Tag Archive for: Fall 2020

Dear FETCH Friends,

Where do I even begin…
Talk about a crazy year, and it’s not even over yet.

Fall’s theme is “Worldly Dogs” to highlight some of the greatness dogs around the world have accomplished. This not only makes me think of how great dogs are, but also what I would like to accomplish with dogs.

Have you given any thought lately to all the things you still wish to accomplish in your life? I feel like this fall is really a time for serious reflection. I believe things happen for a reason and that God plays a role in all of this. But a virus…what is the good in that?

Since this year began I have found myself trying very hard to pay more attention to the things that I am grateful for and less to the things that I am still not satisfied with. It’s so hard!

And this is the difference between us humans and our dogs right—the mentality that “Nothing is ever good enough,” versus the “Pet me please. I just love you the way you are.” These dogs are so innocent and amazing. The things they can do are signs to me that God is always present. Their uncanny intelligence, their playful nature and their endless display of unconditional love. Why can’t we be more like dogs? I’d give up my thumbs if it meant more love and less crises for everyone.

Here’s to a healthy and harmonious fall,



Let’s Test Your Knowledge!

1. Can a dog infected with heartworm
give it to another dog in the same household?

2. Should you treat your pet with
heartworm prevention all year?

3. Can humans get heartworm?

4. When should heartworm prevention start?

Read on to find out more!

Heartworm or “Dirofilaria immitis” is parasitic worms that are transmitted by mosquitoes to certain mammals and cause severe disease. Adult heartworms are very long worms (females up to 12 inches and males up to 6 inches long) that live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of the mammals they infect. Common mammals that can become infected include dogs, cats, wolves, coyotes, ferrets and foxes. There are several rare cases of human infections. Heartworm disease can be found on almost every continent in the world. This truly makes it an international problem. Where there are mosquitos, there are heartworms!

Transmission: The only way for heartworm to be transmitted is through a mosquito. An infected animal has immature worms, microfilaria, in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites the animal, it sucks up the microfilaria in the blood. Once in the mosquito, the microfilaria develop over a few weeks, and when the mosquito bites the next animal, the worms infect that animal. Over the next six months, the worms in the newly-infected animal will mature into adult worms and settle in the heart and lungs. These adult worms will produce more immature worms, and the cycle will continue. The adult worms can live for several years in the host leading to years of increased spread of infection.

Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Disease: Canines are the preferred host for heartworms, and unfortunately that means the greatest amount of damage can occur in these animals. Heartworms thrive in dogs and reproduce at high numbers. Dogs can have hundreds of heartworms living in them at one time! Thus, the damage that these worms can do to the heart and lungs can quickly become irreversible and cause lifelong problems. The worms cause inflammation, scarring and obstructive problems and lead to pulmonary hypertension and congestive heart failure.

Clinical signs: Clinical signs can vary depending on how severe the worm burden is. Commonly, the first signs noticed are a cough and exercise intolerance. Signs then progress to coughing up blood, lethargy, difficulty breathing, ascites (fluid in the abdomen) secondary to heart failure and then caval syndrome. Caval syndrome occurs when the amount of heartworms is so numerous that normal blood flow cannot occur in the heart. This leads to a series of problems including anemia, liver and kidney failure and potential death.

Testing: A simple blood test can be performed that detects antigens to adult female worms. This test can be performed in any dog older than seven months as it takes the worms six months to become adults.

Treatment: If a dog is positive for heartworm disease, more testing will likely be warranted to see how severely the dog is infected. Dogs that are severely infected will need to be stabilized prior to treating the heartworms themselves. Treatment then consists of a series of injections, antibiotics and commonly steroids. Treatment is not only painful and expensive but has risks as well. During the course of treatment, which is typically over several months, dogs have to be strictly exercise restricted. Exercise can lead to the heart and lungs working harder, which can cause the worms to act as emboli, thus stopping blood flow to organs, causing organ failure and potentially sudden death.

Prognosis: Dogs that have low worm burdens or minor symptoms typically have a good prognosis with treatment. Dogs with large worm burdens can also successfully be treated but may have more complications and are more at risk for unsuccessful recovery.

