Tag Archive for: Summer 2020


Short answer: It’s unlikely.

Long answer: This is going to take a while.

By now, everybody has heard the basics of this story repeatedly: A previously undocumented virus was discovered at the end of 2019, and unfortunately the way it was discovered was that it was killing people. Since then it has spread around the world, sickening millions of people and killing hundreds of thousands. Throngs of scientists have been studying it to try to learn how it travels, who gets it, how it causes harm and how we can stop it. New information becomes available every day, and sometimes it conflicts with previous information. It’s bewildering and frightening. In the midst of it comes the information that COVID-19 may, possibly, be able to infect household pets.

Should we be worried about our dogs and cats?
Can they get sick? Should they be tested?

Possibly the most important thing to understand about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is that nobody has the full story on it yet and won’t for a while. Medical research is a complicated subject. A positive test is not the same thing as an active infection. An infection is not the same as illness. Being ill is not the same thing as being contagious. All these factors, and more, make it challenging to know how worried we should be. Collecting and interpreting data, unfortunately, takes time and expertise. And while it seems like every journalist and politician pretends to be an epidemiologist or infectious disease specialist, really, most of the people you are hearing from are not experts. This includes me.

This is what we know so far:

Some dogs and cats have tested positive for the virus. In the case of pets, they are thought to have been exposed to the virus by their owners. However, many animals that have been exposed to ill owners have tested negative. It seems likely that the number of animals that have had the virus is very small compared to the number of humans who have had it. Although it is quite contagious among humans, we don’t seem to be efficient at infecting our pets.

Some animals, including ferrets and tigers, have shown signs of illness that may have been COVID-19. In experimental situations, cats have shown signs of COVID-19, but this has not been observed under natural conditions. So far, COVID-19 does not appear to cause serious illness in dogs; as a matter of fact, it may cause no disease at all. Not enough animals have tested positive for us to know. Thus if a dog or cat is feeling ill, it is extremely unlikely that it is due to COVID-19. They are much more likely to have one of the other viruses or bacteria that can affect them.

So, if you are sick, should you worry about your pet? The CDC suggests that if you are sick, it would be best to have someone else care for your pet while you keep a wide berth. If this is not possible, wear a facemask, hold off on snuggles and kisses and wash your hands before and after interacting with your pet. Testing pets for COVID-19 is not routinely recommended.

Whenever people are stressed, it is natural to worry. The possibility of illness occurring to a beloved pet is one of the things we worry about. However, so far it does not seem that the COVID-19 virus poses anywhere near the threat to our pets that it does to our human loved ones. As always, if your pet is feeling ill, you should contact your veterinarian and explain your concern. They can evaluate your pet and provide care regardless of the cause.

For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 in humans or in pets, you can trust the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: cdc.gov.


What it is:
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is degeneration of brain activity that occurs with age. Commonly, these changes occur slowly with time, typically in dogs and cats over the age of 11 years old, with prevalence increasing the older the pet becomes. CDS is commonly compared to dementia in humans as many clinical signs can be similar and also worsen with age.

Brain atrophy, or degeneration, occurs with age. This means the actual size of the brain decreases as well as the number of neurons. These changes are more notable in the cerebellar and cerebral areas of the brain. As atrophy occurs, cerebrospinal fluid fills in the empty areas.

Levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine have been found to decrease with age. This results in decreased neurologic signaling and activity.

Beta amyloid plaques, which are proteins that damage neurons, increase with age, causing further cognitive dysfunction.

Vascular changes are common with age, and micro-bleeds and infarcts can occur that stop the normal blood flow to the brain and thus decrease oxygen and glucose to the brain.

1. Confusion. Examples include staring off, getting stuck in a certain location in the house such as a corner or closet.
2. Loss of memory, changes in ability to learn. This includes accidents in the house or problems with training or known commands.
3. Activity changes like excessive licking, pacing and repetitive behavior.
4. Changes in response to stimuli/interactions with people. For instance, excessive barking, lack of interest and separation anxiety.
5. Change to sleep cycle. This may include pacing at night, deep sleep during the day, anxiety and restlessness.

Diagnosis: Diagnosis of CDS is made based on clinical signs, the pet’s history and how they respond to treatment. Other disease processes that can cause similar signs should be ruled out or treated prior to diagnosis of CDS.

Treatments: Diets containing omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and mitochondrial cofactors have been shown to improve cognitive function related to age. These diets may take several weeks before improvement is noted.

Medications: Selegiline is an enzyme blocker that slows down the breakdown of catecholamines such as dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. It can also increase the production of dopamine. Most of the time, improvement is noted in 2-4 weeks after the medication has been started.

S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) is a supplement more commonly used for liver support. It has been shown, however, to have benefits in treating cognitive dysfunction.

Anti-anxiety calming medications and medications that increase cerebral blood flow have also been shown to help with the clinical signs associated with cognitive dysfunction.

