Friday, October 17, 2014

Review: War Dogs by Rebecca Frankel



Those of us who know and love dogs are only too familiar with what dogs do for humans. They are more than companions; they help lower our blood pressure, assist the blind and disabled, work with the Police and with people with emotional issues. And then there are the dogs who go to war, military in every way.

Rebecca Frankel, Senior Editor, Special Projects at Foreign Policy has been writing a weekly column, appearing each Friday, called War Dog of The Week, which has led to her just-released book, War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love

Author Rebecca Frankel


It's not often that we see this sort of look at at these brave dogs from the mascots of the Civil War to Military Dogs on patrol from Vietnam to Iraq, as real members of the military. Only these dogs are not volunteers. Their lives are on the line just as much as any other member of the armed forces and many have lost their lives, others have been left behind like old, discarded military equipment instead of the living, breathing sentient beings that they are, forming tight bonds with their human partner and giving their all under orders.

These dogs have traditionally been trained using aversive methods which, of course, does not please me. That aside (and for me it's a huge effort to put that aside), these intelligent living, breathing sentient beings use all of their senses, bravery and intelligence, which is extraordinary. 

Combat Tracker Dog Lex - who loves
attention - enjoys some free time with
his handler, Marine Lance Corporal,
John Peeler. Photo by Rebecca Frankel
Within the pages of War Dogs you'll meet these courageous dogs and their handlers who form a working team with an extraordinary bond. Frankel brings them to us, chronicling their careers as only a savvy reporter on the ground can do.  It's impossible to single out just one story for attention because each is unique and every reader will find favorites among these brave warriors who, today, are even parachuting over targets with their partner, wearing special equipment. We got a hint of this when the story came out about Osama bin Laden's capture with a specially trained military dog an important member of the team.

While definitely non-fiction, it occasionally reads like fiction. You are not likely to forget the dogs and their partners who make up this military book.

Photographs show these special dogs throughout the years.

You won't regret the time spent with War Dogs which was released on October 14th. 

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Fehringer
guides  MWD (Military Working Dog)
Suk, across the obedience course at Cannon
Air Force Base, New Mexico on August 15, 2012.
Photo by Airman First Class Xavier Lockley

Published by Palgrave Macmillan, War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love is 242 pages, List price is $26.00 It is available wherever books are sold.  Here's a link for easy online purchase:   


Note: I was not compensated financially for this review.  I received only a bound galley of the book to read in oder to review it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

National Feral Cat Day - 2014

Photo Courtesy of Putsch Photography


This year, National Feral Cat Day falls on Thursday, October 16th Yes, that's today. Feral cats are unowned cats who live in colonies.  Cats are solitary hunters but are not loners, they like to live in a family grouping, even if that group, called a Clowder, is of their own making. Feral cats have lived among people for centuries.

Sadly, skewed numbers in a "study" have blamed feral cats for killing birds. Of course that's false information. How people who claim to love birds can hate cats is beyond comprehension. They're all living breathing sentient beings. While too many people find feral cats to be a nuisance, the best way to lessen their numbers is by Trap, Neuter, Return, commonly known as TNR. Each neutered or spayed cat is returned to the place where they have been living with a cut in their ear to show that they have been neutered.  They are given food and water by dedicated volunteers who also trap them humanely and transport them to be spayed or neutered.

Alley Cat Allies, founded in 1990, began National Feral Cat Day on their 10th Anniversary.  The date is always October 16th only the day changes from year to year.

For more information on National Feral Cat Day, here is my Q & A with Elizabeth Holtz, Staff Attorney for Alley Cat Allies.

Q.  How did you come up with this year's theme?

A.  Our Theme: TNR From the Alley to Main Street, captures the tremendous progression of TNR from something practiced privately by people who care for cats to the mainstream. Today over 430 local governments recognize or endorse TNR. It's practiced by animal control officers, city officials, citizens and animal shelters.

