Blogs > Pets Unleashed

Those who love their pets tend to enjoy all animals. Our animal owners are no different. Check in on News-Herald staffers Robin Palmer and Cheryl Sadler as they share their own animal tales and announce upcoming events in Lake and Geauga counties.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Goodbye to my best friend

I thought I was ready. I really did.

That is, until it came time to actually do it.

My dog of 14 years, Otis, was a wonderful pet, more than any owner could ever ask for. At 14, however, his days were numbered after a recent visit to the vet revealed a sickness.

My wife Julie and I knew it was now only a matter of weeks, days. Then on Tuesday morning, it was time.

To read more of News-Herald Sports Editor Mark Podolski's post, click here.

Tinker Bell found with credit to pet psychic

It only took a couple days, but I'm sure it felt like a lifetime for Dorothy and Lavern Utley of Rochester, Michigan.

The Chihuahua lost in 70-mph gust winds has been located, according to one of our sister papers, The Oakland Press.

Read more here.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Things worth adding about Portuguese water dogs

Bo looks like he'd give good hugs.

But is his behavior huggable?

Would a Portuguese water dog be compatible with your lifestyle?

Just because something works for Sen. Ted Kennedy and the first family doesn't mean it will work for you, after all.

Read more here.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Fast facts about cats

From "The Illustrated Cat's Life" by Warren Eckstein and Fay Eckstein:

Do cats dream?

This is still one of the great unanswered questions.

Most owners have long had sneaking suspicions about feline sleeptime imagery as they watch paws that twitch, legs that run and whiskers which flutter wildly.

But scientists are only now confirming that the odds that cats do really dream are indeed quite good.

Some recent studies seem to indicate that cats enter into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the type of sleep during which, in humans, dreams generally take place.

-- Robin Palmer

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tinker Bell lost in near-tornado-strength winds in Michigan

Today one of our sister papers, The Oakland Press of southeastern Michigan, reported a storm Sunday with winds that nearly reached tornado strength.

It added:
In addition to property damage, a Rochester Hills family was searching for their 3-pound Chihuahua, Tinker Bell, which was lifted up and blown away by the winds on Saturday afternoon.(Tinker Bell is pictured above care of The Oakland Press.)
Click here to read more.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Learn more about pet massage through D'Anne, SELREC

Licensed massotherapist Sherrie D'Anne, who taught the pet massage course at Lakeland's Free College Day, has scheduled another learning opportunity.

A two-part pet massage class through the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Recreation Department will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. the following Wednesdays: April 29 and May 13.

D'Anne said the first session is a lecture, no pets permitted, while the second session is only for attendees of the first session and welcomes pet- and people-friendly pets with current vaccinations and/or titres.

Cost per session is $24 for residents of South Euclid, Lyndhurst and University Heights, and $29 for non-residents. Space is limited.

SELREC's online brochure describes the sessions as follows:
Pet Massage I
Learn the basic skills necessary to give your pet a massage that will not only relax him/her but can relieve pain and control behavior problems. It can also help with arthritis, hip dysplasia and many other health challenges. Bring a notebook but NO PETS to this class. This class is for beginners and therapists alike and will include a certificate of completion with attendance to both Pet Massage I and II. #5072-0 Brush High School D103.

Pet Massage II
Bring your dog or people friendly pet on a leash or in a carrier and a blanket or pad for you and your pet to be more comfortable on the floor. We’ll expand on your knowledge with work in gait analysis, body language, myofacial release, pressure point therapy and more. Certificate of completion for beginners and therapist alike will be issued for completion of both Pet Massage I & II. #5082-0 SE-L Board of Ed Bldg. Gym.
To get more information or register, call SELREC at 216-691-2246.

Also this week Cuyahoga Community College employees can enroll in D'Anne'sPet Massage & You class being offered at all four campuses. For more information call 800-954-8742.

Read more about the benefits of pet massage in my first blog about D'Anne.

Here's to more relaxed pets -- and owners.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

This weekend: Lake Humane Society Microchip Clinic

I'm pleased to report another organization is publicly embracing a helpful tool used to reunite lost pets with their owners.

Lake Humane Society will hold its first-ever Microchip Clinic from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 3, and Sunday, May 17, at its facility, 7564 Tyler Blvd., Mentor.

For $25 per animal, a trained member of the organization will implant a permanent 24-Hour Pet Watch Microchip between the shoulder blades under the pet's skin.

The procedure is almost painless, like a vaccination, according to 24PetWatch, which staffs the recovery service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "Most animals do not react when the microchip is implanted," it claims.

Lake Humane Society calculates a third of all pets will be lost in their lifetime, and some will be trapped by city or area trappers without their owners' knowledge. Animals brought to the organization are immediately scanned for microchips to ensure a speedy reunion if its family can be identified.

