Universal Press Syndicate
With all the pets I've had in my life, you'd think I'd have seen just about everything. And for the most part, that's true. But there's one thing I haven't dealt with because I've been both careful and lucky.
I've never had a pet go missing for good.
I've come close a couple of times. A few years back, I was staying at my brother's house, while buying one home and selling another, when my smallest dog slipped through a gap in the fence. Fortunately, he immediately latched on to some nearby children who took him home and called the number on his ID tag.
More recently, I lost my parrot, but that too ended happily. As with most successful recoveries of lost pets, it was the things I'd done before Eddie got out that brought him back home again. The reason I'm not parrotless today is because Eddie's wings were clipped to keep him from flying away and because we had a relationship of trust that extended beyond my front door.
Here is what you need to know if your pet bird takes wing:
-- Prepare for possible loss. Have your bird microchipped. Keep his wings clipped to prevent him from flying away, and make sure everyone in the family knows to keep doors and unscreened windows closed. In Eddie's case, I'd forgotten he was sitting loose on a playstand rather than in his cage. When I walked out the front door to get groceries out of the car, I didn't see him walk out behind me and didn't realize he was missing until after I'd put away the groceries.
-- Don't waste time. The longer your bird is out, the smaller the chance of recovery. Immediately start searching nearby. If you have some game you play that would elicit a response from your bird, start playing. In Eddie's case, he responded immediately to my whistles because it's a game we play all the time in the house.
-- Lure your bird with favorite treats. Eddie had scrambled 10 feet up into a nearby bay tree. His favorite treats didn't work on him -- probably because he'd just had a big breakfast -- but that might work with another bird or even with Eddie another time. Because birds are more likely to eat at dawn and dusk, even a bird who's not immediately interested in treats may come into a familiar cage at feeding time.
-- Use the hose, cautiously. Because being sprayed from the hose is frightening and may injure the bird, don't go for this technique first. But it can be successful. In fact, a good soaking is finally what brought Eddie down after all else failed and I was looking at him spending the night outside. He was so angry at the soaking that he was anxious to bite me, so I wrapped him in a towel for the safety of us both.
Had I not been able to collect Eddie relatively promptly, I would have put up fliers around the area and at the local bird shop, pet-supply stores, veterinarians' offices (especially avian veterinarians) and pet shelters. And I would have taken out both print and online classified ads, all offering a reward for his return.
-- More important than anything -- keep up the search. Many birds are found days, weeks and months after they're lost, but they're found by people who don't know just who is looking for the pet. If you don't keep putting the word out, your bird may be lost for good, even if found.
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.
On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dogmobiles," and a weekly drawing for free pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting PetConnection.com.
Too many dogs for one walk?
Q: How many dogs are too many for one person to handle in public? I see people walking multiple dogs in my neighborhood, and they don't have good control over any of them. We also have people who turn multiple dogs loose in our off-leash dog park and then don't pay attention to what the dogs are doing. These dogs seem to me to be more likely to get into fights.
Can you suggest a sensible limit on dogs? I think if you have two hands, you should take two dogs, no more. What do you think? -- A.O., via e-mail
A: How many dogs can be handled on-leash and how many turned loose together in an off-leash dog park are two different questions.
Let's take the on-leash one first. A large, strong person with good dog sense and well-mannered pets could handle several dogs on-leash at once, while someone who is outweighed by an ill-mannered animal is hard-pressed to control even one. When walking dogs on-leash, people need to be realistic about their strength and reflexes, their knowledge of canine body language and their dog's level of training. If someone's overmatched, he or she needs a trainer's help with leash manners and needs to walk no more than a single dog at once.
The off-leash dog park, however, is an entirely different matter. Owners with multiple dogs, no matter how well-mannered their pets are, simply cannot stay on top of what all their dogs are doing once the animals fan out. Everyone who takes a pet into an off-leash dog park needs to be responsible for the behavior of that animal, watching to be sure the dog is neither bully nor victim and that no one gets hurt. The dog park is not for catching up on one's reading or visiting with other people. It is for safely exercising and socializing a dog. One dog is hard enough to monitor properly; more than two would be nearly impossible.
Further, dogs who live together are more likely to gang up on those animals who aren't in their "pack." Dog packs have a different dynamic than individual dogs, and having a regular pack frequent the park could be a dangerous situation indeed.
To operate safely, dog parks need good basic rules, an active community to police through peer pressure and plenty of common sense. While all you can do with a person who's walking too many dogs on-leash is stay out of the way, you can work to put common sense rules in place at the off-leash park not to limit the number of dogs, but rather to ban inattentive behavior on the part of the owners. If that fails, it may be necessary to set an arbitrary limit as to how many dogs a single person could have in an off-leash area at one time. -- Gina Spadafori
Q: We saw a dog fall or jump out of a pickup truck on the highway. We couldn't stop, but I cannot imagine that the animal survived. Could you please tell people to put their dogs inside the truck's cab if they love them? -- T.M., via e-mail
A: Allowing a dog to ride without restraints in the back of a truck is never safe, which is why it's illegal in some states. Dogs who must ride in the back of a truck are best transported in airline shipping crates, properly secured to the truck bed.