Heartworm Disease in Cats

Disease: Cats are not the primary host of heartworms, and thus the disease process is very different. Heartworms are much less likely to make it to the adult stage in cats. While fewer adult worms means less disease, it also means many cats that are infected with heartworms will not show up positive on tests. The immature worms can still cause significant lung disease and, unfortunately, cats are more likely than dogs to die from a heartworm infection.

Clinical signs: Cats infected with heartworms will commonly cough, have respiratory changes, lethargy, weight loss and decreased appetite. However, if a cat has an adult worm and that worm dies, the body’s reaction to that worm can cause respiratory distress, shock or sudden death.

Testing: Testing for heartworm disease in cats is more challenging as the commonly-used antigen test is only positive with adult worms, and cats will often only be infected with immature worms. An antibody test would come back positive with immature worms but is much less commonly performed unless clinical signs are present.

Treatment: Unfortunately, the medication used to treat dogs for heartworm disease is not safe for cats. Treatment is generally supportive care and can include hospitalization and sometimes surgical removal of the adult worms, if possible. This is why heartworm prevention is so very important.

Prognosis: Cats with heartworm disease can survive with treatment, but prognosis varies depending on the severity of disease at the time of treatment.

Prevention: PREVENTION IS KEY! The good news is that heartworm disease is completely preventable! Heartworm preventative is recommended year-round as it only takes one bite from one mosquito to infect your dog or cat. There are many forms of heartworm prevention at this time such as topical treatments, chewable pills and injectable medication. These products do have to be prescribed by a veterinarian as there is currently no “holistic” or “natural” heartworm preventative. An added benefit of many of the heartworm preventative medications is that they will kill other parasites such as fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites. These preventatives are generally safe and inexpensive in comparison to the cost and severity of disease your pet could have if they become infected with heartworms.


Most people, when they think of veterinarians, think of a doctor who works in a clinic or makes house calls to take care of small companion animals, horses and livestock. But there are many different ways to be a veterinarian.

As a profession, veterinary medicine had its earliest beginnings in the care of horses. These days in the United States and many other developed nations, veterinarians work in animal shelters, farms, racetracks, laboratories, meatpacking facilities and military bases caring for all kinds of species. With advanced training there are dozens of specializations and certifications that veterinarians can achieve, such as surgery, internal medicine, emergency/critical care, dermatology, cardiology, rehabilitation, oncology and so on. A single pet in the US can have a whole team of veterinarians to care for its every need. But it is clear that not every country can afford, for example, kidney transplant capabilities for companion animals. What do veterinarians do there?

Consider Cambodia. It is considered a “least-developed country” by the United Nations, and one could hardly blame the people of Cambodia if they chose to focus their resources on human needs instead of those of animals. But it turns out that in Southeast Asia as well as in the United States, human needs and animal needs go hand in hand.

The Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh has a Department of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine. Rather than emphasizing care for individual animals, they work to develop livestock and feed sources that can thrive in Cambodia’s climate and provide extension services to help farmers take better care of their animals. Along with university-trained veterinarians, Cambodia has 12,000 village animal health workers who are trained to vaccinate livestock, deal with common animal diseases and teach good animal husbandry to the farmers. In a country where 80 percent of the labor force works in agriculture, recognizing the interconnection between people and animals is critically important. For a smallholder farmer, the loss of a single animal can be financially devastating, so a veterinarian or animal health care worker who prevents that loss is protecting the family food supply. This is no small matter in a country where 21 percent of the households cannot afford a nutritious diet.

The connection between human and animal health is most striking in the area of rabies control. Cambodia is regarded as a high-risk country when it comes to rabies exposure. Cambodians own more dogs per human than any other country, and most of them have not been vaccinated against rabies. Bites to humans are unfortunately frequent. There is no coordinated rabies surveillance in Cambodia, so true prevalence is impossible to judge. Fewer than 5 percent of the people who are bitten by dogs there receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP–the treatment that prevents the development of rabies in a human that has been bitten). This is partly because even though medical care is subsidized by the government, traveling to an urban center to receive PEP costs more than a month’s wage for the average rural Cambodian. Without PEP, a bite from a rabid dog inevitably leads to a gruesome death. Official estimates of 800 deaths per year in Cambodia are likely to be low.