"Remember, collars and tags are easy to lose but microchips are permanent," Lake Humane Society adds. For more information call Lake Humane Society at 440-951-6122.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

This weekend: Geauga County Dog Shelter Adopt-a-Thon

The Geauga County Dog Shelter's 2009 Adopt-a-Thon will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the shelter, 12513 Merritt Road, off Route 44, just south of the Geauga County Safety Center.

The event will feature refreshments, a yard sale, doggy boutique, bake sale for humans and dogs, a silent auction and a raffle.

Dog washes will be available for $10, nail trims for $5, and on Sunday microchipping for $25. Raffle tickets are available at the shelter or through volunteers.

Funds raised will go toward medical expenses and training for the more than 700 dogs which come into the shelter each year.

Since 2003, the Geauga County Dog Shelter has reunited or found adoptive homes for 97 percent of the dogs coming through the door. For more information call the shelter at 440-286-8135.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A word from Wickliffe

Just got word that Dr. William Mandel, owner of Mandel Veterinary Hospital in Cleveland Heights, has expanded his practice back to Wickliffe Animal Hospital -- which, it should be noted, treats exotics, offers natural treatments and works with holistic practitioners.

Originally established in 1995 as "Mandel Veterinary Hospital," Wickliffe Animal Hospital was Mandel's first practice. He sold the practice in 2001 to help develop an all-exotic practice in Huntington Beach, California. But under the ownership of another veterinarian the Wickliffe practice closed two years ago.

Mandel recently worked out an arrangement with the property's owner allowing him to return with associate Dr. Kristen West. "I am so excited to be back in my old place," he said in a news release. He'll now split his time between Cleveland Heights and Wickliffe.

Wickliffe Animal Hospital, 30550 Euclid Ave., is open six days a week. Call 440-516-0000 to schedule an appointment in Wickliffe. For more information, visit

Welcome back to town, Dr. Mandel.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Pet Pause

This week's videos total 3 minutes 3 seconds. Make sure to watch the fourth one down, among my long-time favorites. Gets me every time.

Cat who likes to watch the toilet flush (0:12)

Boston terrier kickboxing with cat (0:29)

Silly hamster (0:29)

Dog bites own leg (0:48)

Feeding my dog peanut butter (1:05)

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Garage sale benefits cats

One of the signs spring has sprung?

Garage sales!

From 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 14, 15 and 16, a garage sale will be held at 4935 Willoughcroft Road in Willoughby.

All proceeds from this sale will benefit the 230 cats that call Caroline's Kids Pet Rescue Sanctuary in Concord Township their home.

The money will go toward spay and neuter procedures, food and litter, and medical expenses.

The garage sale will feature small furniture, new gift items, and collectible dolls among the items.

For more information on the sale, call Ann or Jenny at 440-942-4758.

-- Robin Palmer

Dogs could use food

There are some hungry mouths to feed at the Geauga County Dog Shelter.

The shelter has a big need for dog food, both dry and canned.

You can drop off the food from 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays; 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

The shelter is at 12513 Merritt Road in Claridon Township.

For more information, call the shelter at 440-286-8135.

-- Robin Palmer

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fast facts about cats

From "Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Cat Lovers Companion"

Whiskers direct hunting cats to a successful pounce.

In one experiment, a blindfolded cat was placed in an enclosure with a live mouse.

When the cat's whiskers touched the mouse, the cat grabbed his prey and delivered the killing bite in one-tenth of a second.

-- Robin Palmer

Monday, April 20, 2009

Equine vets to be commended for doing all they could

Twenty-one polo horses died suddenly in Wellington, Fla., this weekend at a championship event, apparently of heart failure caused by a toxin in their feed, vitamins or supplements, veterinarians told the AP.

The horses were all part of the Venezuelan-owned team Lechuza Caracas, and fell ill shortly before a Sunday tournament match in the U.S. Open Polo Championship, the AP reported.

International Polo Club President John Wash called the deaths "devastating" and "heartbreaking, to see that many horses get sick all at once." But this has been labeled an isolated incident, and the games will resume Wednesday.

I'm not familiar with the everyday treatment of polo horses. In regards to other equine sports my feelings are hopelessly mixed on the Kentucky Derby -- an awesome event, but don't even get me started on Eight Belles. One of these days I'll also blog about donkeyball, recently featured in the New York Times, which for all intents and purposes may not even be mentionable in the same breath. My research is pending.

What I do know, though, is that Sunday's polo veterinarians snapped to action with intravenous lines, fans and water hoping to rescue the ill -- which for most vets is a passion. The loss of these horses is tremendously sad, but my thoughts now are with those who struggled to care for the animals and ultimately found themselves unable to save even one life.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

EPA advisory on flea treatments offers weak advice

For how huge this is, I don't know why it's not getting better buzz.