Environmental Therapy: Environmental enrichment is a very important part of improving and maintaining cognition. Teaching new tricks can benefit both the owner and the pet and establish routines. New toys and consistent exercise are recommended as well. If hearing loss is a part of the aging process, then working on hand signals can be very beneficial and make for an easier transition if deafness occurs.

Prognosis: At the end of the day, age should not be thought of as a disease. Many of these dogs can have a good quality of life with the proper care from their loving owners.


Let’s Back Track
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are true Renaissance hounds. They are good at a variety of things and have an exciting history. Dutch colonists in southern Africa used the native hunting dogs of tribes and combined them with the more popular European breeds: Greyhounds and Terriers. Thus creating an athletic, regal-looking dog that could hunt in packs and track down lions. They were able to successfully find and confront these predators and keep them trapped by howling at them or baying from a safe distance. Imagine a pack of dogs surrounding the king of beasts like the hyenas did in Disney’s “The Lion King.” Ridgebacks were effective companions for South African-born Cornelius van Rooyen—big game hunter and dog breeder—in the late 19th century. Never killing the lions, the Ridgebacks would howl (bay) at them so the hunter had adequate time to pull out and dispatch his rifle. Ridgies are the national dog of South Africa.

Fun Fact: In the 1930s, movie star Errol Flynn (“The Adventures of Robin Hood”) was the first breeder in the United States. He bred them on his Hollywood ranch, however the bloodline is now extinct.

It’s All in the ‘Tude
Most importantly, today they are devoted family dogs that are good with children—two-legged children of the human variety, that is. Ridgebacks have an extremely strong prey drive stemming from their days of trotting alongside hunters on horses and chasing down prides. Cover dog owner Dan Broege says his dog Reggie may have high energy, but he is still his couch potato at heart. “Reggie is super friendly, loves people and other dogs, but is very protective of the house.” Reggie will guard the house all day yet sleeps under the covers in the bed at night. Ridgebacks are typically very strong-willed dogs that are independent, loyal and domineering.

Keeping One
Because they are the stereotypical strong-willed four-legged children, Ridgies need a firm trainer from youth on. The ideal candidate is someone who can positively steer them in the right direction, keeping them on a tight leash but with lots of exercise. They need training classes and early socialization in order to become well-mannered and well-adjusted companions, according to the American Kennel Club. Though this dog is extremely loyal to his or her family, this is a dog that lives indoors and needs to be fenced-in when outside and off leash due to a heavy prey drive. Broege says his Ridgeback is a freak of an athlete yet possesses some unique quirks. Reggie is a whiner and a kisser but only kisses strangers! Weird. Not the typical behavior for a Ridgie. Usually, Rhodesians are quite affectionate with their owners and more reserved with strangers. Broege also mentions that Reggie loves to watch TV and will only chew on bones that Broege holds for him. Talk about your atypical royal Ridgie.

As for appearance, this beautiful breed should look muscular, symmetrical and balanced in outline, according to the AKC. They have a signature ridge of hair down their back and range in size. Their grooming needs are small as they only require the basics: nail trimming, brushing and bathing as upkeep.

Caring For One
Having a canine companion and truly caring for one, based on a dog’s breed and individuality, are two separate things. Ridgebacks are strong, athletic dogs and need moderate amounts of daily exercise. They make great tracking and agility partners for the canine sports enthusiast. They are also highly intelligent and require mental stimulation alongside their physical needs.

Question: It takes brains and brawn to track down a lion…right?

As far as training goes, force-free dog trainer Holly Lewis of Cold Nose Canine says all breeds learn the same. She trains dogs using food, touch, toys, praise and life rewards. Lewis may not need to adjust her methods for breed; she, however, does make accommodations based on the needs, motivations and instincts of each individual dog.

“So we focus on the good the dogs are doing,” says Lewis. “We also focus on setting up the environment for the greatest success.” Lewis is currently training two Ridgies and notes they are a strong, active and durable breed that she finds to be somewhat mischievous yet very loving.

“Rhodesians are bred to hunt lions, so hunting instincts are deep,” Lewis confirms. “So caution should be taken around rabbits and other small animals.”

Note: For anyone looking to care for this breed, she says be sure to have adequate space and time. “Any breed, especially larger dogs, will need to be well-trained to represent the breed well.”

AKC Stat Box
Temperament: Affectionate, dignified, even-tempered.
Appearance: Muscular, symmetrical & balanced in outline.
Height: 25-27 inches (male), 24-26 inches (female).
Weight: 85 pounds (male), 70 pounds (female).
Breed Quirk: Ridge of hair on the back.
Coat: Short, dense, sleek and glossy.
Color: Light wheaten to red wheaten. A little white on the chest and toes.
Life Expectancy: ~10 years.