The most efficient way to keep humans from dying of rabies is to control rabies in the canine population, thus greatly reducing the need for PEP. In the developed world, canine vaccination programs have nearly eradicated rabies as a disease in humans. In Cambodia and other areas of need, veterinarians are working hard to vaccinate dogs, thus saving human lives as they do so.

Approximately 3,400 miles away from the moist forests of Cambodia, some of the desert nations that border the Persian Gulf have much less trouble from rabies, but veterinarians are still important. Falconry, which is a rare and highly-regulated hobby in the United States, is a more common pastime in the Arab world with the fierce birds living as family pets, as hunting companions, as status symbols, as racing competitors and as an emotional connection to the region’s ancient Bedouin culture. Although the Persian Gulf area is considered “developing” in terms of industrialization, it is a world leader when it comes to the medical care of falcons.

There are no less than a dozen veterinary hospitals in the Gulf States that cater to falcons and their owners. The largest one, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital in the United Arab Emirates, is a public institution and sees around 11,000 falcons a year. The veterinarians and their staff tend injured and ill birds, provide wellness care, replace damaged feathers, perform prepurchase exams and attach high-tech tracking devices. The reason for the latter becomes clear when you realize that while a starter kestrel can be had for a few hundred dollars, the most valuable gyrfalcons and peregrine falcons can sell for over $100,000.

Most falcon hospitals remain devoted exclusively to the care of these magnificent birds, but veterinarians continue to adapt to changing times. In 2007, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital moved to accommodate the more Western tastes of some local citizens when they opened a new Pet Care Center… to treat dogs and cats.

drawing of girl with dog


Hi friends! If you’re like me, you love to play! I mean, who doesn’t love to play, right? Today we’re going to talk about whether, or not, we should include our pets in our play time, and if so, what are the best ways to play with them.

When we went to our vet clinic for Bella’s puppy vaccines, our vet Dr. Lacy wanted us to understand very clearly that “Animals are not toys!” At first, when she said that, I thought to myself, “Of course pets aren’t toys—what a silly idea,” but just a day later when I was setting up a tea party for my dolls, my sister and myself, I thought… “Hmmm, I wonder if Bella would like to have tea with us?” The image of Bella sitting at our little table with a bib around her neck and wearing a cute little hat popped into my head, but then I remembered that it wasn’t right to force Bella to take part in our tea party. So I pushed that thought out of my head.

So how should we interact with pets, and what things should we avoid? My mom says that it is pretty much common sense since dogs and other pets are “thinking, feeling, living things” just like us, so if there’s something “we” don’t like, then “our pets” won’t like it either. Also, there are a lot of things people do that animals don’t understand, and this can be scary for them. We need to remember that when dogs (or other animals) are scared, they can bite. I know it is tempting to look at our little puppy or cat and think they would look so cute wearing doll clothes. But my mom explained to me that this type of interaction could be very scary to the animal. She suggested that I pretend one of my stuffed dogs is Bella and include it in my tea party and other play. That was a great idea.

Irritations for both you and your pet:

• I don’t like people bothering me when I’m trying to sleep, and I get startled when someone pokes or touches me when I’m sleeping.

• I don’t like when someone touches my food or tries to pull something I have away from me like a cookie or a toy.
• I really don’t like when people get right in my face or if they make loud noises right near me.

• I don’t like when kids tease me.

Animals have likes and dislikes just like us, and we need to respect how they feel. Have you ever had someone force you to do something you didn’t want to do? One time my cousin made me hide in the spooky basement during hide and seek, and that made me feel scared and frustrated that I couldn’t hide where I wanted to hide. I don’t ever want to make Bella feel frustrated or scared. I want her to trust me, so we can be best friends.