Turns out a recent rush of complaints about spot-on flea prevention medications causing rashes, seizures and even death in pets have triggered an advisory by the Environmental Protection Agency.

I want any guidance available to keep my pets safe and comfortable, so I read the advisory with great interest. Unfortunately it's only this: a kind of dry, kind of useless post essentially encouraging me to follow the directions on the box. (Poytner Online recently compiled a little more background here.)

The EPA and Health Canada will meet with spot-on product manufacturers "shortly" to address the issue, it says. Veterinarians to report new incidents on another Web site.

But...but...but...should we avoid these products or not? With the arrival of warmer weather, I guess we should all just hope for no fleas first and foremost.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hi, I'm Sandy, and this is my first support group

Fear almost kept me from my first support group.

I like meeting people, listening and sharing a lot. But a selfish part of me worried that too many heavy pet stories would make my night depressing.

"Oh, that'll be saaadddd," people kept warning me. Plus I still sometimes cry over Sky, the dynamic gray rabbit I lost in February. Was this really what I needed? Could a pet loss support group possibly make it worse?

One quote from my preview story resonated in my head: "It's a loss that sometimes only the people in that room understand."

And so my eagerness to pay tribute to Sky, mixed with the potential to help someone else, conquered my nerves and brought me to Animal Hospital Inc. in Willoughby Hills last night.

I found myself in the basement drinking coffee to the sound of dogs staying overnight in a back room. About 6:30 p.m. I sat down in a folding chair that united me and 10 other people in a circle. Most looked somber, and a couple clutched photo albums. Unsure of the protocol, I forced my eyes to the floor and waited for the meeting to begin.

Animal Hospital's Kelli Sue Kerwin and Dawn Gotliebowski gently laid out the rules: be respectful, don't interrupt, and what is said in the room stays in the room. Kelli suggested we tell our stories one by one. Glancing around the circle, I saw faces just as unsure as mine.

Then it began.

Some losses were just a couple days old, others months. One guest held a funeral today. Another couldn't speak right away, but found her voice to comfort someone else. Another has an old pet and "anticipatory grief." I related to every story, if only for the emotion and fears associated with pet ownership.

By the time my turn came I'd had a lot of time to think about Sky. She was so special, so beautiful, I thought. I have to do her justice.

When I opened my mouth, though, "I'm Sandy and I'm a rabbit owner" came out. Before I knew it I had taken the group back nine years to my first two bunnies: Alani, who lasted only a week, and Sherbert, who I still have today.

I cycled through receiving Sky as a gift and the loss of my third rabbit, Ivy. I talked about how my rabbits lived outside and inside, describing their living conditions at great length.

The group laughed as I continued about how spoiled and destructive they were inside, living under my bed and gnawing at carpet, wiring and woodwork. I lost all my security deposits, I said, and they laughed. And Sherbert still can't stand me - it must be some kind of cruel joke he's the rabbit who's outlasted them all.

As a pet owner it's easy to get carried away, I think, and especially as a storyteller and a writer. There are so many favorite stories about our pets. I'd already heard about so many wonderful things from other people in the circle: sleeping habits, McDonald's burgers, costumes and quirks. Then suddenly I realized that despite all my talking, I'd still not given the group any idea who Sky really was.

I tried to tell them. She loved chewing paper, making nests out of the carpet, eating and playing. She loved me, too. And when she died - I said, finally finding my emotions - a light turned off in my life.

"I have pictures, and I would love to see all of yours," I finished. We all whipped out our photos and started explaining the scene, answering questions and suggesting coping methods we'd used ourselves. Many of the pictures being passed around showed more than one animal - the other either a survivor or another loss meriting another story.

The coming of 8 o'clock surprised me. We'd gotten lost in our sense of belonging. It seemed a success. I considered returning next month to hear more touching stories.

Of course since my loss I've always come up short with words. I've created an online photo album to compensate. My sole regret last night was that words had failed me again. I might never be able to share her story as well as I can feel it.

Perhaps her life is better kept as a feeling in my heart, a memory preserved by never having the words to finish it.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

For upcoming pet loss support group dates, visit the official Web site for Animal Hospital Inc.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Friday Pet Pause

This week's offering may look a little lengthy (5 minutes 52 seconds total), but you needn't spend too long with "Cat in a Sack" if cats aren't your thing.

Monkey Messes With Dog (0:08)

Dog Destroys Burrito (0:13)

My bird fetching (0:32)

Puppy vs. Mirror (0:48)

One Dog Show (1:00)

Cat in a Sack (3:11)

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Looking for a home

A bladder stone almost proved fatal for Romeo, a 5-year-old Seal Point Himalayan available for adoption at Western Reserve Humane Society.

