The Human Pedigree: Going Home, Moving On

FamilyOctGathering2014

Everyone in my family is an accomplished photographer–but we still couldn’t figure out the “timer” to get us all in the frame!

Last week, I drove to the airport 90 minutes away, waited during a 40-minute plane delay, sat on the plane for 2+ hours, boarded a bus for another 3 hour ride and discovered I’d left my laptop behind during the routine airport security check at DFW. I hate travel. But I’d do it all over again, and gladly.

It was my parent’s 60th Anniversary celebration. My two brothers and their wives and I rented a house in Michigan, and we gathered together for a rare but blissful reunion with great food, fine beverages, late night laugh-fests, shared memories, and bitter-sweet farewells.

We grew up in Northern Indiana where my parents still live. My twin brother (and nope, we’re NOT identical, LOL!) and his family live in Ohio where he’s a brilliant speech writer and PR pro, while our younger brother, a professional photographer, lives in far northern Michigan. My SILs are accomplished professional women, too, and my niece and nephews make us all proud. But how did my “little brother” become a grandpa, twice over? Where did the time go?

I live the farthest away in Texas, and traveling that far plus coordinating all of our busy schedules proves the greatest challenge. In fact, my husband wasn’t able to come due to a number of scheduling conflicts with work–and caring for the fur-kids. Sometimes I feel guilty that we moved so far away…

PEDIGREES & GENEALOGY

When together, I’m reminded of what a friend calls our “charmed childhood.” Our home was full of books, art and music–even today Mom and Dad’s house looks like a cross between an art gallery and a library, with musical instruments thrown in. Memories of being read to–story time was important when we were kids–and then arguing which one got to practice on the newer upstairs piano rather than the old-timey one in the basement. And later, when cello, violin, trumpet, voice lessons, track and wrestling, sewing lessons and play practice were added. How did my folks find the time, with their teaching schedules, to give us such wonderful gifts of creativity to explore?

Pets, too, of course–Shelties now gone for years that taught me about dog training and patience, and still prompt tears when stories are fondly shared. My Dad, a long retired elementary music teacher, has become a recognized pastel artist, and one of Mom’s most cherished pictures is the portrait of all the Shelties together: Pickles, Mac, Chad and Skye.

Living on the river, I could sneak away in the canoe to perch in my “reading tree” out of sight for lazy summertime hours. Baby bunnies rescued, turtles and snakes caught and released, river snails the size of your fist–and college fees times three. I am in awe, and a bit weepy thinking back.

We spent time this past weekend looking through a family genealogy, marveling at our ancestors, and how far they’d traveled to meet their future spouses and raise families. And I learned that my Mom, born and raised in Kentucky, had also taken a chance and left her family for a teaching job in Indiana more than 60 years ago–and there she met Dad.

GOOD GENES & LUCK

With cats and dogs, we have the luxury of reviewing pedigrees and choosing ideal pet parent matches–but even then, anything can happen. Humans are more in line with the “lovable mutts” that just happen to get together. What results can be good, bad, or hopefully a happy accident.

I am me because of my parents, and my brothers. How lucky that my ancestors took a chance on coming to a new country, and that my Mom left her family during an era when most young women stayed home and married a neighbor. They still love life, my parents, and it shows in all they do–and I pray they’ll continue to stay healthy for another decade and beyond. Neither looks or acts their age and if I’m sometimes silly or act quirky well–it’s THEIR gene pool! And I’m proud and lucky to be a part of it.

Friends sometimes share with me their sorrow, anger, or indifference that they’ve lost touch or are not close with their families. That makes me sad–and also makes me feel even more lucky to have the parents and brothers that I have.

I see myself in them, in how I was raised, and the decisions I made to arrive at this place in my life. I, too, left home. But I took home with me. It’s who I am. All the things I love most in life–pets, music, art, puns and laughter, theater and bling, books and stories, love and honesty–all comes from them. With a pedigree like that, I am indeed blessed.

Oh, I did get my laptop back. Just lucky, I guess!

When was the last time you had a family reunion? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways, kewl product offers, and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

STRAYS CAST ANNOUNCED! RESERVE SEATS NOW!

