Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Canine Flu

Photo by James Stagg

A few months ago there was a lot of talk about canine influenza in Chicago. It was a real concern for pet owners in that City and all dog owners reading about it felt compassion and concern. However, in 2015 did we really think it would stay in Chicago until it was eradicated or a vaccine appeared?
Canine Influenze was first seen in my home State of Massachusetts several years ago at Greyhound race tracks. It first appeared in dogs in 2004. It seemed to stay within that population of dogs. Upper respiratory diseases aren't uncommon in groups of dogs. Racing Greyhounds are in close proximity to each other and travel to most of the same race tracks. The cause of the virus at that time was an H3N8 subtype that probably migrated from an equine subtype. 
Photo by Linda Aronson

I remember concern about it and then the subject seemed to go away until the outbreak of Canine Influenza in Chicago, which was widely reported. There was an outbreak of H3N8 on the North Shore of Massachusetts in 2014 that seemed to be associated with dogs boarded in a specific kennel. There were other cases scattered throughout Massachusetts, but not many. They were isolated but the dogs had been exposed to other dogs in places where dogs were involved in canine activities. Dogs exposed to other dogs in close proximity would likely benefit from the vaccine for H3N8 along with kennel cough vaccine.

The virus in Chicago this year was different. It was H3N2. I wasn't surprised when I heard that this isolated case occurred in a dog who had traveled to Chicago.

In 2015 I can't imagine why we would think that a virus could be confined to one place. People travel with their dogs.  We're in the middle of Summer vacation time and many of us love to travel with our four-legged companions since they are family members. How could we think that disease wouldn't travel from one place to another?  It's not exactly a vacation souvenir that we want. 

Interestingly, the disease in the Central Midwest bears a strong resemblance to one in Southeast Asia, a canine flu associated with dogs in the Korean Meat trade.  It's hard for me to type those words.  There's talk of people being interested in adopting dogs from that area of Southeast Asia. The ramifications of that is something to carefully consider because we must protect the dogs who are here.
Photo by Gary Rohde

In 2009 the USDA approved the first influenza vaccine for dogs. It can reduce the severity of the flu and damage to the lungs but it's something you need to discuss with your veterinarian.  If you're planning to travel with your dog, now is a good time to have that conversation, before you and your dog leave on that trip.

There are, I believe, other canine influenza drugs in development. It's interesting to contemplate what they will come up with, if it will be something to cover upper respiratory diseases, or vaccines specifically for various specific variations.

If this new strain of Canine Influenza has appeared in my State, it can appear in yours, too. How much risk is there in taking your dog to the local dog park? That's a question for your veterinarian. 

This is not a disease that can spread from dogs to people. But it is airborne and can easily spread from dog to dog. I didn't write about this to frighten you but simply to give you a heads-up so you are aware of the possibilities.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How Rescued Senior Dogs Can Help

Dogs make life so much better.  For many people, they make life bearable. They are there during the darkest times, when the whole world seems to have gone away.

It doesn't matter which breed, or if the dog is of mixed heritage, dogs are who they are and they always seem to know exactly when we need them. And, of course, they need us as well, for a range of reasons.

Few people know this better than Vicky Neville. Vicky had had Bulldogs and loved them dearly but life wasn't always good for them. Her dogs had died, so she was dog less when Vicky was recovering from a divorce and the death of her sister and soulmate. It was all too much. Vicky was admitted into inpatient care for her chronic depression. 

While she was in recovery, Vicky heard about the Mr. Mo Project, a non-profit organization that finds loving homes for senior dogs. What a great idea!

On Easter Sunday, Mr. Mo Project founders, Chris and Mariesa Hughes, arrived at Vicky's house with Macy, a Senior Bull Dog. Vicky and Macy made an instant connection and before Vicky new it, her life began to change. She began to live again, laughing, gardening and rediscovering the parts of her day that made her truly happy. All of this with her new companion by her side. 

We know that shelter dogs need our love, and sometimes it's the unconditional love from a dog that can make all the difference to its owner.

Senior dogs are usually facing a death sentence in a shelter when they have so much more love to share and deserve a second chance. This is a win/win.