That's because his owners didn't want to undertake the expense of surgery so they surrendered him to a veterinarian for euthanasia.

Luckily for Romeo, a Western Reserve Humane Society volunteer intervened.

Romeo had a successful surgery and is now looking for a home.

The neutered male is very sweet, shelter officials said.

For more information on Romeo, call 216-531-1512 or 216-691-9011.

-- Robin Palmer

Hike for Hounds

Greyhound Adoption of Ohio will host the “Hike for Hounds” all-breed pledge dog walk May 3 at Redwing Picnic Area in Hinckley.

The event will raise funds for the rescue and support of retired racing greyhounds.

Prizes will be awarded for high pledges, and everyone raising more than $50 will receive a goodie bag.

Registration begins at 11 a.m. and the walk follows at 11:30.

Cost is $10 in advance or $15 the day of the event. Cost includes lunch.

For more information, call 800-269-1148 or 440-543-6256, or log on to

-- Robin Palmer

Pet adoption drive set for Wednesday at Lakeland

Imagine making in three hours what you'd ordinarily make in a month.

Now imagine the same kind of success for the Lake Humane Society and its pet adoptions.

It happened a couple years ago, when two dogs, two cats and one rabbit found new homes during a pet adoption drive at Lakeland Community College, according to Mario Petitti, director of student activities.

A second free and open-to-the-public drive will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wed., April 22. Lakeland is at 7700 Clocktower Drive in Kirtland.

"They are planning on blocking off a corner of the Student Center, in the atrium right outside of Breakers cafeteria, to allow students, faculty, staff and community members to play with the animals and set up an adoption if everything works out," Petitti said.

Potential pet owners must be 18 years or older and carry a state ID. Organizers encourage them to bring their own pet carriers. Cash, credit card or check will be accepted.

Lakeland makes no money from the event, coordinated by its student government. The following fees go toward maintain the Lake Humane Society:
Kittens 6 months and younger, $95
Cats 6 months to 6 years, $65
Cats 6 years and older, $50
Puppies 6 months and younger, $110
Dogs 6 months to 6 years, $70
Dogs 6 years and older, $50
Rabbits, $30
Students will do a good thing by giving this important organization visibility. I hope the people who stop by will have a little more room in their hearts to give.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Update: Cleveland Hts. "couple" wins national photo contest

Early this month I posted about Hugo and Sadie, a local pair of pooches who were caught sleeping in one of the finalist entries to Pledge's "Show Off Your Shedder" photo contest.

Turns out the two won First Prize -- second only to a big white dog and a orange tiger cat chillin' out, the Grand Prize (and $5,000) winners.

Jessica Davis of Cleveland Heights snapped the shot of Beagle mix Hugo and Jack Russell terrier mix Sadie dozing on her quilt.

See the winning pair and read more about the contest here.

Congratulations, Jennifer, and enjoy your year's supply of the new Pledge Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Free animal massage class Saturday at Lakeland

Licensed massotherapist Sherrie D'Anne does human massage in Auburn Township and teaches animal massage through Lakeland Community College's continuing education program.

When she's not doing those things, she travels to homes, barns, shows and stables and does dog massage out of Dogs and Suds in Chester Township.

All the while five very lucky pets wait for her to come home: her "demo dog" Maggie the bloodhound mix, two black cats and two mini lop rabbits.

"I mostly do horses and dogs, but I do some kitties and bunnies, too," she says cheerfully.

Such is the life of the woman who will teach animal massage Saturday at Lakeland's Free College Day -- a day of free, not-for-credit courses designed to showcase the school's campus and offerings.

Sherrie's course runs from 9 to 9:45 a.m. It is described as follows: "A licensed massotherapist who specializes in animal massage will teach how the power of touch influences your relationship with your four-legged companion. Please do not bring in pet."

Massage may not be for everyone or every pet, she says. "But with proper training and care, most animals can be led to accept the therapeutic touch. It all boils down to who's going to take the time and have the patience to do this. It's very much on the animal's terms, on their time."

Such touch improves circulation, boosts immunity, maintains homeostasis, keeps joints and muscles flexible and eases mental and physical fatigue, among other benefits. More importantly, though, it strengthens the human-animal bond, she says.

While pets are welcome in her continuing education class, she reiterates that they aren't invited to Saturday's event; "demo dog" Maggie will provide the visuals.

Classes are open seating, so space is limited. This class got packed last year, Sherrie said.

Free College Day also offers 53 non-pet-related free course options, and a free lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For more information call Lakeland at 800-589-8520, read The News-Herald's preview story or see Lakeland's online flyer.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Presidential Dogs 101: Yesterday, Today and Joe Biden's Tomorrow

Cable news bombarded me with Bo this morning. He may as well have had his front paws up on my work clothes.