Who among us doesn’t think our precious pups are smart? Well, okay, maybe not all of us do. While our dogs are smart in their own ways, not every pooch out there is born to earn an A on every task he or she is asked to do. But some dogs are simply smarter, right?

There’s no cut-and-dry answer to that. In looking at a dog’s intellect, we need to take a step back and consider just how is a dog’s intelligence determined. Is it by the number of tricks he does or the number of words he knows? What about if your dog is savvy out on the agility course? That’s not a feat all dogs are built to master. Then there are dog breeds we may consider highly intelligent war heroes, those who put their lives on the line and display bravery as they sniff out dangerous battlefields. And we cannot forget to include how well dogs can pick up on our emotions, often referred to in the human workplace as emotional intelligence. Let’s take a look at how dogs have varying degrees of intellectual and emotional intelligence.

Intelligence by Breed

So who is the expert on this issue? One of the places we often turn to is the American Kennel Club (AKC). As one of the authorities on all things dog, would it surprise you to learn that the AKC currently does not have a list of so-called smart breeds? Wisely, the AKC takes the stance that dogs are individuals, and to answer the intelligence question, we need to look at breeds and how they are classified. For example, working breeds have instincts and natural abilities that allow them to quickly perform jobs while other breeds are highly driven to please their people.

In short, the AKC views a dog’s intelligence based on breed, training and natural traits. Clear as mud, right? We can thankfully refer to the work of famed canine psychologist Stanley Coren, who had once educated us about different types of intelligence (see sidebar). He has provided us with one metric—working intelligence—with which to compare our dog’s smarts to others.

In Coren’s book “The Intelligence of Dogs,” he took a dive into the working intelligence of dog breeds. His research included lengthy surveys from about 200 dog obedience judges. Numerous breeds were rated on how well they obeyed commands and how quickly they learned new tricks. Those deemed the brightest breeds were the dogs that could obey a command 95 percent of the time and learn a command in five or fewer tries. And then, ta-da! The 10 reportedly smartest dog breeds list was born.

Top 10 in Working Intelligence

1) Border Collie: The quintessential agility dog, Border Collies are full of energy and smarts. Also recognized as a herding dog, this breed is a true workaholic and an athlete who also loves to cuddle with its people.

You might be familiar with the famous Chaser, a Border Collie who knew more than 1,000 words. Chaser’s person, John Pilley, trained her to learn and retain words much greater than “ball” and “toy,” said Karen B. London, PhD, a certified applied animal behaviorist and certified professional dog trainer. Chaser could even distinguish between nouns and verbs! Pilley remained modest about Chaser’s depth of knowledge, though. He maintained that other dogs could also learn just as Chaser did, that is, as long as other dogs were taught like Chaser: sometimes many hours a day and in a methodical and extensive manner that also included fun and play.

2) Poodle: How does this froufrou dog come in at second place? It’s easy! The Poodle (all breed sizes) is a friendly, active breed with a reputation as one of the most trainable out there. Regular exercising and training are musts to keep their extremely intelligent brains busy and out of any sassy behaviors. For these reasons, Poodles also make great hunting buddies helping you track and retrieve.

3) German Shepherd: All hail the police (and military) hero! The list of these brave dogs in history is long. With a strong work ethic, they require a job to do so they can burn off energy. This is a loyal friend of the family and a wonderful guard dog. Their affection and intellect also serves them well in roles as guide dogs or in other forms of service to their humans.

4) Golden Retriever: The sweet, lovable Golden can have impeccable manners with help from your obedience training and socialization with other pups and people. Goldens love to be active, whether it’s swimming, running, fetching, hunting or hiking with his family. You’ve likely heard of Goldens doing search-and-rescue or other service work.

5) Doberman Pinscher: Hailing from Germany, these brave dogs are proven guards. But their working intelligence also makes them ideal therapy, rescue, military and police dogs. The Dobie’s strength, speed and endurance has also led to their solid reputation as protectors.

6) Shetland Sheepdog: Having intelligence with a sense of humor, Shelties have an abundance of energy that’s made for a long history of herding and keeping watch over its flock and family. They also are very affectionate and playful, enjoying playtime with children and learning new tricks.

7) Labrador Retriever: There’s a reason Labs have topped the list of lovable dogs. If you have one in your home, you know their affectionate, playful natures are top Lab qualities. The breed is also an active one that makes for a great running companion. Being gentle, people-pleasing and easy to train also make the breed ideal for search and rescue and other service work.

8) Papillon: The smallest breed on the list is the butterfly dog, nicknamed for their unique ear shape. These intelligent dogs are as beautiful as they are happy and friendly. While small in stature, the Papillon is fast and quite the little athlete up for whatever training you’re ready to offer.

9) Rottweiler: Solidly built, Rotties have made excellent working dogs since their Germany origins. This herding breed also falls into the military and police dog bucket. Rotties, devoted companions that they are, are great service and therapy dogs. And they take on the obedience circuit, too!