Strays Cast 001The cast of STRAYS has been rehearsing since late September, preparing for the November 6, 7, 8 performances at 7:00 pm at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman Texas.

STRAYS is an original show by Amy Shojai and Frank Steele that explores furry foibles from the PETS’ point of view. “All new scripts are written in (forgive us) kitty litter. Working with a cast helped us tighten scenes and refine songs for the best actor/audience performance experience possible,” say Shojai and Steele. “We’re proud to premier the show with this fantastic cast, courtesy of Theatricks and the Honey McGee Playhouse.”

All actors remain onstage and each portrays several feature roles—including human owners—in this hilarious and often moving “drama-dy” that seeks to edu-tain audiences about normal pet behavior that too often gets pets kicked out of the house. In addition, Petco, Natural Balance pet food, and others have donated pet-centric gift baskets (including some waived pet adoption fees to qualified owners) to raise funds for the local Animal Refuge Foundation and Red River SPCA.

“Our pet loving cast ranges in age from kindergarten to mature adults, including several parent/child castings,” say the playwrights. “Many are experienced performers you know from Theatricks and Finley productions, while others are first-time actors.”

The cast of 30 includes Denison performer Avery Hall, and Van Alstyne performers Kate Carson, Charlotte Thomas and Sofia Westmoreland. Sherman performers are Sophia Allen, Jim Barnes, Marty Burkart, Kaitlyn Casmedes, Christina and Jesse Childress, Lew Cohn, Roxy Farrel and her mother Katie Wiley, Kevin Gautier, Ava Gibson, Carolina Guerra and her children Abraham, Eliana and Sofia, Ken Kozak and his daughter MacKenzie, Theresa Littlefield, Brenna Michaelsen, Steven Milward, John and Susan McGinn and their daughter Sarah, Charity Riley and daughter Brynn, and Liam Troncalli.

Strays-PerformPoster copySTRAYS is co-directed by Steele and Shojai, with assistance from rehearsal pianist Dr. John McGinn and choreographer Kaitlyn Casmedes. In addition, Steven Milward is technical adviser, with Michael Gardner running lights. Brenna Michaelsen and Tobias Scheibmeir share the duties of stage manager.

The show is suitable for all ages, and children will especially enjoy the funny songs—just remember that the actors are pretending to be cats and dogs doing what often “hisses” owners off, like scratching, barking, jumping or missing the litter box. Parents of very young or sensitive children should be aware the show briefly addresses the reality of what happens to unwanted pets. “Rest assured, there IS a happy ending!”

The Honey McGee Playhouse seats slightly over 100, and the three performances November 6, 7, 8 are expected to sell out quickly. Tickets are $10 each, and you can purchase tickets at the door or reserve seats online at the Theatricks website by clicking on the STRAYS link on the night you wish to attend.

CLICK HERE FOR THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 7:00 PM PERFORMANCE

CLICK HERE FOR FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 7:00 PM PERFORMANCE

CLICK HERE FOR SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 7:00 PM PERFORMANCE

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways, kewl product offers, and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Curing Magic Markers: Acral Lick Granulomas & What to Do

dog licking its paw

When your pet is so itchy he licks sores onto his legs, what’s a caring pet owner to do? Image Copr. DepositPhotos.com/Quasarphoto

Magic has been miserable, chewing and scratching himself nearly 24/7 for the past two months. We attributed all the itch-icity to bug bites, although he’s on a monthly flea preventative.

Then we noticed he’d begun lick-lick-licking his left “wrist” until the fur wore off, and skin turned raw. Again, we figured he’d had a bug bite or other minor irritation that caused the problem. By keeping it clean and interrupting his licking, the spot healed and fur began to re-grow.

SoreEyes

Thick sticky tears from weepy eyes that’s hard to clean away–hair loss around his eyes. The vet suspected “dry eye.” Yikes!

About the same time, his eyes began to water more than usual. This happened right after one of his games of “hose tag” so we figured he’d just had a bit of water irritation. But even as the front leg healed, he began licking the toes on a rear foot, again self-barbering away fur and leaving the area raw. On top of that, the front “wrist” area looked thickened like a large callus even with most fur back in place. The outside base of one ear became sore and itchy.