And the fanfare over his White House lawn debut continued into the evening, when I learned the first family's newest edition arrived in their lives housebroken and neutered. (No fair.)

But the story of the day, at least for me, was one less played -- about Vice President Joe Biden's German Shepherd, the breeder who received death threats over his purchase, and Biden's plan to make his next dog a shelter or pound animal.

If this presidential dog story is your thing, here are some links to learn more (and I clearly couldn't have been more bipartisan in these selections if I'd tried):

Chaos erupts as Obama's dog Bo arrives at White House (The Christian Science Monitor)

Biden Second Puppy Coming From Pound (The Huffington Post)

Biden puppy haunts breeder (CNN)

George Washington: President, General and Dog Breeder (Psychology Today)

American Presidents' Dogs (

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Fast facts about cats

From Marty Becker's book "Meow Wow":

Most cats have five toes on their front paws, but only four of them hit the ground.

The fifth toe is called a dewclaw; it is found on the inside of the front paw.

The dewclaw is the equivalent of our thumb, and it's used for grasping prey and climbing trees.

A normal feline back paw, by the way, has four toes that are all called into service when walking.

Any number of toes over the norm (usually an extra one or two, but occasionally as many as three or four) makes a cat polydactyl, which means "many fingers."

Polydactylism is a dominant genetic trait, which means just one polydactyl parent is enough to make a litter of polydactyl kittens.

-- Robin Palmer

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bo arrives to mixed national reactions

Once again, the White House residence is home to a dog -- a Portuguese water dog, to be specific.

And despite what thought was a guarantee, 6-month-old Bo IS NOT a shelter animal, according to reports.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who advocated for the breed all along, facilitated the Obamas' union with Texas breeders Art and Martha Stern, owners of Amigo Portuguese Water Dogs in Boyd.

Kennedy even bought one of Bo's littermates, Cappy, according to the American Kennel Club.

The AKC officially congratulated the first family on its addition, but have expressed sadness and disappointment.

"This is truly a missed opportunity to set a pet-adoption trend among Americans," Executive Director Abbie Moore said in a statement. "If Obama had adopted a pet from a shelter, it could have been the turning point for the pet-overpopulation problem in this country. With pet relinquishment up 20 to 30 percent due to the poor economy, pets in shelters can use all the help they can get."

In the same statement, also announced an upcoming "Social Petworking" campaign, allowing Americans to send links for adoptable pets to friends and family, and use sharing tools to post information about the pets on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Initially I felt the Obamas' decision justified. I sympathize with animal shelters, but didn't think the Obama daughters, ages 10 and 7, should be forced to choose a new companion based on a political statement. Not everything needs to be political in their lives, does it? Plus Kennedy is a family friend.

But now I've had a change of heart. I don't begrudge the dog or the family, but this was a missed opportunity to empower Malia and Sasha, to let them experience the national impact of their actions and see what could have been an awesome upswing in shelter adoptions.

Today I'm thinking about what a difference the other decision would have made -- and wondering why the Obamas didn't embrace their role-model status as a teaching moment.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Obama sources: Portuguese water dog it is!

He's not in the White House yet, but the vote is official: a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog is expected to arrive Tuesday for President Barack Obama's daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha, according to the Washington Post.

The dog, which they plan to name Bo, is a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy, proud Portuguese water dog owner himself. His arrival will come as no surprise -- after all, this was a campaign promise.

Read more on ABC News.

No word yet on whether the dog is from a shelter, although news sources haven't said anything to that effect.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Friday, April 10, 2009

Adopt-a-Pet decides first dog -- even if Obamas haven't

The people at are so certain the Obamas will adopt their new dog from a shelter, they've hired the artist who made the iconic HOPE poster to make a poster confirming the new adoption.

See those tiny words on the dog's collar? They say "License No. 04-11-09". (Why tomorrow's date? Do these people know more than the rest of us?)

"The only thing needed for (artist Shepard) Fairey to finalize the image is the presidential pooch adoption date, which will go on the dog's tag, making the print a distinctive piece of pet adoption history," claims.

It adds that date will be "a historic moment for shelter animals everywhere."

We shall see.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Honda makes car rides even more awesome

It had to happen. Dogs love going for rides too much.

Starting this fall Honda Motor Co. is making its Element sport utility vehicle with dog-friendly features, the company announced mid-week.

Think a cushioned pet bed; pet restraint systems; folding load-in ramp; ventilation fan; spill-resistant water bowl; and Dog Friendly™ exterior emblems so that everybody on the road will know your vehicle is strong enough for a man but made for a dog.

The Dog Friendly™ Element made its public debut at the 2009 New York Auto Show. Learn more by visiting Honda's Element Web site.