Thanks to Hoopla-Ha, please enjoy this video of Vicky and Macy and hear Vicky talk about what this wonderful Senior dog has done for her. You can see for yourself what Vicky has done for Macy, and how the program works.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Live Well & Prospurr

Darlene and Aimee

Before I got so involved in dogs and cats, and for a long time afterwards, I wrote countless celebrity profiles for a wide range of publications. One celebrity who caught my eye but I never interviewed, is Morris the Cat who came on the scene long before I started to write and before I was ever owned by a cat. Morris starred in more than 50 commercials for 9 Lives cat food. A real rags to riches story, Morris came from a shelter and found fame and fortune as the first celebrity cat. In 1988 he ran for President. Obviously a viable candidate if ever there was one, living the American Dream.

Morris the Cat

Morris has a new campaign that should appeal to every cat and the  people they own.  Live Well & Prospurr is Morris' guide to ways cats and owners can hang out together. There's a lot we can learn from our feline friends about relaxing, enjoying life and seizing the moment - or the nap. Aimee and I are big proponents of this concept so I thought I'd tell you about some of the ways we hang out together.

Aimee came to live with me when she was 3 1/2 years old. A retired show cat, she was quite accustomed to travel and during those first years we traveled together. I spoke at a conference, Aimee came along, I spoke at the Atheneum on Nantucket, Aimee took the Fast Ferry with me from Hyannis and watched TV in our room, relaxing on the bed, snacking. Guess which one of us got the Welcome Gift from the hotel? Hint: it wasn't me.

Aimee and I love to play with interactive toys. Games shared are much more fun! Those interactive toys come out when we're going to play together.

We enjoy watching TV together. Aimee jumps up on my lap and relax while I pet her or pick up her comb and comb her which she adores. She always arrives with kisses on my nose, on my lips, on my cheek, and soft purrs along with gentle headbutts.

Morris the Cat

Aimee is very good about helping me write. She's very good on the laptop and has discovered short cuts that she has yet to share with me. Could someone please tell me why, after she gets down, iTunes is always open? I've learned to shut off the sound so I can concentrate on the work at hand.

Aimee has never seen a nap that she didn't want to join.  She goes off for a Power Nap every afternoon. Frankly, I think she should give seminars in napping but she seems to be working towards having it declared an Olympic Sport. Between us, on rare occasion we nap together.

I'm not sure how she manages it but I often find her lying across my chest with her back paws in my right hand and my fingers automatically petting her tummy. She's a girl who always manages to get what she wants.

When not napping or snuggling with me, Aimee is the Spokes Cat for the Ovarian Cancer Symptom Awareness Organization.

Aimee and I love hanging out together. Everything is better when shared with a cat.

Morris the Cat
If you're looking for suggestions for hanging out, Morris has them for you. Just check out the new website he created (pretty good for someone who doesn't have opposable thumbs!).  Point your browser to:

You'll find other interesting things to explore while you're there.

How do you and your cat hang out?  Remember to Live Well & Prospurr!

NOTE:  I received no monetary compensation for this blog post. As a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and a layperson member of The American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians I'm happy to share this human-animal bond concept.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Humane Society of Utah's Clever Idea!

Sometimes it's hard to walk into a crowded shelter and make a connection with a dog when you want to adopt a new pet. Shelters are crowded, noisy, dogs are jumping, barking, and not much fun for dogs or people. The Humane Society of Utah decided to give each dog a chance to shine in front of the camera.

Each dog was given an opportunity to show his or her personality to staff photographer, Guinnever Shuster. 

Separating each dog from the others allowed their personalities to shine, captured on film. This gives potential adopters a chance to get to know the dogs by looking at their pictures before they meet them. Potential dog owners are now lined up to meet the dogs who have captured their fancy. Each dog now has a much better chance to find a forever home.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Algae, You and Your Pets

How often do you think about algae? If you're like me, you probably only think of it when you're at the beach, if at all. I really wasn't aware that primarily in Asia it is being studied as a source of natural energy and health. Nor did I know that it has been used for 50 years by Olympic Athletes. No, I don't know which ones. It has also allegedly been used by NASA astronauts. So, now you're wondering what that has to do with you and your pets. 

