Subscriber Services Weather

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Rescue Heroines

The other day I went on a rescue with two terrific south Florida women, Helene Summers and Kathy Mello, who heard about dozens of cats and dogs abandoned in the remains of a Naranja trailer park being bulldozed for condos. Residents literally drove off and left them to breed and starve.

So Kathy and Helene set about extracting tiny puppies and kittens from refuse piles, and saving older animals wracked with disease.

Bless them.

I wrote a story about the afternoon spent with them. To read it, click here.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Vote for Cisco!

Back in mid-May, I wrote a story about a South Florida cat headed for the Meow Mix "feline reality show" in New York.

Ten rescue cats are competing for votes and adoptive homes. The voting has begun, and if you go to the Meow Mix site, you can cast yours for Cisco.

To get there, click here.

In the meantime, here's my story:


In his natural habitat - a West Kendall ranch house - Cisco the cat spends his days hiding in an old computer desk or prowling the screened patio. If he feels like it, he lounges on a futon, watching Animal Planet.

And if cat lovers feel like it, they can lounge on their own futons watching Cisco, one of 10 cats soon to star in a webcast being billed as the first feline reality show. If he isn't voted out of the litter box on Meow Mix House, he could end up the last kitty standing.

South Florida, it's up to you.

This is, of course, a massive hype-fest by Meow Mix, the cat food company, albeit with a worthy subtext. All competing cats come from rescue groups, and when the show's over, they'll be adopted. The felines - from New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas and Portland, Ore. - will join Cisco June 6-16 in a Manhattan storefront outfitted with a custom cat habitat, said company spokesman Keith Fernbach.

``Webcams will be positioned throughout the house, 24/7, so you can see what the cats are doing,'' he said.

Which might be a lot of sleeping and licking themselves, except that humans will be there to encourage play and prevent brawls. One cat gets the boot each day, said Fernbach, with the winner becoming ``feline vice president of research and development. He or she will be responsible for taste-testing and offering valuable feedback'' on products.

The potential audience is huge. Cats are America's most popular pets: 78 million compared to 65 million dogs. Thirty-four percent of U.S. households - 35.4 million - include at least one cat, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Cisco's rescuer, Patricia Murphy, a latent-fingerprint examiner for the Miami-Dade Police Department, thinks he's ideal for the show.

``He's a greeter cat,'' she explained, as the orange-and-white 17-pounder hopped onto the desk and drilled his head into a visitor's midriff.

Murphy, a volunteer with Cat Network, a South Florida rescue operation, got Cisco, 5, as a kitten. He bears the telltale sign of a rescue: the tip of his left ear's been snipped, to indicate he's been neutered.

``I found his mom and his whole litter and found a home for all except him. He's got such a great personality; he deserves a home where he can get lots of attention. I have too many for that.''

Like dozens, give or take the latest litter. And two dogs. So ardent a rescuer is Murphy, 49, that she ceded her master bedroom to the cats. She sleeps in a guest room.

Murphy thinks Cisco is a winner because he's gregarious; a requirement, said Beth Adelman, the certified feline behavior consultant who's advising the show, is ``must play well with others.''

``He's all over me,'' said Murphy, who claims to spend $14,000 a year on cats and, when asked if she was married, rolled her eyes and retorted: ``Of course not!''

``He climbs up me, rolls on my feet, bumps my hand, follows me around.'' On cue, Cisco stuck his face into hers.

``You're the perfect one,'' she purred. ``You're going to beat all those other cats.''

She's not worried about his age. ``Even on Survivor,'' she said, ``they have an old guy.''

In the wild, a ``typical cat on a typical day would conduct 15 to 20 hunting expeditions,'' said Adelman, author of Every Cat's Survival Guide to Living With a Neurotic Owner.

``Obviously, domestic cats don't because we hunt for them, but they do a lot of playing: chasing each other, toys, bugs, sunlight.''

To stave off boredom, ``we'll give them little games and puzzles to solve,'' said Adelman, 48, who will be in the cat house. And to stave off conflict, ``we're planning a very large [vertical] space with trees and platforms, because cats move in three dimensions.''

The humans will watch for aggressive body language and intervene before things get ugly.

``They're like kids in the lunchroom,'' said Adelman. ``You have to interrupt before they start hitting each other with spoons.''

She predicts that viewers of the webcast - and a prospective cable show that Fernbach said is being proffered to several cable networks - will probably see a lot of grooming.

``They like to clean each other's ears. . . . They groom up to four hours a day, which is why a good, healthy cat smells like the afghan that Grandma knit for you.''

Cindy Hewitt, Cat Network's executive director, thinks the show is a great idea.