Photo Courtesy of Putsch Photography

Q.  How do you convince those who don't realize that TNR is the best option to choose for their city or town?

A.  I approach it logically by noting that TNR is currently the only effective is the only effective form of cat management that we have available. Cities have practiced trapping and killing (where feral cats are trapped, taken to a shelter, and euthanized) for decades with no positive impact on the cat population. It wastes taxpayer dollars and is cruel. When people realize that what they're currently doing is ineffective (yet costs money), they are happy to support TNR.




Q.  Is there a percentage of feral cats that are adopted into homes?

A.  No. The term "feral" refers to a cat's socialization level. Truly feral cats should not be tamed because they prefer living outdoors in their colonies. Today we use the term "community cats" to describe cats living outdoors, so they can have a range of socialization levels. Some people do adopt friendly community cats. But by far the best approach to community cats is TNR.

Q.  What are your goals for National Feral Cat Day?

A.  National Feral Cat Day is a celebration of the people on the front lines, caring for cats and advocating for humane laws in their community. It's a moment to recognize their hard work. Our goal is to build on the momentum and continue to spread the word.

Thanks to Elizabeth Holtz for this interview. You can find Alley Cat Allies online at:






Monday, October 13, 2014

Black Cats & Contest Winner!


Thank you to Layla Morgan Wilde - Cat Wisdom 101


It's October and thoughts are turning to Halloween. Well, they were turning to Halloween a lot earlier because the stores have had all sorts of Halloween paraphernalia on display for weeks. By the time most holidays arrive it's easy to get sick of them. 

Halloween holds some special cautions for pet owners. We don't want them getting sick from candy, getting frightened by children in costumes or having to wear a costume and go out with the kids Trick or Treating. Some dogs are fine with it, some are not. Most cats can think of a better way to spend the evening than having the doorbell ringing all evening. A lot of dogs feel that way, too.  If you're going to keep opening the door, be sure that your dogs and cats are put into another room with food water, a radio or TV on and some toys to keep them occupied for the few hours when you'll be opening the door. Be sure to do this if you are hosting a Halloween party in your home. Better safe than sorry.

One problem with Halloween is that people intent on doing harm to black cats, perhaps using them in some sort of ritual, will try to adopt them around that date. Shelters, by and large, will not adopt out black cats around that time.  It's a wise decision.

Thanks to Layla Morgan Wilde -
Cat Wisdom 101


What is not wise, however, is thinking black cats are bad luck.  It's a ridiculous old wives' tale and one that should have been put to rest centuries ago. Are you aware that in the U.K., among other countries, black cats are considered to be good luck?!  There are few things quite as beautiful as a sleek, black cat, shiny coat and eyes lovingly looking at you. 

It's beyond sad that black cats (and black dogs!) in the U.S. are overlooked for adoption. Love comes in all colors so why ignore a perfectly wonderful prospective family member because of color?

Please think about giving a black cat a new lease on life with a loving, safe home. She or he will return that love countless times over.

Here's a little Halloween fun from the adorable Havanese, Jasmine, her Mommy and some of their friends:



           
                                                 Thanks to CJ and Jasmine Jackson

 Now for the news you've been waiting for; the winner of last week's contest to win a copy of Really Important Stuff My Dog Has Taught Me by Cynthia L. Copeland, published by Workman Publishing.

The winner is:  Nancy Dionne.  

Please contact me via my website: www.darlenearden.com with your address so the nice people at Workman Publishing cat get the book right off to you!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review & Contest: Really Important Stuff My Dog Has Taught Me

Every once in awhile a wonderful gift book comes along and I'm inclined to think: Why didn't I write that? Well, this time it's because Cynthia L. Copeland wrote Really Important Stuff My Dog Has Taught Me, published by Workman Publishing.

Loaded with wonderful pictures and practical advice that's charmingly illustrated by the assortment of dogs gracing its pages, this book entertains, amuses and, for a gift book, makes a great deal of sense.