Honda's Element is assembled in East Liberty, Ohio.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Source for pet loss support group story offers own insight

Today I'm working on a story for Sunday's paper about a local pet loss support group.

The monthly meetings are designed to provide some insight into loss and mourning.

The next one will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at Animal Hospital Inc., 2735 S.O.M. Center Road, Willoughby Hills. Participants are encouraged to tell their stories and bring pictures of their pets. To reserve a seat, call 440-946-2800.

To give my article a more human angle I called former participant Gene McAfee, who lost his cat Jonah (pictured above) in February, to learn how that month's meeting affected him.

We spoke for an hour Wednesday night. He told Jonah's story, and I reflected on my own experience with Sky. Guess we "pet people" are like that.

I can't fit most of what he said into the paper. But of the quotes that have fallen to the cutting room floor, I'm posting a few of my favorites here. Not only did Gene speak passionately and eloquently -- possibly a result of his work as the pastor of Faith United Church of Christ in Richmond Heights -- but our conversation seemed a great precursor to the meeting. These touching insights ring true for most pet lovers, I think.
"The first time we went down (to the Animal Rescue League in Boston) nothing happened. The second time I went down it was in mid-December, I was looking at the cats, and I looked in the cage and there was this gray tiger cat curled up. He lifted up his head when I poked in the cage, and I said could I hold him. So I picked him up -- he seemed to be very socialized -- and put him up on my shoulder sort of like you would burp a baby, and he began to nurse on my ear and that was it. It was love at first sight. ... He did it until just a couple days before he died. I would pick him up and he'd just go right to my earlobe."

"His name was Melody. I thought, 'A male cat named Melody, now this is a little odd.' When I brought Jonah home my black cat, whose name is Nick, was curled up on my bed. Jonah started creeping around, checking things out. ... Poor Jonah got backed into the dining room. It took Nick about two weeks, and then one day I came home and there was this ball curled up on my bed and half of it was black and half of it was gray."

"Let’s face it, nobody loves your pets the way you do because they don’t spend the time with them the way you spend time with them — they don't know their idiosyncrasies, what upsets their stomachs. Often times you’re the one who thinks they’re beautiful and you’re the one who takes most of the pictures."

"He loved to be outside, and often times when he went outside if he wasn’t ready to come in it didn’t make any difference how much I called him. Sometimes I had to go to work and he wasn’t ready yet, and that’s when I would say little prayers: ‘Please, God, don’t let today be the day I see him in the street.’ And usually when I’d come out of the car that was when Jonah would come out of his spot and come to the back gate meowing irritatedly, like, ‘Where have you been?’ We’d have this little routine. ‘OK, you ready to come in?’ This little step-to. But he was completely forgiving."

"One of the decisions I made years ago was I would not have my cats declawed. I could either have fine furniture or have my cats with their claws, and I had my cats with their claws. When you make the decision to get pets, you should not then try to act as though you don’t have a pet. It’s one of those things you have to decide, how much of the animal’s personality am I going to respect?"

"The love that people have for their pets is the purest form there is, because unlike children it’s really very hard for people to create pets in their own image. You respect the rabbit for what it is, and you love the rabbit precisely because of its rabbitness, just as I love my cat not because I thought he was a little person but because he was a cat. And I think in that sense, I think there is much less ego involved than there is in parenting."
I hope you'll check out Sunday's paper for the preview story, featuring more from Gene and better information about the support group.

Going through a pet loss? Think about attending. I plan to go and blog about my experience Friday, April 17.

At least for me, I know that talking about it helps.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Friday Pet Pause

Case of the Fridays? Take a 4-minute, 10-second break.

That Moose Is Gonna Get You, Bo (0:26)

Rabbit Massage (0:37)

Husky Dog Talking - "I love you" (0:48)

Naughty Cat (0:52)

Treadmill Kittens (1:27)

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Overboard dog comes home

Associated Press

SYDNEY — A pet dog swept off a sailboat in choppy seas off Australia was found alive four months later on a remote island — and returned to her family, who’d thought she was dead.

The 4-year-old blue heeler, named Sophie Tucker, was captured by rangers last week on St. Bees Island in northern Queensland state, nearly 6 miles (10 kilometers) from where she was washed off the sailboat in November, owner Jan Griffith said.
Rangers initially thought they’d captured a wild dog, but friends who heard about the canine contacted Griffith and suggested it might be Sophie.

Griffith and her husband met the rangers’ boat as it arrived back on the mainland last Tuesday and were shocked to find their long-lost pet on board.
“We called the dog and she started whimpering and banging the cage and they let her out and she just about flattened us,” Griffith said Monday. “She wriggled around like a mad thing.”

