.com. Biologicaldiversity.org and coyoteproject.org support those who care about our national wildlife heritage and justice for all.
DEAR DR. FOX: We have an 8-year-old rescued cockapoo-type dog, who we've had for six years. All of a sudden, he's decided to play games when it's time to eat. We have to sit and hand-feed him little bits of his dry food at a time; eventually he starts eating out of the bowl. What is going on with this dog? He's a sweet, wonderful dog, but why is he playing this game? -- J.H., Fairfax, Virginia
DEAR J.H.: Is your dog really playing a game, or has he trained you to hand-feed him? Some companion animals are clever trainers of their human caregivers. However, there could be a physical reason for this behavior, such as poor appetite because of nausea associated with kidney disease or pain from a dental issue.
When was your dog's last full wellness examination? He needs a clean bill of health before concluding this is a new game or ritual. Consider the brand and quality of dog food you are providing; he may do better on a moist, canned dog food or the home-prepared diet posted on my website.
DEAR DR. FOX: I think we've found the problem: We changed dog food, and with less coaching, he ate it all up. I guess he knows what's best for him. We were feeding him buffalo, and we switched to lamb. We usually switch around so he gets a variety of tastes. Thanks for your help. -- J.H., Fairfax, Virginia
NEW BOOK: "India's Animals: Helping the Sacred and the Suffering" by Deanna L. Krantz and Dr. Michael W. Fox.
This richly illustrated book details the trials and tribulations of setting up an animal shelter and free veterinary services in the heart of a unique wildlife region in South India, the UNESCO-designated Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve.
Deanna Krantz founded and directed India Project for Animals and Nature (IPAN) to indirectly help the indigenous village and tribal peoples by improving the health and well-being of their farmed animals and of the dogs and cats in these communities. Against local and national opposition, disinformation and death threats, Krantz investigated and documented the long-distance "death march" of cattle to slaughter, wildlife poaching, land encroachment and the tragic plight of elephants.
Putting compassion into action and seeking justice for all, she became the voice for animals' rights and for the indigenous peoples who cared but were silenced by the authorities. This book shatters the myth that animals regarded as "sacred," especially cows and elephants, are treated humanely, and paves the way for greater transparency and progress in addressing the tragic plight of the animals and all who depend upon them, and the fate of the last of the wild.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)