10) Australian Cattle Dog: This working dog of Blue Heeler origin is full of energy—physical and mental! ACD parents should have energy to expend as this breed needs to work, whether it’s in agility, herding, tracking or general obedience.

So, there you have it: the top 10 smartest breeds as measured by working intelligence. But don’t forget: Breed isn’t the only factor influencing intelligence. You also have to consider their personality traits and the amount and type of training you’ve done together.

My Dog Didn’t Make the List!

Worried your dog’s smarts might not be up to par? Don’t be! First, remember that this data was gathered from obedience judges, which could have been subjective. Ever had a bad experience with a certain breed of dog? Think of your bias (good or bad) around that particular breed, and recognize that is your opinion. And that’s perfectly okay!

But if you want to bond with your dog while upping their working intelligence, Petfinder.com offers some great tips.

First, remember that all dogs are trainable. Find what motivates him and watch him excel. Second, make sure to use positive reinforcements whether that includes food, lots of pets, a short game of fetch, bubbles to pop or another activity that is super motivating.

Build your dog’s intelligence through interactive games, sports and agility, food puzzles or snuffle mats. Remember that motivation works wonders. Remember that smarter breeds require more of something (stimulation, activity or attention) that keeps their minds sharp and their bodies physically active, according to Petfinder.com. Bond through regular walks, other exercise and play sessions and behavior training.

Finally, make sure that no matter what you do, get up and interact with your dog. Just as a child learns and grows as their mom or dad spends quality time with them, so dogs do with you. And besides, do you really need a specific reason to spend time with your furry companions?

Intelligence in Many Forms

We’ve talked a lot about a dog’s working intelligence. But what if one of these dog breeds isn’t for you? Remember that all dogs are individuals and there are so many kinds of intelligence that can be paired with your dog’s style. Find the one that best suits her or him. After all, the best kind of dog is the one perfectly fitting for your lifestyle.

I remember how I once compared my now-senior dog’s intelligence to that of his prior packmate’s. Buddy was a rule-breaker, not a rule-follower, and truly would not have ranked high on working intelligence. Lucky, however, ranks way up there in interpersonal intelligence. His communication skills often amaze me, including his many appropriately timed sighs (huffs)—even when I don’t think he’s listening! Lucky’s other pack member, Taco, ranks up there in adaptive intelligence. He’s a sneaky one for sure!

No matter the breed of dog we keep, we should all take the time to figure out our dog’s true intellect. Find out what makes your dog happy and feed that. Let them explore their interests, said London. And as Pilley believed, you’ll find better communication—and happiness—with your dog because of it.

What do you think? What type of intelligence does your dog show?
Are we missing a type of intelligence your dog displays?
Let us know at our Facebook page!


What a strange time we’re living in. Imagine how strange your pets must think it is too. They feel your unsettled energy. If their routine has been upended, they’re likely feeling unsettled too. It’s been a long end to winter with even more isolation than our Wisconsin hibernation typically includes. Spring brings new hope with rising temperatures, buds sprouting and the pandemic on the decline. Experts say that fresh air is crucial to sustain good mental health, and this applies to our dogs as well. But with people flocking to limited public outdoor outlets, it can seem like there’s nowhere safe to go with your favorite Fido.

Pit Bull Advocates of America (PBAOA) has Southeastern Wisconsin’s only private dog park open year-round. In exchange for a modest donation, the Dog Days program allows pet parents the opportunity to reserve over an acre of fenced-in yard space for their dog to play, explore and relax in a completely private and safe environment. All dogs benefit from a change in scenery, new smells and fun exploration. Relax and bond with your dog, play fetch, work on training or tackle the agility course. Watch your dog light up and be free at the Rescue Retreat.

When the Rescue Retreat became a reality for PBAOA in 2016, they had no idea it held so many unknown possibilities. The nonprofit was ultra-focused on programs they were already running and excited to have the new location to expand in. As volunteers sat in the breathtaking and secure space watching their rescue dogs run freely, explore vigorously and relax effortlessly, the concept of Dog Days was born. A vision for dogs that had nowhere to freely and safely explore the world… until now. A vision of dog play dates and parties. A vision of dogs doing what they should be free to do best. Just. Be. Dogs.

There are no unknown humans or animals to be concerned with during your scheduled play time. It’s your choice if anyone joins you and who those people and/or pets will be. The folks at the Rescue Retreat have a special spot in their hearts for reactive rovers, and Dog Days is an ideal offering for animals that can’t be around other dogs and/or people. No judgement. No scrutiny. All 30-minute play times must be scheduled. No walk-ins will be accommodated. All breeds are always welcome.

Your private play session will not involve any unfamiliar dogs or people. There are no volunteers present. You will need to monitor your own scheduled play time. This means you must arrive and leave on time. Others are relying on you to make this safe for their dogs.