So what kind of play is okay to do with dogs? With adult supervision and assistance, fetch and hide and seek are great games for kids to play with dogs such as having the adult take the ball from the dog and letting the child throw the ball for the dog. Including the child on the walks with the dog are great, too, as well as helping to teach the dog tricks. All these activities are things dogs understand and enjoy.

Just remember that your dog thinks like a dog and likes “doggie” things. With lots of rules in place and your parents watching over all your interactions with you and your dog, you can form a trusting relationship with your dog.

Summary for parents:

• At younger and younger ages, kids are being taught about the concepts of consent, personal boundaries and saying No to unwanted touch. We need to extend these concepts to our pets. For more information, see the “New York Times” article below.
• Adults need to actively supervise ALL interactions between kids and dogs and limit when and how kids behave around and interact with pets. It is never okay for a child to poke, climb on or pull body parts. That is scary and can also hurt. Your family dog should not be expected to tolerate these things. Also, their likes and dislikes can vary from one day to another.
• Studies show that most bites to kids are from the family dog or another dog the child knows well and occur in contexts where the child is trying to initiate an interaction with the dog or approaching it when it is resting. Making direct eye contact with the dog, innocent as that might seem, can make a dog nervous and provoke aggression.
• We want to make sure our kids are learning kind and appropriate interactions with dogs so that when they encounter dogs elsewhere (i.e. playdate at a friend’s house), they’ll behave safely with the dog.

Note to parents: Use this article and the resources to prompt/support a family discussion on what interactions are appropriate and which are inappropriate between kids and dogs (or pets in general). Each of the “Maddie” columns focuses on a different topic, and each issue builds on the skills learned in past issues to some extent. For access to past issues, visit www.fetchmag.com.

If you would like a signed copy of “Bella’s First Checkup” please email Dr. Kohler at [email protected]. You can also buy a copy on Amazon.

QUESTIONS for Maddie can be emailed to [email protected]


You thought Marco Polo was well-traveled? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. From Caracas to Tasmania, these Instafamous pets capture the spirit of adventure—follow them now.

1. Miami@miami_traveller_dog

Miami is one of the world’s most jet-setting pets. “He’s an unusual Chihuahua because he’s sweet and friendly with everyone,” says owner Marianna Chiaraluce. She adopted him when he was 7 months old. He was unsuitable for canine competitions because of a minor health issue. “But this made me love him even more,” she says. Their very first adventure was a three-month road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. Since then, Miami has visited President Lincoln’s house in Springfield, Ill.; Elvis’ birthplace in Memphis, Tenn.; and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mo. He’s also the Pet General Manager at The Box in Riccione, one of the best-known seaside resorts in Northern Italy.

2. Aspen@aspenthemountainpup

Photographer Hunter Lawrence shares Aspen with 284K followers on Instagram. He adopted the Golden Retriever from a small coastal town near Houston, Texas. On Thanksgiving morning in 2012, he saw a listing for a new litter of puppies posted online. He immediately ran out the door to go check them out. Aspen loves getting buried in the snow, even if he sometimes eats snowballs, and diving into icy water. He’s visited eight different states and Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada—one of the prestigious stops on the World Cup skiing circuit. The 8-year-old currently lives in Santa Barbara, Calif. Whether he’s basking in the sunshine or in an ice cream coma, he always has the biggest smile on his face. “He’s genuinely happy…if we’re near him, he just lights up,” Lawrence says.

3. Snupi@podroze_z_pazurem

Snupi (which means sweet in Dutch) is undoubtedly the most famous dog in Poland. He has his own comic book called “Travels with Claw.” “We know very little about his past,” says owner Izabella Miklaszewski. “He was adopted by a family but returned after a week, possibly because of the cost of treating his kennel cough.” The 12-year-old mongrel has visited 36 countries on five continents. He’s also traveled over 3,200 nautical miles crossing the Amazon River and the Atlantic Ocean from Morocco to Brazil. Snupi has also conquered the 13,123-foot peak of Toubkal in Morocco. His record altitude is 19,101 feet above sea level at the Misti Volcano in Peru. He’s also trekked through the Cordillera Huayhuash, an 81-mile trail with an elevation between 10,826 and 18,012 feet.