FLEAS? ATOPY? ACRAL LICK SORES? AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE?!

Now, after writing about many different doggy ailments over the years, I always fear the worst. Our first German Shepherd had such devastating skin disease that at one time, he became nearly bald with itchy sores all over his ears and body, and his skin turned black from saliva stains. He had to eat a homemade diet, be bathed twice a week, and take 14 pills of various kinds every day. He only returned to near-normal when we moved to Texas but was never fully healthy.

FrontPaw

Magic’s left front “wrist” with saliva-stained thickened skin–but at least the fur has begun to return and it’s no longer raw.

RearPaw

Magic’s left rear paw–he licks the top of the toes, too, but fur has covered that portion up. The dark place is stained hairless tissue–it’s healed, but was bright red and raw.

Magic has always been extraordinarily healthy, so it came as a shock to see some of the same signs that our first dog had suffered. I suspected it could be a couple of things—lick sores are common in German Shepherds—but worried it might even be an autoimmune issue (way scary!). Guessing gets nothing done, and it takes a professional to figure things out. Last week, we took him to the veterinarian to find out what was going on, and how to keep him comfortable.

Now, Magic LOVES the vet—licks all over his face!—but he’s a big dog and won’t allow certain handling. While the veterinarian echoed some of my initial suspicions, a definitive diagnosis required tests in order to prescribe the right meds. So we agreed to leave him for sedation so a skin scrapping of the sores, an ear culture, and a tear test could be done.

 

MAGIC’S DIAGNOSIS

The good news—it is NOT an autoimmune issue. Whew! More good news—Magic’s tear test was normal, so we’re not dealing with dry eye. While it’s not common, the vet suspected teary eyes were a result of allergies.

More good news—no ear flushing was needed, the inflammation was isolated to the external base of the front of the ear. Again, this was attributed to allergies (probably atopic dermatitis). While in the past, atopy has been defined as “inhalant” allergic dermatitis, today it’s considered more of a contact allergy with paw-pad exposure and absorption of allergens being a big influence. Wow…knowing that could have helped our first dog enormously!

On to the spots on Magic’s paw and leg—and yep, they were diagnosed as lick sores, technically called acral lick granulomas. The skin scraping indicated bacteria was present, too. There are LOTS of causes, from an initial irritation to stress, boredom, and even obsessive-compulsive issues.

WHAT IS ACRAL LICK GRANULOMA?

With acral lick granulomas, the dog incessantly licks a selected area, usually on a lower leg, which creates a raised, hairless ulcerative plaque—almost a callus that surrounds the never-healing sore. The constant licking makes the area itch and can cause secondary bacterial infection. This prompts further licking to relieve the itch, and a vicious cycle is created.

Any dog can be affected, but the condition most commonly affects males older than three years. The syndrome is often seen in large active-breed dogs that demand a lot of owner interaction, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinchers, Great Danes, and you guessed it—German Shepherds.

Treatment is difficult in many cases, and some dogs may never be completely cured. Infections may respond to antibiotics, and steroids may temporarily soothe itchiness.

MAGIC’S Rx

Magic was given cephalexin antibiotic, Betagen topical spray for the sores, and low dose prednisolone to calm the whole body itch. The veterinarian says he’ll need to be on the antibiotic for at least two months (probably longer) until both lesions completely heal since often these are deep seated infections—and they could recur down the road. The steroid is low-dose and will be gradually reduced.

The night Magic came home he was still woozy from the sedation. But by the next day and just one round of medication, he already felt so much better! We’re now about five days into the treatment, and with the itchiness calmed, both leg sores have made great progress toward healing, and his eyes no longer water incessantly.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

In many cases, giving dogs stricken with lick sores more one-on-one time can help reduce boredom and stress. Since I work at home, Magic has attention pretty much all the time, but there has been quite a lot of stress over the past several months due to job changes. Dogs can react to an owner’s stress—so I need to work on handling my own angst-icity!