Scheduled play time is always in 30-minute increments. If you arrive 15 minutes late for a 30-minute play session, you cannot stay an extra 15 minutes. Play sessions are scheduled and are often booked up. Please be on time, and be kind to others using this service for their dogs by leaving at your scheduled end time.

If you arrive early and there’s still another dog playing, you must stay in your car with your dog until they exit the yard and are back in their car. As mentioned, many of the dogs that have used the private park for years do so because they can’t be around other dogs and/or humans. It’s so important that players are respectful of other players limitations and challenges.

During the pandemic, the folks at the Rescue Retreat have taken extra precautions to remain open while not contributing to the spread of COVID-19. We have hand sanitizer at the gate and Clorox wipes onsite. We encourage all players to wash their hands as soon as possible once they’ve left.

Treat yourself and your dog to some safe, socially distant outside time at the Rescue Retreat. You can find more information on the Dog Days program as well as the schedule on the PBAOA website: https://pitbulladvocates.org/owner-support/dog-days/



March 11, 2020, is a date I will always remember. As many national organizations temporarily or indefinitely suspended operations, I found myself wondering what was happening to our world. The next several days and weeks felt like months as our team at Elmbrook Humane Society tried to make sense of what COVID-19 meant for us as a business and all those we serve throughout our community.

Thankfully and rightfully, the State of Wisconsin deemed humane societies as an essential service. Like most businesses, we needed to find a way to operate and continue to serve both the animals and people in our community. We moved to an appointment-based operation, providing support by phone, email and virtual meetings and continued to respond to animal emergencies in our community. We are still continuing to adapt our services, programs and business operations to function safely while still being a community resource for animal needs.

Some critical services have been strongly encouraged to be placed on hold. These are services I believe our industry would never before have imagined halting. For example, given it is next to impossible to achieve the recommended social distancing, spay and neuter services have stopped except for emergencies. Transport has been discouraged due to the amount of contact between staff and volunteers facilitating transport and the potential of spreading COVID-19 amongst states. With both services being essential to saving lives, it is exciting to share that work is being done to create guidelines to resume both.

Visits to veterinarians have moved to curbside with your pet being separated from you. From a human health perspective, we now have to think about how to support our pets through this. Animal welfare is as much about connecting with people and providing education as it is caring and advocating for animals. All community outreach and special events typically done in-person or in group settings have been affected. Spring camps for youth, READ to Me sessions and humane education programs in schools, dog-related training and seminars have had to be canceled. Galas, run/walks, bowl-a-thons and more have had to be rescheduled or canceled. Everyday life as we know it has changed, but there are many good things happening.

We have seen increased community involvement for fostering and adopting. Supporters have been making sure we have the supplies needed to remain safe and healthy to be able to continue providing the best care possible for animals in need. We have witnessed people supporting virtual fundraising and programming. We have learned that operating by appointment allows us to provide more personalized service and develop even stronger relationships with foster volunteers, adopters and our donors. We have learned new ways in which kind, compassionate individuals can continue to provide support to not only Elmbrook Humane Society but to many non-profit organizations.

The world of animal welfare has changed and inevitably will continue to change. COVID-19 has presented many challenges, but it has also caused our industry to pause and rethink how we serve and care for animals and people. As a result, in the weeks and months to come, our organization, along with other humane societies and rescue groups, will be stronger through innovation and working together.

As the saying goes, we are all in this together!



Your cat is clever, perhaps even crafty, but how smart is she? According to scientists, it’s not your imagination. While your dog might have a higher social IQ than your cat, she can solve harder cognitive problems, if she feels like it.

Her brain is only 2 inches long, weighs as much as a pair of dice and makes up about 0.9 percent of her body mass. While it’s smaller than your dog’s, its structure and surface folding is 90 percent like yours. Your cerebral cortex, the region of your brain that controls thinking and problem-solving, contains 21 to 26 billion neurons or nerve cells. Your cat has 300 million neurons while your dog only has 160 million.

Basically, your cat is as smart as an 18-month-old child. She can experience primary emotions such as happiness, anger and fear. “We don’t think cats can experience secondary emotions like forgiveness or vengeance,” says Dr. Susan Krebsbach, owner of Creature Counseling in Oregon, Wis. “How many times have you heard, ‘He urinated outside of the litter box because he was mad at me because I was gone for the weekend?’”

While your cat can’t appreciate all the colors you do, she has more nerve cells in the visual areas of her brain than humans and most other mammals. That’s why she zooms across the house chasing a speck of dust that you can’t even see.

But her world isn’t black and white. “Because cats are more active in the early morning and the late evening when light levels are low, their retinas contain eight times more rods than humans,” Krebsbach says. “So cats are more sensitive to light in the blue-violet and yellow-green range.”

Besides having top-notch vision, your cat has object permanence, an understanding that things exist even when she can’t see, hear, touch or smell them. That is, out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind.