4. Rio and Bruce@adventurrio

Best friends Rio and Bruce have been to eight states and nine national parks. Rio is a 3-year-old gray and white domestic longhair. She didn’t instantly warm up to her 1.5-year-old dog sidekick. “It took a little while for them to really become friends. But Rio is a very brave kitty and quickly figured out that Bruce is a great play buddy,” says owner Maria Roper. “When we go hiking Rio normally follows Bruce’s lead. When we’re exploring a campsite, it’s the opposite. Rio explores and Bruce follows her around, and they’re just so cute together.” Last summer, the traveling cat and dog duo camped in the Black Hills. They napped on rocks together whenever they got tired. Then Rio and Bruce visited Sequoia National Forest and the Pacific coast, where they saw the ocean for the first time.

5. Willow@vancatmeow

Unhappy after 10 years in the corporate world, Rich East sold his house and all of his possessions. Then he quit his job to travel with his rescue cat Willow in a campervan. Since leaving their hometown of Hobart, Tasmania, they’ve covered more than 31,000 miles. “Willow spends most of her time off leash with supervision. She rarely wanders more than 100 yards from the van, but when she does, I can find her with her tracking collar,” East says. “She’s made my van a home and the whole of Australia her backyard.” The 6-year-old has visited New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.

6. Burma@burmaadventurecat

An Iraqi war vet with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, Stephen Simmons was homeless. For five years, he lived out of his Jeep with his military service dog Puppi. In April 2013, he was sitting outside a grocery in Grants Pass having a sandwich when a homeless girl came up with a box of free kittens. Simmons held Burma and couldn’t resist him. The black cat spent the first eight weeks of his life in a damp tent during the cold, rainy Oregon winter. Burma, who has 73K Instagram fans, has traveled to 31 states with Simmons and his girlfriend, Nicole Rienzie. She and her two Instafamous cats, Monk and Bean, have also joined the trio, becoming a blended family of six. “Although Burma grew up on the go…he’s made me believe in something much bigger than us and this world again,” Simmons says.

7. Max and Louise@max_et_louise

Thiago Ferreira documents the adventures of Parson Russell Terriers Max and Louise who have 68K Instagram followers. Max arrived in 2009 for Christmas. He was only 49 days old. Louise was Max’s Christmas gift a few years later. Before she was adopted in Caracas, Venezuela, Max used to sleep most of the time. But since that day, he’s had his own partner in crime. Max and Louise have lived with the photographer in Paris and Lisbon and accompany him every year when he visits Rio de Janeiro for Christmas. “They love to jump off boats for a dip in the water,” Ferreira says. They’ve visited the French Alps, Las Vegas, the Greek island of Mykonos, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Miami Beach.

8. Lilo@lowrider_lilo

Lilo is a 4-year-old Pembroke Welsh corgi from Calgary, Alberta. Wearing bandanas and Corgi goggles (or “coggles”), she’s been adventuring in the Canadian Rockies since 2016. “We started Lilo on short hikes with barely any elevation first, then slowly built up her endurance and stamina to longer and harder hikes,” says owner Aiko Dolatre. “Even with that, we still have to be mindful of her health, not letting her jump down from high places on the trail and keeping a closer eye on her in hot weather conditions.” Lilo has ridden a wooden horse in the Enchanted Forest and braved the Capilano Suspension Bridge. She’s also visited Prairie Mountain, Sunwapta Falls, Johnston Canyon and Moraine Lake.

9. Ollie@explorewithollie

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Stephen Martin joined the Army in 2005. Seven years later, he moved from his duty station at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium to Colorado Springs. That’s where he adopted Ollie, a Wirehaired Fox Terrier mix, who’s climbed 37 of Colorado’s 14ers. Ollie, who has 21K Instagram followers, loves drinking out of creeks and lying down in them. Martin and Ollie start hiking at 3 a.m. and sit on the peak for an hour or two before sunrise. Because dogs see in dichromatic color, Martin doesn’t really know what a gorgeous sunrise looks like to Ollie.“But he’ll sit there on the rock next to me…and I watch him enjoy it,” he says. “I feel like he knows when we reach the top.”