Dogs that are confined alone for long periods of time tend to have more problems. Some dogs respond favorably when another pet is adopted into the home. Magic has Karma—the jury is out on whether that’s helpful or added stress! The habit may be interrupted in some dogs through the use of veterinary prescribed drugs used in treating obsessive/compulsive disorders. All that, of course, is up to the veterinarian and based on the individual dog’s situation.

Have you ever had a dog that suffered with “lick sores?” How did you manage it? Were the lesions healed, and were there any relapses? What else should I watch for with Magical-Dawg?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways, kewl product offers, and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

FOUNTAIN OF HEALTH: SAVE $30 INCREASE #CATS LAP-TIME!

KarmaFountainDo your cats drink enough water? Karma-Kat just discovered the LAP OF LUXURY with the NatureSpa UV Fountain, and I couldn’t wait to share this with all my Sweet Peeps!

I’M THE NEW SPOKESPERSON for the PetHealthyStore.com launching today (YEEE-HAW!) and I love this fountain so much, I negotiated a GREAT DEAL just so I could pass it on to you. Consider this my launch-party-gift to all my Blingy-Blog, Pet Peeves, Facebook & Twitter besties!

I’ve tested and reviewed a LOT of pet water FountainAdvertfountains and figure they’re all pretty much alike. But when they sent me a free NatureSPA to review (NOTHING goes in the store unless I love it!), I was surprised. . . It’s so good, I updated my books to include the recommendation.

It usually retails for $69.99, but you’ll get $30 off just by inputting the code AMYFOUNTAINSAVE30 in the shopping cart.

I’ve never seen a fountain like this! In fact, Karma pushed me out of the way to get a taste before I could toss the packing material away.

CUTTING EDGE HYDRATION

KarmaSinkWhat’s so different? NatureSPA uses UV Light to sterilize the water and kill bacteria that make it taste bad. That reduces the icky slime that’s so hard to clean. This is the same UV sterilization system used in some human medical procedures.

But do cats and dogs really need a fountain? Magic makes do with a huge water bowl on the floor—well, and the occasional slurp from the toilet (yuck!). Cats toilet-taste too, given the chance. And I betcha y’all have a cat or two that LOVES lapping water from the faucet, like Karma!

DogFountainNatureSPA is designed so water spouts outward, enticing cats (or small dogs) to take a taste just like your dripping faucet. Like other fountains, it has replaceable charcoal filters that get rid of any nasties.

CATS HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM!

Cats evolved as desert creatures. Water was so scarce, they got most of their water from munching prey. Even though modern cats rarely munch critters and the water bowl stays full, Kitties still don’t drink as much as they should. And that can lead to health problems.

In fact, 84% of cat’s body weight is water which fuels the body, lubricates tissues, regulates temperature, carries nutrients through the bloodstream, aids digestion and removes waste. Water is so important that only a 15% water loss causes deadly dehydration, so it’s vital to keep cats (and dogs) drinking healthy.

DO YOUR CATS DRINK ENOUGH? WANT TO INCREASE “LAP TIME?”

CLICK HERE to get $30 off the BEST FOUNTAIN EVAH!

Enter AMYFOUNTAINSAVE30 in the shopping cart.

CatFountainHOW CATS & DOGS DRINK

To drink, cats curl their tongue forward into a spoon shape, and lapping creates a column of liquid they swallow. Dogs curl their tongue BACKWARDS like a ladle to lift water to drink.
Both cats and dogs love this fountain because movement aerates water, mixes it with air so it TASTES GOOD! When water tastes good, cats and dogs drink more. When they drink more, water keeps them healthy especially when dealing with urinary tract issues.

I was really surprised that it was so quiet. There’s no motor hum so it won’t scare your cats—and for me, acts like a water-splashing lullaby, complete with a bluish nightlight. Kitty won’t care, but I think it’s pretty!

XtraCapacityEven better, there’s a 1-year warranty, and a 30-day money back guarantee. I’ve had the motors in fountains burn out when the water level drops too far, so the auto-shutoff feature is value added. This is the ONLY fountain that auto-shut-off.