The dog had been spotted by several people on both St. Bees and nearby Keswick Island, leading Griffith to believe she swam back and forth between the two, which are separated by a narrow channel.

Queensland wildlife official Steve Fisher told Monday’s Daily Mercury newspaper that three rangers trapped Sophie in a cage, using dog food as bait.

“The day Sophie was trapped she was nervous because she’d been separated from human contact,” Fisher said. “But after a while she settled down.”

Sophie appeared to have survived by eating goats, as rangers found several baby goat carcasses around the island, Griffith said.

This week, the plucky pup was back to her usual diet of ground meat and dog biscuits.

Say no to Easter bunnies -- unless you're serious

They tell us to keep blogs short, so as not to lose the reader's interest. But to anyone thinking about buying a bunny this Easter, I've got something to say and I'm taking all the space I need to say it.


Every year at this time I get an uneasy feeling when I see the plastic tank extra full of adorable bunnies at the pet store. It's as if they pick the smallest, cutest ones to put out. Sometimes they even have the gall to advertise them as seasonal gifts, with messages like "Great for Easter!" written on cards and taped right to the plastic.

I'm a nine-year rabbit owner, and I love the rabbits I've raised (pictured above). But I bought them completely unprepared for the responsibility they require.

I beg you: Please don't impulse buy rabbits for Easter.
• The fluffy handfuls you see in the store will become shedding, scratching, chewing armfuls in no time. "But they're awfully cute" and "because I love them" will become your mantra for explaining why you put up with their mess.

• Rabbits offer affections in subtle ways, unlike dogs and cats that enjoy being cuddled and carried. It's easy to lose interest, especially for children, unless you understand their language.

• Pet store bunnies are kept in small enclosures, on a bed of cedar chips, nibbling on a bowl of plain pellets. But they'll need more than that in their permanent home. They'll need a spacious cage and room that's completely rabbit-proof to exercise, or a suitable outdoor hutch -- and don't even get me started on replacing frozen water bottles during the winter.

• A rabbit needs nutritious food and a constant stream of timothy hay and greens. Males will need to be neutered to stop spraying, and females will need to be spayed to avoid cancer. A rabbit will need your diligence in cleaning its cage, and if you don't have time to play, a solitary rabbit will also need a playmate. Requiring more cleaning, more hay, more $$$. You get the picture.

• Rabbits are considered "exotics," believe it or not, and vets for exotics are more expensive.

• Also, rabbits can live much longer than you think. My 7 1/2-year-old Sky just passed this winter, and Sherbert will turn 9 in June. He doesn't even like me that much, so my job is essentially thankless ... but that's another blog altogether.
And you don't have to take my word for it. Visit the Interactive Bun, care of the House Rabbit Society's Make Mine Chocolate! campaign.

Only with this understanding do I recommend getting a rabbit this Easter. And in that case, please don't support the tireless pet store bunny trade.

Adopt a shelter rabbit. Didn't know shelters had rabbits? Neither did I until a few years ago. Thankfully one adoption Web site is working to increase awareness.

Just last week, which already has an extensive database of more than 100,000 dogs and cats available for adoption nationwide, finally expanded its database to include rabbits, horses, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, farm-type animals and other small pets.

The site lists Dos, a friendly black rabbit at the Ashtabula County Humane Society (440-969-6100,

From a quick call to the Lake Humane Society I've learned that Penelope, a black and white rabbit, is also waiting for a home (440-951-6122,

I miss Sky endlessly, but I won't miss being a rabbit owner after Sherbert goes. To care for them properly is expensive and time-consuming -- a real labor of love. Anyone still considering a pet store bunny, please e-mail me and allow me one more swing at talking you out of it.

Otherwise consider Dos or Penelope, who may not see next Easter without some help.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fast facts about cats

From Gwen Bailey's book "What is my cat thinking?":

Cats have been known to travel many miles to get back to their familiar territory if their owners move and let them out of the new house too soon.

Also, cats have traveled vast distances to their owner's new home after being left behind.

No one knows how they knew which direction to take or how they knew where their owners lived.

-- Robin Palmer

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Update on Tomlin's pet project

Back in February I blogged about Lily Tomlin's campaign to send two lonely, emotionally disturbed zoo elephants to sanctuaries.

As of March 31, one isn't alone anymore.

CBS 11 News in Dallas reports that Gypsy, a 27-year-old female and former movie star, has arrived at the Dallas Zoo -- also the home of 32-year-old Jenny, though the two haven't met yet.

Jenny's previous playmate, KeKe, passed away last May. Two more additions are also expected to the zoo before its new 10-acre Giants of the Savanna opens next April.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Friday, April 3, 2009

Finalist canines live in Cleveland Hts.

A finalist in the Pledge "Show Off Your Shedder" photo contest pictures two cuddling dogs from Cleveland Heights.

