Sunday, September 24, 2006

Travels With the Girls

When we travel, we've always tried to take our dogs with us whenever possible. Over the years, our various dogs have visited San Francisco, Seattle, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Carmel, Kansas City, Vancouver and Tenaya Lodge just outside Yosemite. They've ridden in cars and flown on airplanes. At Tenaya, Bella went on a hayride in a horse-drawn wagon. Darcy had the most mileage, having flown from Ireland to New York, then New York to Los Angeles (in business class, baby!) when she was a puppy.

On rare occasions, the dogs can't go with us. When we had our greyhound, I never minded boarding her because I reasoned that she was used to kennel life. For short trips, the Cavaliers stayed at the vet's office, where they were royally spoiled. But for trips of longer than a week, I wanted better for them--so we began the habit of driving them 7 hours north to the Bay Area to stay with Bella's breeder. I'm sure people thought we were crazy, but it made me happy. They were in a home, with people they knew and other dogs to play with, and I never worried that they wouldn't get the best of care.

It was cost-effective too. Even with the price of gas inching up, it was still cheaper than a kennel stay to drive them up to Joanne and either turn right around and drive back or spend the night and fly to our destination from San Francisco instead of LAX. The cost of boarding three small dogs was $108 per day, and that wasn't even boarding them at fancy places like these. At those rates, boarding the girls for a typical trip of 16 days would have cost $1,728--enough to pay for a whole nother trip. No thanks! So we'll keep taking them with us or driving them north. Thank dog for Sirius satellite and books on CD...

Nothing To Sneeze At

The holy grail of catdom may be at hand. Scientists have bred cats that they say do not carry the gene that causes feline fur, saliva and skin to produce allergic reactions.

Want one? Don't cough up a hairball when you hear the price. Instead, be prepared to cough up $3,950--and spend time on a waiting list until a kitten is available. But for people who love cats but not the red eyes, sneezing and asthma they can induce, the hypoallergenic kittens are, well, priceless.

Friday, September 22, 2006

In Search of Cynophobes

I'm looking for sources to interview for a column on overcoming a fear of dogs. One of the places Google took me to was the Food and Drug Administration, which has an article on phobias. At the end it lists organizations that can help. Why does it not surprise me that a group called Phobics Anonymous only has a PO Box and a phone number?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Water By Poochi

In his usual incisive, insightful way, columnist Mark Morford skewers what is not really the latest in pet culture overload--designer drinking water for dogs and cats. He writes:

As if quenching his sheer dumb animal thirst at the garden hose wasn't enough to make your dog blissfully happy. As if a world teeming with roughly 1 billion unclassifiable odors wasn't already a wondrous canine olfactory buffet. Did you know that dogs have over 200 million scent cells? And that humans have a mere 5 million? The last thing dogs need is for their water to smell like synthetic cow. I'm just guessing.

The reason I say it's not really the latest is because I remember when it first came out--some time in the mid '80s. Along with pet cologne formulated to make dogs smell like their Giorgio-wearing mistresses and clothing that went beyond the basic sweater. It just has taken 20 years for all those prescient businesspeople to build marketshare and develop a "need" for their products.

And it hasn't all been bad. That was also when the pet health food market began to stir. That's been a good thing. Dogs and cats have a much wider variety of healthier foods available to them today, although their people still tend to overfeed and underexercise them. I still remember the horrified expressions of a group of pet food marketers when I predicted--a dozen or so years ago--that homemade, or at least fresh, pet food was the coming thing.

Was I a visionary? Nah. Partly I was just making it up off the top of my head, based on the rise of dog bakeries at the time, but it seemed like a possibility. And when it comes to what people will do for their dogs and cats, you can't discount anything.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Keep Kids Healthier. Get a Pet.

A new study shows that kids who have pets tend to suffer less from stomach bugs. Apparently, the frequent exposure to low levels of pathogenic organisms strengthens the immune system and makes it less likely to succumb to gastroenteritis. I guess that's true. I was sick all the time as a kid, but rarely from stomach upset. And to this day I have a cast-iron stomach--knock on wood. Now I'm counting on Bella and Twyla to keep me free of heart disease. As much petting as they demand (and get), I should have the heart of a 20-year-old.