4 Hidden Travel Dangers for Pets
Want to live with no excuses and no regrets?
Here are 4 dangers to watch out for.


Anxiety: According to “Scientific Reports”—an online multidisciplinary open-access journal—50 percent of dogs are afraid of loud noises, heights and walking on metal grids. Cats are commonly stressed by another person or pet. “So let your pets sniff all the things they want to sniff. Let them hide if something spooks them—in your arms or a backpack, so you become their safe space,” Roper says. “They’ll gradually build more and more confidence and learn to love new experiences.”

Fishing Gear: Keep them away from your tackle boxes and bait buckets. Dogs often get fishing hooks stuck in their nose and tongue. It’s not rare to see dogs that have swallowed, well…hook, line and sinker. If you’ve got any lead sinkers or jigheads lying around, be careful. If your dogs are naughty enough to swallow one (or several), they can cause lead poisoning.

Pressure-Treated Wood: Pressure-treated wood is coated with chromate copper arsenate (CCA) that protects it from insects and rot. Because it lasts 20 years or more, it’s been used to build 90 percent of all outdoor wooden structures in the US, says the Environmental Working Group. CCA is dangerous because it’s made with arsenic. It can seep into the soil and pool on wooden surfaces. Whether you’re picnicking or fly fishing on an arsenic-treated deck, keep an eye on your pets. Don’t let them lap up puddles or play in dirt that could have ashes from a CCA wood fire. One tablespoon contains a fatal dose of arsenic.

Snakes: According to a new study published in “Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology,” cats are twice as likely to survive venomous snake bites than dogs. That’s because they often swat at snakes with their paws while dogs investigate them with their nose and mouth. Venom acts faster on dog plasma than cats or humans. Without snakebite first aid, dogs will quickly bleed to death. “Dogs are usually more active than cats, which isn’t great after a bite has taken place,” writes Lead Researcher Bryan Fry. “The best practice is to remain as still as possible to slow the spread of venom through the body.”


One of the most independent breeds when it comes to working breeds is the Czechoslovakian Vlcak (pronounced like Vull-check). These beauties are also known as the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog and are not for the faint of heart. This hearty, intelligent, loyal and active dog is not recommended for first-time dog owners. So like the song, “Waterfalls” by TLC suggests, “Please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to” or in this case dog breeds.

But for those seeking out an adventure and a challenge, this could be the dog you’ve been looking for. Dawn Ziarkowski, president of K9 Country Club in Waukesha, refers to this breed as the “Velociraptors of the dog world.” Their faces are so expressive. “You can actually see them thinking and figuring things out,” says Dawn with a chuckle. Just like when the raptors are testing the fences in “Jurassic Park.” Yikes!

An Uncanny Intelligence & Notable Bond

The key to understanding the Vlcak breed is learning how they communicate. “This breed’s intelligence is beyond anything I have ever experienced,” says Dawn. As a kennel owner, she has experienced a variety of breeds. “Their ability to think independently is both amazing and challenging,” she says. And now as a Vlcak owner herself, her dog Loki keeps her on her toes. He likes to check on her to see if she is busy. Then when he feels she is preoccupied, he will sneak away to go do bad things. Busted!

“He opens up the refrigerator and helps himself to hot dogs!” declares Dawn’s husband Jim Ziarkowski, owner of the K9 Country Club. Jim admits that it was not only the look of this breed that captivated him at first but also their intelligence. When their dog Loki wants to go outside, he will nudge the doorknob with his nose so Jim can hear the clink sound it makes. Not the typical dog-like behavior, however it is Vlcak-like behavior.

Vlcaks are currently used throughout Europe and in the US for search and rescue, tracking, obedience, agility, drafting, herding and working dog sports.

Alex Kaftan, dog owner and Vlcak enthusiast (and now friend residing on the same property as the boarding facility), was the person who originally introduced the Ziarkowskis to the breed in 2018. Alex was in need of the right boarding facility for his dog Mars—a known “flight risk.” So Alex decided to start out with a two-day trial period prior to leaving for a whole month, and by default, thus began an adventurous journey for the Ziarkowskis into the Vlcak world.