Cindy & Teddy @Colleen Krause
With her own adorable dog Teddy helping to serve as her muse, or perhaps by example, Copeland sets out to write a charming collection of thoughts. Not exactly the researched tome most of us reach for (or write), this book is just plain fun while giving some food for thought.

The photos, by a number of photographers listed at the end of the book in such minuscule type I thought I'd need a Guide Dog to read it, have captured dogs at their very best, from puppy eyes to joyous abandonment, to my personal favorite, an utterly adorable photo of a little Yorkshire Terrier, on his back virtually begging for a tummy rub. As a long-time Yorkie "mother," I kept going back to the picture and then discovered, to my utter delight, the photo is on the back cover.  If I have one wish it is that the photographers names were published on the same page as their photos. They deserve that very present credit.


©Rita Kochmarjova/fotolia

Looking at the dog shaking off water has to bring a smile, as does the Komondor at full run towards the camera, his locks flying as he speeds along at full tilt.  Photos also run to the serious. It's hard to look at the black and white photo of the Military Dogs and their handlers jumping out of a helicopter without remembering that they are full members of the military with a job to do, just like their human counterparts, except they don't volunteer for the job.

There's the dog with three legs, the old dog with his elderly human and so much more. It's a book to read and re-read. With the holidays coming, it would make a wonderful gift for the dog lovers in your life.

My Chartreux, Aimee, thinks she should write the Cat version if they decide to publish one. She believes cats have equal rights. I suspect I know whose help she would employ.


©Tim Kitchen/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Published by Workman Publishing in New York, this 170 page book retails for a modest $12.95 at brick and mortar bookstores and online:  http://tinyurl.com/ku2486k

Now for the really exciting news: Workman Publishing will send a copy of Really Important Stuff My Dog Has Taught Me by Cynthia L. Copeland to one lucky winner! If YOU would like to win that copy, post a comment here. The winner will be chosen by random. This is restricted to U.S. residents. Remember to check back on Monday to see if you are the winner!

NOTE:  I was not financially compensated for this review. I was only provided with a review copy of the book and .jpg photos to use in this blog. The contents of this blog are mine.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Are Your Pets Covered?

Darlene & The Amazing Aimee
Photo by Veronique Schejtman
When I ask if your pets are covered, I don't mean by blankets. I mean what happens to your pets if/when you die or are incapacitated?  Although we hate to think about it, it's inevitable. Any one of us could be hit by a bus, killed in a car accident, be felled by an incurable disease, or someday end up in a nursing home. What will happen to your beloved pets?
Photo Courtesy of Louise Holton
Alley Cat Rescue

Hardly a day goes by that I don't receive at least one e-mail asking if I can help re-home a cat or dog, often more than one, because he owner died or was taken to a nursing home. If there is family, they swoop in, take what material things they can and then either leave the pet(s) in the house or thrown out on the street. At most they will say they will take the pets to the shelter if someone won't take them. We know what that means. Often the pets are elderly and are euthanized. That's the pretty word. Let's be blunt: they're killed. Surely that is not what the owner wants for their beloved companion who was often the only one there providing love and comfort. No one thinks this will happen to their pets but it will unless you make provisions now if you haven't already done so.

Here are some simple steps you can take now, today, to ensure that your pets won't end up homeless, starving on the streets, or killed in a shelter.

1. Ask a trusted friend if s/he will look after your pet(s) in the event of your death. 

2. Go to a lawyer and make out your will. If you already have one, have your lawyer add a codicil naming the person who will take care of your pet(s). Do not name your pets because they may not be the one(s) you have when you die. Periodically ask the person if they still agree to do this or you will have to name someone else. And be sure to set aside money for each pet's care.
Photo courtesy of Mary Slaney

3. Make out a Pet Trust. This will allow the person who will take your pet(s) to have immediate access to your pet(s) and the money you are leaving for their care.