NatureSPA UV Fountain holds 1.8 quarts of water – that’s 58 ounces – but you can get a larger reservoir for multiple pet homes. I like that the fountain looks modern and is made from human-grade ABS plastic.

The Naturespa UV Fountain usually sells for $69.99. But I love this fountain so much, I wanted to share it with my pet-lovin’ friends.

FountainAdvertSimply go to Pethealthystore.com and enter the coupon code AMYFOUNTAINSAVE30 in the shopping cart to save $30.00. That’s 42% off! You pay only $39.99 for a $69.99 fountain.

How do you get your pets to drink healthy amounts of water? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways, kewl product offers, and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

How to Prepare If Pets Outlive You

Young woman with  cat and dog

Image Copr. DepositPhotos.com/photomac

This week, the pet community is reeling from the tragic and sudden death of two heroes, animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin and Cat Writers Association president Dr. Lorie Huston. Dr. Yin left behind her beloved dog Jonesy, while my friend Lorie is survived by 6 special needs rescue cats. CWA members are networking to re-home Lorie’s cats.

Neither expected to have their pets outlive them. Do you have plans for your special pets?

In the past, elderly readers have contacted me to ask about setting up care options for her pets should she die before them. Although healthy and with every intention to stick around for the foreseeable future, at age 72 she wanted to be prepared, should something unexpected happen. But as we’ve seen, even younger people can have the worst happen.

Sadly, orphaned pets often end up in shelters or destroyed by the surviving family members, when nobody feels able or willing to care for the left-behind fur-kid. The adult pet hasn’t a clue why she’s suddenly gone from a loving home and lap, to a scary metal cage.

How to Prepare For Pets After Your Death

What can caring owners do to prepare for the worst, if death, disability or age takes away a pet’s home? Will family and friends rally to find loving homes for all of the orphaned animals?

Your family and friends, veterinarian contacts and church relationships may be eager and willing to offer a place for your pet should you die before them. Maybe you have brother-dogs that would pine away if separated, or special needs cats that requires extra medical care. Often, a simple promise among friends will be sufficient. Ideally, the animals already know and get along with the new owner—because missing you will be as tough for them as for your human family.

In today’s changing world, though, good intentions and a promise made years before may go out the window should the person’s own situation change. For instance, maybe your friend has other pets that won’t accept your animals, or living arrangements/finances have changed. For peace of mind, it’s best to make formal arrangements in your will and try to address every eventuality.

LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS

Legal restrictions won’t allow a beloved pet to actually inherit from your estate because critters are themselves defined as property. But you certainly can set up trusts for the care of the pet, and name a specific person who will receive those funds so that they can take the critter into their care for the remainder of its life. Once you find persons willing to take your pet, consult with an attorney about the proper paperwork necessary to make a legal and binding arrangement.

There also are “pet retirement homes” or “sanctuaries” that might be able to take your pets. Organizations that give pets a home for life, though, have limited openings. A fee is involved that pays for the care, and this may be set up in your will or other legal document.

David Congalton and Charlotte Alexander wrote the book, “When Your Pet Outlives You” which contains sample legal forms, names of pet law specialists, addresses of pet retirement homes and sanctuaries throughout the U.S., a report on all relevant state statutes, important court decisions affecting people and their pets, and precise details on how to set up a pet trust.

The Humane Society of the United States offers a free brochure called Providing For Your Pet’s Future Without You. It suggests you find at least two responsible friends or relatives and provide them with emergency information for short-term care.

Also ensure your neighbors know how many pets you have and how to contact emergency care givers. Carry a wallet “alert card” with this information and post “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows. The pamphlet includes sample legal language for wills and suggestions how to choose a permanent care giver for your animals in case of your death.

Once these emergency issues are in place, you’ll have peace of mind. That allows you to relax and enjoy making the most of the time you have with your special animal companions.

May you have many more loving years with your special companions. Meanwhile, I’m making my own emergency arrangements — just in case — for my Magical-Dawg, Seren-Kitty and Karma-Kat, while my heart breaks for Lorie and her furry wonders left behind.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!