Alex notes the bond this breed has with their humans is impossible to briefly describe. Within just two hours of being left at the kennel, his dog Mars ripped through a window screen and ran for the road. Jim, who was conveniently doing dishes when he heard the noise, dropped everything to go chase Mars through a cornfield. Dawn notes that Jim frantically called her and told her to call Alex. Upon her calling Jim back, Mars stopped dead in his tracks when he heard Jim’s ringtone of wolves howling. Luckily, Mars was recovered because of Jim’s unique ringtone.

That was just the beginning. Mars did return for his month-long stay as intended. For the Ziarkowskis, this became an eye-opening experience. After about two weeks, the girl that helped out at the kennel came to start her shift and noticed Mars was staring at her through the glass door from inside the office. There was also now a hole next to the window air conditioner. Apparently, Mars had figured out how to unlatch his door to the kennel, open the door that lead to the hallway, jump over a gate in the hallway, chew through the accordion-type material that secures the air conditioner to the window and went outside. Hence, the need was established to “Marsproof” the kennel going forward.

Vlcaks are extremely devoted to their owners and canine packmates. As an Italian citizen now living in Wisconsin,

Alex says Italians refer to this unique bond as “morbidly attached.” In fact, Mars has extreme separation anxiety (if you haven’t figured that out already) and has broken out of several kennels, apartments and houses in search of Alex. They are not at all like the “I just met you but loooove you!” dog.

Fun Fact 1: Mars will grab Alex’s wrist with his mouth, take him from his bedroom to the kitchen and then from the dog bowl to the sink in order to fill it up for his daughter Ceres (Alex’s other Vlcak). Both in photo above.

An Experimental History & Active Lifestyle

Originally bred in Czechoslovakia in the 1950’s to work border patrol, this breed evolved from crosses between German Shepherds and Carpathian Wolves and was essentially the result of a biological experiment that ended in 1965. In 1982, the Vlcak became a recognized national breed known for its versatility and ability to survive harsh elements. Loki’s history began in the Czech Republic from a breeder (Hana Kaufmanová OdÚhoště), but it surely didn’t end there. Loki is now a UKC Show Champion, AKC-registered, a movie star (“Deep Woods”), beloved Wisconsinite and FETCH cover dog.

The AKC says Vlcaks are great for tracking or trailing sports or as a companion for active owners who enjoy spending time doing outdoor activities such as biking, running or hiking. Jim warns that they need daily exercise, mental stimulation and extensive socialization. Give your highly-energetic Vlcak a job that changes often, has purpose and is not boring. Alex warns possible new owners that this breed can be very challenging and will require lots of attention, work, patience and much willingness to learn on the owner’s part. “But it is worth it a thousand times over.”

Tips For Boarding One

Precautions should be taken when boarding them. “Because of their intelligence, this breed can scale a chain link fence like an expert rock climber. They will effortlessly climb and leap over fencing as high as 6 feet if there is no deterrent at the top,” says Dawn. Full disclosure to the boarding facility about the breed’s tendencies is HIGHLY recommended. To properly and safely board a Vlcak, the person responsible must know everything up front. For instance, if the dog can open doors or if he/she is a climber, this is all important information to disclose.

• Outside chain-link kennels must have complete fencing over the top and secured with metal bindings (not plastic as they will chew through it) to prevent escape. Fencing should go to the ceiling on inside and outside of kennels, or they will squeeze through impossible spaces and escape.
• Any area where the dog is kept that has a gate would need to have a padlock. While you do not need to lock it, the lock on the door prevents it from being moved.
• Unless fenced-in area for play is completely enclosed, a Vlcak should be tethered by a long lead to prevent fence climbing and escape.
• Cables to open or close kennel run doors must be removed. These dogs know how to pull the cable to open the door and go outside all by themselves.

Fun Fact 2: According to Dawn, the hardest thing she has learned about this breed is that if one would escape, you need to run away from them and not at them. This goes against our instinct to run after the dog to recover it. The Vlcak’s strong bond with the owner is what makes them come back to you.