Frankly, I'm always in search of new sources of energy. Life moves at such a fast pace that meeting deadlines, keeping up with interview requests, speaking engagements, etc., is fun but if you're like I am, you really need energy to keep up with your busy life. Your pets do, too. Whether they're involved in a sport (did you know that cats do agility, too?) or just racing around the house or playing fetch in the yard, energy is important.

I was recently made aware of a fairly new (6 years old) company that's practically in my back yard. ENERGYbits® is based in Boston and they are putting algae to work for us and our pets. 

ENERGYbits are a performance fuel/food for runners, endurance racers and the rest of us who have busy lives. The small pills are made of 100% organic spiralina algae and are absorbed within 10 minutes. Believe it or not, they are loaded with 40 vitamins, including all the B vitamins, Omega-3 and "the highest concentration of protein in the world."  The company insists that they deliver a steady stream of mental focus and physical energy without sugar, caffeine, chemicals, soy, gluten, animal products or stomach distress. They can be used as a snack or meal replacement.

Well, frankly, I'd be hard-pressed to used them as a meal replacement for myself or for Aimee. 

The company sent samples of both their ENERGYbits® and RECOVERYbits®, the latter is made from 100% organic chorella algae, which has the highest concentration of chlorophyll and RNA/DNA in the world. It is supposed to build the immune system, prevent colds and speed recovery from athletics or injury. It also is supposed to remove toxins.
Photo © Gary Rohde

All of the bits are swallowed like supplements but they're not a supplement. Algae is a plant which is grown organically and dried into small tablets. While you and your family can consume them, so can your cats and dogs. 

The information accompanying the samples I received pointed out that it's better to swallow them although pets often like the taste.  I put it to the test. Aimee came up on my lap for a cuddle, as she does throughout the day. I opened a packet, offered her one and she sniffed it. Then she delicately took it from my hand, chewed it, swallowed it, seemed satisfied and went off to investigate the whereabouts of one of her toys.  I decided to see what would happen if I consumed it the way she did.  Trust me, the company is right. You want to swallow it unthawed, untasted.  

We haven't tested it long enough to know if we have increased energy or if our immune systems are improved. Winter in New England is a better test of the latter since most of us walk around with pneumonia thanks to the weather. 
Photo © Frank Incremona

I can tell you that these bits are pricey but what isn't these days.  I can also tell you that it passed my cat's taste test. 

If you're involved in dog sports (or cat agility) or have a particularly active pet, or one who can use an energy boost, you may want to give this a try. Dieticians have been quoted approvingly. If you have any hesitation, talk to your veterinarian. 

To learn more or to order some for yourself and your family, both two-legged and four-legged, point your browser to:

NOTE: I received no payment of any sort in return for this review. I received only samples of the two products so that I might test them. The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Fourth of July!

The Fourth of July, America's Independence Day, is cause for celebration but that celebration can lead to problems for dogs and cats. It's so important to keep them safe.

Picnics and barbecues are fun for the family but be careful of what sorts of food your pets eat. If friends and relatives are likely to feed them from the table, ask them in advance not to do that and keep you dog or cat in another room while food is being served. The last thing you want is a visit to the Emergency clinic with a sick pet.

The biggest problem of the holiday is the fireworks. If they sound loud to us, imagine how they must sound to dogs and cats whose hearing is so much more sensitive than ours!  If you're going to an outdoor fireworks display, please leave your pet safely at home. Being that close to the sound is even more frightening for sensitive ears and your pet is liable to bolt and run our of fear, no matter how well-mannered he is. To be sure that your pet is protected, he or she should be wearing a name tag as well as be microchipped. Don't forget to register the microchip. It does no good if a veterinarian or shelter reads the chip and can't find the owner. Do not leave pets outside. Keep them safely indoors!
Photo:  ThunderShirt

Even inside your home, the sound of fireworks from public displays in the area, or neighbors who insist upon setting off their own, is very upsetting to most dogs and cats. They often hide in the bathroom, behind the toilet if they can fit.  And they shake from fear.  Some are so afraid that they will bolt out of the house.