Contest entries had to feature a moment only tolerated because a pet is being cute -- stealing a sock, chewing a shoe, shedding hair everywhere. (My rabbits would chew through cords and destroy carpeting, but that's a different story.)

Ten finalists were chosen based on theme, innovation, creativity, inspiration and originality. In Finalist #8, our local entry, Beagle mix Hugo and Jack Russell terrier mix Sadie claimed their spot by sleeping on Jessica Davis' bed.

"Hugo and Sadie love to have their bellies scratched and often take naps together on the bed," Jessica told Pledge. "Hugo, who is 1 year old, likes to wrestle with Sadie, but Sadie is the queen of the dog park."

Cast your vote for Hugo and Sadie here.

The grand prize winner, who will get $5,000 cash, and two runners-up will be announced in the coming weeks. All three will also receive a year's supply of the new Pledge Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

New weekly feature: Friday Pet Pause

As sure as changing weather leads to sniffles and coughs in the office, Fridays tend to cause two-hour minutes.

Allow me to make your last eight hours before freedom a little easier, offer a pet blogger's elixir, per say.

First prepare an alternate reason why you're smiling, because you will. Then take the following 9 minutes 23 seconds in small doses:

Sneezing Baby Panda (0:16)

Dramatic Cat (0:21)

Bizkit the Sleep-Walking Dog (0:23)

Ugly Bat Boy (1:39)

Mother of the Year (2:38)

Frostie Shakes His Tail Feather (2:42)

The Animal Odd Couple (2:44)

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Charlie needs your help

Caroline's Kids Pet Rescue has added a new resident, one that will probably make the Concord Township shelter his forever home.

Charlie, a 10-year-old FIV positive cat, came to the shelter on March 19 with severe injuries to his four legs and feet. He was found in Leroy Township after wandering into a garage.

He could hardly stand or walk because he had deep puncture wounds, possibly bites, to his legs and feet.

Judie Brown, founder of the shelter, said the cat was in horrible shape, and how he came to be this way only Charlie knows.

Brown says that Charlie must have had a miserable life and lost most of his ear, probably to frostbite while trying to survive.

Since he will probably never be adopted, donations are being sought for Charlie's care.

If you can help Charlie or any of the 230 cats at the shelter, send a check to Caroline's Kids Pet Rescue, P.O. Box 24068, Mayfield Heights, OH 44124. Donations are tax-deductible to the 501(c)(3) charity.

-- Robin Palmer

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month

Did anyone even know March was National Dog Food Nutrition Month?

Of course it was also Red Cross Month, Reading Month and a slew of others.

Here's hoping the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals works harder to promote April as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month.

So far 17 buildings nationwide will be illuminated orange Tuesday to increase awareness. I'm sorry to report none so far in Ohio -- no ASPCA grassroots events, either.

For those of us observing the month from home, the ASPCA has started a Go Orange Photo Contest (despite the fact that some believe dressing animals in clothing to be its own form of cruelty).

The Public Animal Welfare Society of Ohio encourages Cleveland-area residents to report the following signs of pet abuse or neglect to the Animal Protective League's cruelty hotline at 216-377-1630 or their local police departments:
• Embedded collars
• Open wounds, signs of multiple healed wounds or ongoing injury
• Emaciation
• Flea, tick or other infestations
• Heavy discharge from eyes or nose
• Inadequate food or water
• Outside in inclement weather without adequate shelter
Anyone thinking these might be excusable, take note: What you're seeing may be a disregard for life, not just animals. A recent study by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence found 85.4 percent of women and 63 percent of children reported incidents of pet abuse after arriving at domestic violence shelters.

I personally urge teachers to "go orange" in your classrooms. The ASPCA provides some fun and creative ideas here and here. Kids eat this stuff up, and it's never too early to teach compassion.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Taking a bite out of stalkers

Paula Abdul says the darnedest things.

The 46-year-old late-'80s-pop-star-turned-American-Idol-judge was recently asked to offer some advice to Shawn Johnson, the 17-year-old gymnastic-Olympic-gold-medalist-turned-Dancing-With-The-Stars-contestant whose stalker was charged last week.

Abdul's own stalker, who she said followed her 17 years, overdosed on prescription drugs in front of the singer's home in November 2008.

Her filmed response was released by TMZ:
"She should, um, have people look it up, or -- the police and security and family. She's with her family, so that's good. I was with my chihuahuas."
Perhaps Abdul should also offer some advice to avoid pet-related fall injuries. Though she wasn't among the nearly 90,000 Americans annually sent to the ER with such injuries, she sustained a broken nose, broken toe and bruised torso while trying not to step on her "little chubby Tulip" in May 2007.

The chihuahua wasn't hurt.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,