Her short-term memory spans about 16 hours. In a laboratory setting (mad scientist optional), she can probably solve food puzzles from memory. But Rubik’s cubes or sudoku are out of the question. While her long-term memory is difficult to gauge, it’s probably impeccable, which you already know if your fur baby bops you in the head at 6 a.m. She has an internal clock and seems to “know” when it’s time for things to start happening. She’s good at picking up on other regular indicators of the time, like bird songs and sunset. No, she can’t read clocks. Change the time on them to see if it makes any difference. It won’t.

If cats are so smart, why aren’t there any drug, cadaver or explosives detective cats? “Well, remember, cats have a different skill set, but that doesn’t make them less intelligent. As a matter of fact, we don’t have any bomb-sniffing humans.” Krebsbach says. Dogs come when they’re called, but cats take a message and get back to you later.

Puzzle Toys
“During the daytime, cats are loving members of our families with scratches behind the ear and sleepy moments on our laps,” says Frederik Lindskov, product developer at Northmate. “During the night, however, their instincts tell them to go hunting for mice…around the neighborhood. The greatest challenge for any cat owner is to make a home that reflects both sides of this double nature.” Enter puzzle toys. They ease boredom, encourage mental stimulation and reduce destructive behaviors. Here are three of our favorites:

1. Northmate Catch Interactive Feeder
Designed to kickstart your kitty’s hunting instincts, Catch by Northmate controls portion size, slows eating and prevents vomiting. Dishwasher safe and suitable for indoor and outdoor use, this specialized bowl is made of hard, phthalate-free plastic and has four anti-slip feet. Scatter wet or dry food across the feeder. Then your cat can push or grab it out from between its smoothly rounded spikes.

2. Nina Ottosson Melon Madness Puzzle & Play
Your curious cat will love Nina Ottosson’s Melon Madness Puzzle & Play. Cats bat at the pegs and swivel the seeds to uncover six hidden treat compartments that hold up to a quarter cup of food. Each puzzle is made from food-safe materials and comes with a tips and tricks info sheet. With no removable parts, you’ll also never have to worry about losing play pieces again.

3. Trixie 5-in-1 Cat Activity Center
Engage your smarty cat’s five senses with Trixie’s Activity Fun Board. Developed by cat expert Helena Dbalý, it has four transparent globes that can be filled with food for your cat to fish out. Its peg and alley centers allow her to MacGyver kibble around non-pointy pins and wavy walls. Its tongue center is best for liquid treats and has slits that prevent your cat from using her paws. Last but not least, its tunnel center is ideal for stalking and swatting hidden toys and treats.

drawing of girl with dog

Hi friends! It’s Maddie here with my best friend Bella, my sweet and adorable Golden Retriever puppy. I’ve been busy learning all sorts of things about dogs like how to interact with Bella so she feels safe and happy and learns to trust me. I want to share all of this with you!

Remember last time we chatted when I told you that dogs and people speak and communicate in different ways? And that there are many things people do that dogs might not understand that might make them feel stressed or worried? This is important because dogs that are worried or stressed are more likely to bite. I can’t imagine Bella biting somebody, but Bella’s vet told us that any dog can become scared or worried enough to bite, so it is our job to help them feel safe.

One of the most important things for everyone to learn, including kids, is how to greet a dog. We see dogs everywhere we go—on walks, at the park and even in some stores. I know I would feel really worried if a stranger came right up to me and reached out to grab my hand or hug me, so I can imagine how worried dogs might be when this happens to them.

When people say hi to each other, we face each other, we look each other in the eyes, and we may even lean forward and reach to shake hands or hug. But all of these things can make dogs feel worried. We might even bend down over the top of the dog if the dog is small, and that is scary too for the dog. So, how should we say hi to a dog? And when should we say hi to a dog?

First, I want to tell you about something that just happened yesterday. I was walking with my mom and Bella in a new neighborhood, and we passed a lady getting her mail from her mailbox. The lady commented on how cute Bella was and immediately got close and bent over Bella while reaching and patting her on the head and loudly saying, “Aren’t you the cutest little thing,” right in Bella’s face. Bella tucked her tail low, put her ears back, lowered her head and ducked behind my mother with really big eyes. My mom didn’t even have time to tell the lady how she’d like her to greet Bella. The lady had just rushed right in without asking. I knew that all of those body language changes meant that Bella was scared. The lady laughed, stood up and walked up her driveway.

My mom was a bit frustrated and said to me that the woman didn’t even realize the negative experience she’d created for Bella. This made me feel worried that Bella would be afraid of other people now thinking they might rush up and get in her space and scare her, so I knew we would have to make sure that future greetings were polite and that people asked Bella’s permission before saying hello and petting her. But how do we ask a dog’s permission? I know that sounds strange, but it is really the most important part of greeting a dog.

Here is what a proper and polite greeting looks like:

• Person approaches calmly and quietly.

• Person asks the dog’s owner if they can say hello to the dog.