According to Louise A. Holton, President of Alley Cat Rescue in Maryland, "You should leave a Pet Trust as well as a Will. Leave a copy with friends and family and choose a good friend or family member to agree to take your cats [or dogs], with a donation of money to help them. A Pet Trust is available immediately upon your death and does not have to go through your estate. In a will it could take years for an animal to get any money,"

That's excellent advice. Only four States in the U.S. don't have a Pet Trust law as of 2012. Those States are Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota and Mississippi.  You'll have to check with your lawyer for a way in which to handle this if you live in one of those States.  Some States will allow the amount you leave to be reduced or redirected if it exceeds what the Court thinks it's in excess of the intended use.

If you don't want to use a lawyer, you can use a form on the website Legal Zoom to create a Pet Trust. It will cost about $50. to $80. to do it online.
Photo Courtesy of Gary Rohde

Holton has seen the results when this happens or if the caretaker of a cat colony dies. She and her organization's volunteers have had to go in and place the cats.  Louise Holton cares so much that she has written a brochure, Leave a Legacy of Love for members of Alley Cat Rescue.

Responsible cat and dog breeders state in their contract that if, for any reason, the person can't keep the cat or dog at anytime in that cat or dog's life, it is to be returned to the breeder. This is something many people don't consider when their relative dies without leaving a will and a Pet Trust.
Photo Courtesy of Louise Holton
You love your four-legged companion. Please do the right thing. Don't leave grieving friends and strangers to pick up the pieces, scrambling to find homes for your pets. Or worse: no one does anything and they either starve to death, are hit by a car, attacked by wildlife or nasty humans, or are killed in a shelter.  We each have a responsibility for our four-legged companions and that includes who will care for them when we no longer can.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Budweiser Does it Again - This Time With a Dog

If you know me, you know that I don't drink, nor do I particularly like drunks. I have no problem with  social drinking and used to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner before it began triggering migraines.  Red wine, white wine, champagne, it make no difference.

One thing I don't think any of us should tolerate is a drunk driver. To that extent, Budweiser, the beer company known for its wonderful holiday commercials featuring their gorgeous Clydesdale horses never fail to tug at the heartstrings. Their ad agency hits the target every single time and many of us who have never even tasted beer eagerly await their commercials.

Budweiser has recently launched a campaign against drunk driving. It stands to reason that they want to keep their customers alive.  This ad, like their others, truly tugs at the heartstrings but just when you're reaching for a tissue, it continues.  Rather than give away the entire "story," here is the video. 


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What Cat Owners Need to Know

Photo of Alana by Claire Clayton


Cats are thought to be mysterious creatures. Are they?  No, they're actually social animals who love to be around people and need more attention than many owners give them. 

Cats like to make the first approach. If you ignore them, they will come to  you. They often curl up with their owners or another pet in the house when they want to sleep. They walk on your newspaper or book when you're trying to read, not to drive you crazy but because they are seeking your attention. Your cat loves you!  

Photo of Aimee by Darlene Arden


Your cat will follow you around, wanting to be where you are.  Hopefully, you've already discovered this. But as good as they are about being private, this can work against them when they're sick. They are masters at masking illness. Optimum would be having a feline practitioner who doesn't just know cats but has the extra knowledge that can make a real difference when it comes to a sick kitty.  While all veterinarians treat cats, not every one of them has gone the extra mile to learn even more about cats.  Some feline cat practitioners also treat other species.  I find this particularly helpful with a Toy or small dog because they know how to moderate their touch for a smaller animal.

The American Association for Feline Practitioners has a wonderful website, including a page of things that cat owners need to know.  Point your browser to:


There is always more to lear about taking care of your feline companion. You can also search for a feline practitioner in your area.

If you'll pardon my immodesty, I've crammed a lot of information about taking care of your cat in
The Complete Cat's Meow.  You can find it at your local bookstore or at Amazon for quick, easy ordering:   http://tinyurl.com/mmq628k