A crate will keep the animal from jumping or being thrown from the truck and will provide some protection from the elements. While I'd personally rather see a dog secured inside a vehicle, a strapped-down crate in a truck bed isn't a bad alternative. -- Gina Spadafori
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.)
Making portable watering easy
We go everywhere with Quixote, our 3-year-old, 13-pound papillon/poodle/Yorkie cross. And while we typically have him dressed up in some sort of outfit (his inner wolf is embarrassed), our primary concern is his comfort and safety.
We struggle with finding ways to give him fresh water while on the move without hassle or mess. Faced with the problem of keeping Quixote hydrated, I was delighted to find a new way to give him fresh water on the go with the Hydro-Go Portable Pet Canteen from Veterinary Ventures, the makers of the popular Drinkwell pet fountains.
The Hydro-Go canteen and bowl combination allows for the simple, no-mess delivery of fresh water as needed. The product holds a quart of water, and the opening is large enough to add ice cubes to keep everything cool. It's also designed so the bowl and canteen work together to form a funnel, allowing any leftover water to be poured back into the canteen.
A wide, adjustable strap makes it easy to take the Hydro-Go along, and the design and materials make it a cinch to clean. Suggested retail price is $20 from pet-supply stores, catalog or online merchants. More information will soon be available at www.petfountain.com. -- Dr. Marty Becker
ON THE WEB
Promoting rabbits of sugar, not fur
The approach of spring means Easter is soon at hand. This holiday has long been marked as a time when baby rabbits show up in pet stores, advertised as the perfect holiday gift for children. (Baby chicks and ducklings, many dyed in Easter egg colors, are a fad that has thankfully been fading in recent years.)
The problem is that rabbits are long-lived (up to a decade or more), difficult for small children to handle and have more care requirements than most parents realize. They are not the easiest pets to keep healthy and happy, and that means many Easter bunnies will soon end up at the shelters, where prospects for adoption are grim.
The Columbus, Ohio, chapter of the House Rabbit Society has a playful campaign that's working to change people's perceptions of what too often are throw-away pets. The Make Mine Chocolate! Web site (http://makeminechocolate.org) offers pins, postcards, fliers and more to spread the word. You'll find even more information on proper rabbit care on the site of the national House Rabbit Society (www.rabbit.org). -- Gina Spadafori
Cargo space lack hurts promising Edge
The Ford Edge was one vehicle I was really looking forward to driving. It's sharp-looking, decently priced (starting at $26,000) and offers moderately good fuel economy (17/24 mpg for the AWD model, and a tick better for rear-wheel drive). Such so-called "crossover utility vehicles" have great promise as dogmobiles, since they are more nimble than SUVs but still designed to be versatile with cargo.
The Ford Edge had all the comfort and sharp handling of the best of the crossovers, but there's not enough "utility" in the vehicle to give it a nod as a top dogmobile.
I continue to be frustrated with the way interior cargo space usability is sacrificed for exterior design. The round edges of the Edge and the downward slope of the vehicle's rear rendered much of the interior cargo space unusable. Rounded and sloped edges are attractive, but everything you want to put in a vehicle -- dog crates, boxes, suitcases -- is square.
And then there's the Edge's hard-to-lift rear tailgate.
I'm not exactly a 90-pound weakling, but I'm not a bodybuilder, either. To put it in perspective, I can lift a 30-pound bag of cat litter or put a retriever on a raised table for grooming.
But I could not lift the tailgate of the Ford Edge with one hand. The latch is in the middle of the rear door, which is wider at the bottom than at the top. Much of the weight is below the ill-positioned handle, which you touch from underneath to unlatch and then pull up and out to lift the tailgate. I had to put down what I was holding and use both arms, and it still wasn't easy.
In the end, the Edge gets top grades for comfort, performance and styling, but I can't give it much for dog-friendly utility. If you want a vehicle for your two-legged family and for occasionally taking gear or a pet to the vet, you'll be happy with an Edge. But as a dogmobile, it's a disappointment. -- Gina Spadafori
BY THE NUMBERS
Does taking surveys make my cat look fat?
According to a 2004 survey of pet owners, cat lovers agree that neuter is neater. But when it comes to figuring out a cat's proper weight, their reports don't jibe with the higher obesity rates that veterinarians claim. The percentage of cats their owners say are (multiple answers allowed):
Spayed or neutered 86 percent
Overweight 14 percent
Put on diet 10 percent
Taken to groomer 4 percent
Source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association
ON GOOD BEHAVIOR
Know the signs of fearful dog
Dogs can become afraid just as we do, but they express fear in different ways. A fearful dog may cower, hide, drool or tremble. Wide pupils are another sign of a dog in fear.
The cause of such behavior may be genetic, it may be because of improper socialization as a puppy, or it may be in response to a frightening episode in an animal's life.
We do know that the canine brain is so similar to the human brain that the same medications are used for treating fear and helping with behavior modification. Since fearful dogs are not happy and may in fact bite, it's important to get a referral to a veterinarian skilled in working with behavior problems. The combination of proper medication and behavior modification can make a scared dog's life a happy one.
(Animal behavior experts Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp are the authors of "On Good Behavior." For more information, visit their Web site at AnimalBehavior.net.)
Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting PetConnection.com.
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