• If the owner says yes, then the person waits for the dog’s permission by standing quietly nearby, with their body sideways and looking at the dog’s feet instead of right at their face and eyes, and wait for the dog to approach. If the dog stays away and doesn’t approach the person, the dog doesn’t wish to say hello, and we have to respect that and just walk away.

• If the dog does approach the person and the dog’s body language is happy and relaxed, the person can calmly reach to pet and rub/scratch the dog on their side or chest or shoulder instead of reaching over the top of their head. Our vet says we should pet with just one hand and that a good test is to pet for 3 seconds and stop and see if the dog wishes to have more petting. Many dogs will nudge your hand or put themselves closer as a way to ask for more. Be sure to bend over next to the dog and not over the top. Better yet, if the dog is small, crouch down next to it so you seem less threatening. (Remember, a happy dog is loose, wiggly, with squinty eyes, relaxed ears and tail).

My mom also says it is very important to be quiet and calm so no talking loudly right in the dog’s face or jumping about. It is also best to keep the interaction brief, and don’t hug or kiss the dog. It is so important for parents to teach their kids how to properly greet a dog. Remember, if we scare the dog, the dog could bite. Practicing with a stuffed dog works really well.

Finally, is it okay to ask to pet every dog we see? The answer is no. We wouldn’t want random people approaching and hugging us, right?

If you don’t know the dog, it is best to walk on by. Just because they are cute and fuzzy and soft doesn’t mean we get to touch and feel them. Some dogs are very afraid of strangers and/or kids, so it is always best to assume unfamiliar dogs need some space. If we know the person and dog or if the person is clearly encouraging interaction (e.g., maybe they’re teaching their new puppy that seeing and meeting other people is safe and okay), then we can follow the rules above so that it is a good experience for that dog or puppy as well as for us.

Next time, we’ll talk about more ways we can help our dogs to feel really safe and comfortable and the best ways to play with and spend time with our dog.

Note to parents: Use this story and the other resources to teach dog safety to your child and how to continue to foster trusting relationships between dogs and kids.

If you’d like to read more about Maddie and Bella, Bella’s First Checkup is available on Amazon, or you can contact Dr. Kohler for a signed copy by emailing her at [email protected].

QUESTIONS for Maddie can be emailed to [email protected]

Diane and Joe Ponzo have been rescuing medically-challenged seniors and hospice dogs since July 13, 1990. After rescuing their first pug angel, Tiger Joe, they decided to turn their passion into an organization called Canine Angels for Heaven on August 1, 2017. “We realized way back in 1990 that there were not enough people that wanted to take in medically challenged and hospice dogs,” says Diane. “People were just letting them go to die by themselves. Everyone wanted the puppies or younger dogs, but no one wanted the seniors, medically challenged seniors or hospice dogs.” Thus, their passion to help this group of dogs was born.

What is Pet Hospice? It is caring for an end of life Canine Angel. For example, a dog is diagnosed with cancer, his/her family does not want to watch them decline, so they call us and relinquish their dog to us. We give this Canine Angel the best love, family and all necessary medical care. This Canine Angel will be with us until they go to heaven. They will die with dignity, love and support from us; never ever alone!

Canine Hospice entails giving all of the above, including all the medical care they need. We work with a couple of wonderful vets who help us out with this. Hospice Care means being with them 24/7, it means giving them all the attention they need, all the paw holding they need and all the fun they can handle. It means road trips, picnics, special dinners, meeting people, going for stroller rides, swimming and more. It means giving them their medicine on time, giving them love and giving them the time they need to deal with their illness; it means being with them until the end and never leaving them. Hospice means being up at night and being sleep-deprived when an Angel is not feeling well; it means rocking them in the rocking chair until they fall asleep; it means being with them at their best and at their worst.

What are the costs? Costs are expensive. When a Canine Angel comes into our care, they go right to the vet to get checked out. We need to know exactly what is wrong and how we can give them the best life and best ending possible. A general vet visit can cost anywhere from $100.00 to thousands of dollars depending on the problem. We ask questions like: Do they need surgery? Do they need a dental? Generally, they need medicine and that is expensive at any pharmacy. Sometimes the vet carries medications, and sometimes we have to get it at the general pharmacy. These Canine Angels will be on their medications until the very end. They all go to the vet for their medication checks, cancer checks, heart checks or whatever their illness is. They all get checked out according to the vet’s recommendations.

What types of pets qualify for hospice? Cancer, Congestive Heart Failure, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Tumors, Kidney Failure, Liver Failure, Degenerative Disc Disease, Blind, Deaf, and anything else that we might come across. We also take in medically challenged pets such as ones with missing limbs or those who are not able to walk properly due to injury or disease.