Do not be afraid to reassure your pet and try to distract him, although that's not always possible. You certainly should not yell at them. They're already frightened. There's never a need to yell. Being wrapped in something snug can make your dog or cat feel more secure.  I often recommend ThunderShirt, which is available for dogs and cats in a variety of sizes. It fits snugly and makes the pet feel secure, rather like a baby swaddled in a blanket. It provides gentle pressure. (It's also a nice solution for cats who are afraid to go to the veterinarian.)

Other such products include the AnxietyWrap and Storm Defender, the latter is a cape for dogs with a  special lining. 

If your pet exhibits more severe symptoms like excessive shaking, not eating, a lot of salivating or even incontinence, speak to your veterinarian about medication. You do not want to use Acepromazine, which will only make the pet sleepy but will not impact anxiety, in fact, they can come out of it even more fearful. Benedryl isn't a good idea, either. It may make your dog sleepy but he's still going to be upset and anxious. Better medications are available from your veterinarian to address the problem.

Photo: ThunderShirt
You can also try desensitizing your pet to the sound. Not just fireworks, but thunder as well if your pet has thunder phobia.  There are a number of places on the internet where you can find recordings of thunder or fireworks that you can play for your pet to slowly accustom him to the sound. 

The Fourth of July doesn't have to be a nightmare for your pet if you are prepared to help keep your pet calm.  Happy Independence Day!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Coach Pups? Yes!

I know what you're thinking: she's writing about Dalmatians. Good guess. Wrong. But a good guess. When I think of Coach Dogs I think of Dalmatians. They are eternally associated with coaches and fire trucks. Look again. I wrote Coach Pups because my attention was captured by a new advertising campaign being rolled out by Coach, Inc. the leading New York design house of modern luxury accessories and lifestyle collections.  The ones I drool over like a Newfoundland who is about to be fed.

Coach is going to the dogs in a pretty neat way for their Fall Collection. Their advertising will feature canine stars in a series of portraits photographed by Steven Meisel. We should all be so lucky.  The campaign celebrates the dogs in our lives and captures each one's unique personality as they model Coach's Fall 2015 star bags. Star bags?  Ask Coach, not me.  I'm more inclined to think the dog portraits are the real stars. 

Above is the very first portrait to kick off the campaign and the only pup to be revealed so far. The others will be announced "shortly."  (Your guess is as good as mine.)  The Coach Pup pictured, an utterly adorable French Bulldog, Miss Asia Kinney, is the little dog who owns Lady Gaga and has her own social media following. She models the Edie and the Rucksack bags in the campaign.

The campaign is art directed by Fabien Baron and styled by Karl Templer. I can assure you that no one has ever written a similar sentence about me. 

"I am so proud of Miss Asia," said Lady Gaga.  "She's a natural in front of the camera, and we're both so excited that the iconic Steven Meisel shot her for Coach's pup campaign! I really love getting to watch my best friend be a star!"

Stuart Vevers, who is Coach's Creative Director certainly enjoyed the experience, "I've never had so much fun on a shoot," he acknowledged. "The combination of Mr. Meisel and the pups was an extraordinary, surreal, special moment. We wanted to create playful images that make you smile. We were inspired by some images from the Coach archive, which featured Eddie - the dog that starred in the TV series, Frasier [Tell that to Kelsey Grammar!] - to create something joyful, with humor and character. That's a spirit that's uniquely at the heart of Coach."

Now for what I consider the "best" part: the new initiative will also introduce the social campaign #coachpups, including a range of online activities for fellow dog fanciers, opportunities for Instameets, special talks and other events hosted by the great and the good of the canine world. (These are Coach's words. I have not been made privy to who they might be. You know that I only advocate positive training and grassroots organizations.) This will also mark the debut of the Coach Snapchat account.

Here's something I can get behind: Coach has made a donation to Chicago French Bulldog Rescue ( on behalf of Miss Asia Kinney and Lady Gaga.

Coach was established in New York City in 1941.  You can find them at:

NOTE: I received no payment of any sort for this blog post.