Scooter-Roo came into our hospice because he was born with no front legs. This means he is medically challenged and a senior. When his human mama died, his family of 10 years did not want him. Scooter-Roo made the trip from Texas to come live with us. Daisy May, a 1-year-old little terrier mix came into our home on March 6, 2019. She came to us because she was supposed to die. She was beaten, abused, suffering from malnutrition and was dehydrated. It was one of the worst cases of abuse Chicago Animal Control had seen in years. On March 2, 2019, she was treated in the emergency room and stayed there until we received the call we could take her home. When we took over her care, they thought because of her malnutrition, she was going to have organ failure and die. If she did survive, she certainly would never walk. Well, with lots of love, rehabilitation and care from us and two of our wonderful volunteers, mother/daughter team Savanna and Melissa Volck, Daisy May survived. She can now walk, run, bark and have fun. Because she was beaten so badly on her head, she will always have short-term memory loss and vision loss, but that does not stop this fighter. She made a miraculous recovery and was adopted by the family who volunteers with us and who was instrumental in her recovery.

We have taken in medically challenged and hospice senior dogs from as far away as Kuwait. We have a medically challenged dog from Kuwait named Flately. He was brought to the meat market in Kuwait, and his angel was there to save him. They then called us and a few weeks later Flately was brought to the United States to receive proper medical care for degenerative disc disease.

What to expect… Most vets will tell the human parents their dog has a terminal condition or their dog has a problem that incurable or insolvable. Sometimes the human parents will tell the vet they are unable or unwilling to deal with it, and when the vet tells them their options, one option is to give them our card or call us. Sometimes the people will go home and think about things and then call us. Most rescues know about us and will also call us.

How many Angels can be cared for at one time? My husband, Joe, works from home. He is gone four to five hours per week. I work for a local hospital system and work four days per week. We can take care of several Canine Angels. We have a couple of great volunteers that help us. They love the Canine Angels and care for them, so we can do things that need to get done around the house. They rock and love these Canine Angels as if they were their very own. Without our wonderful volunteers, this task would be more difficult, but they help us ensure our Canine Angels are never alone.

Can previous owners visit their dogs? Once a Canine Angel is relinquished into our care, most people cannot drop off their dog fast enough and never look back. Most do not care and 99.5 percent NEVER want to know what is happening again. A couple of times, a request has come through for updates. We will update previous owners for a while just so the previous owner knows our new Canine Angel is adjusting well.

We have a large fenced-in area for the dogs with a tent that has a heater in it. The Canine Angels can go potty in this heated tent when it is cold, snowy or there is nasty weather. It heats up to about 75 degrees. We have a therapy pool in our basement that is 88 degrees. Each dog has his or her own life jacket and, if needed, a head rest. We do go in the pool with them.

There were and still are so many senior dogs, medically challenged dogs and hospice dogs that are alone in shelters. They are alone and dying by themselves with no one to love them or care for them. They sit there when people come looking for their new younger dog. The poor dog is sad, lonely and feels unloved and sometimes unworthy of love.

What we do is a 24/7 labor of love. We do not go on vacations. If we go out, it might be for a couple of hours, but then we need to get back home because the angels need us. We do not want to miss medicine times, insulin times for diabetic dogs or therapy times.

This year has been rough. I’ve been keeping my family and myself in a bubble of fear. Can you relate? Not only are most of us still afraid of catching this deadly virus, but also a lot of us have small businesses that are suffering from the previous Stay-at-Home order. As each day goes by, I try to force myself to stay present. It seems to be the safest place to be right now…at least for my own sanity. The future has way too much uncertainty and the past is over—so there’s no changing that. I’ve decided that I need to reexamine what’s important to me today. I need to make three wishes for the rest of this year, and make them come true. Wish Number One: Become and remain healthy. I don’t know about all of you…but I’ve definitely been packing on the pandemic pounds. Besides the coronavirus, killer hornets, 5G, protests and riots, my personal kryptonite and comfort food in 2020 has become cake…I LOVE CAKE! My body, however, is not a big fan of cake…or exercising…but you’ve got to start somewhere. Wish Number Two: Try to smile more and be happy. I hate Facebook with a passion. On one side, you have all of those happy family photos and vacations which look so amazing…so my brain goes…why can’t I have that? STOP. Pictures are so deceiving. Appreciate what you have right now. Other people’s lives aren’t always greener. Take, for instance, the complete opposite side of this like all the depressing posts and articles about death and suffering. Sometimes you need to tune it out and turn it all off. Adding more anxiety into my day isn’t helping me accomplish wish one or two. Wish Number Three: This one is my favorite wish of all: Do something great. It’s pretty broad, but I feel the need to do or be a part of something great. It could be simply helping out my fellow neighbor or taking on a cause that requires immense time and commitment. I must do something that is out of my comfort zone, something that will change and reflect who I am meant to be in the future.

What are your three wishes for the rest of this year?
Let’s try to manifest a better 2020 together.

May All Of Your Fears Disappear & May All Of Your Wishes Come True,