``Anything that gets exposure for rescued animals and raises awareness of overpopulation is terrific,'' she said. ``What a unique opportunity. It's a really interesting social experiment.''

She claims never to have watched a reality show - ``I have too much of a life'' - though she'll probably tune into this one.

``Watching cats would be fun.''

Two Dogs Shot Like Hunted Beasts; Cape Codders Outraged

It seems like there's an epidemic of grotesque animal abuse these days, between the draggings and the intentional running over in cars of pets, and various other twisted acts of cruelty.

This one, from Cape Cod, has a whole community in a rage at two men who are accused of pumping 37 rifle slugs into two pit bulls. Sick, sick, sick.

To read about the case, click here. And don't they look like fine, upstanding citizens?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dressed for Success (Canine Style)

Planning to take your dog to work on June 23? Then you MUST make sure he/she is properly attired (what's "business casual" for a dog?) Perhaps this look works for you, modeled here by Durango, an alum of the Humane Society of Broward County.

Nice tie!

June 23, Take Your Dog To Work Day, is a creation of Pet Sitters International, "to celebrate the special bond they share with their companion animals." Cherie Wachter, the Broward Humane spokesperson, recommends the following to those who plan on participating:

"Make sure your pet is comfortable around strangers, has up-to-date vaccinations and is wearing a current county license tag and you will have time to take your pet for a walk."

To learn more about Broward Humane, click here.

Shawney Update

Scroll down to the "revenge fantasy" entry, about a (whatever you want to call him; I must be mindful of libel laws) who's accused of dragging a precious little chihuahua mix behind his car for a third of a mile in Cape Coral, FL.

By some miracle, the poor pup, Shawney, wasn't killed, but was grievously injured. But the good news is that Shawney is recovering, and zillions of people want to adopt her.

Meanwhile, the accused dragger has plead not guilty to one count of animal cruelty. To read the latest about the case, click here.

To see an online video of Shawney at the vet, click here.

Dogs at Work

Take Your Dog to Work Day is around the corner, but some dogs take their HUMANS to work.

In New York City, for instance, there's an epidemic of bedbugs - feh! - and dogs are being employed to sniff them out. That's what I call earning your keep!

To read a recent New York Times story about career dogs, click here. (And thanks to Jules for pointing it out).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Your Pet Pix

Meet Geyser, who appears in this photo either to be singing opera or giving a campaign speech.
"Geyser was found in a wine crate at about 4-6 weeks of age," wrote the kitty's human. "This picture was taken exactly a year later."

Now meet Meredith and her pet goat, Tanya.

"A couple of years ago we didn't have a dog to take to work on Take Your Dog To Work Day, so I took Tanya," writes Ellen Price of King, NC, editor of The WORLD of Professional Pet Sitting. "She was very well behaved and spent most of the day outside underneath a shade tree, and greeting arriving visitors."

Want to see your little sweetie on the blog? E-mail a photo to

Meow More Than Ever - Adopt a Shelter Cat!

That's the headline that greeted me when I logged onto the BellSouth homepage this morning, to check my personal e-mail. And how nicely it dovetails with the story I have in today's paper about a pair or rescuers (see post below).

Cats are America's most popular pet. But there are also millions of strays that need homes, especially this time of year, when they're born. Shelters are overrun with kittens.

To read the whole story at BellSouth, click here.

To read my story, click here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Check Tomorrow's Herald

... because I've got a story about two wonderful women spending the past couple of days rescuing abandoned animals from a condemned trailer park in Naranja, near Homestead. They called about noon to tell me they were out there trying to catch a hostile and worried mama dog and her many pups.

Seems that when the park closed down - condos are going up on the land, as they are on every square inch of South Florida not already occupied by something else - people just left their animals. Drove off and left them.

How crazy does THAT make me??

So Kathy Mello and Helene Summers have been out there wrangling critters, all of which need medical care, which they're getting at Roger Gilley's clinic (he's adored by rescuers in that part of the county because he'll treat every animal they bring in at a discount).

The puppies - some look like lab mixes, others like Australian shepherds, all too cute for words - will be placed for adoption by The Humane Society of Greater Miami & Adopt a Pet.

To check out the group's site, click here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Dog Whisperer

From a recent New Yorker Magazine:

Malcolm Gladwell profiles Cesar Millan, the host of the National Geographic TV show “Dog Whisperer.” Here, with Ben Greenman, Gladwell discusses Millan and what canine behavior tells us about human behavior.

BEN GREENMAN: What first got you interested in Cesar Millan?

MALCOLM GLADWELL: A friend of mine told me about Cesar’s show, “Dog Whisperer,” and swore it was the best thing on television. So I began to watch, and I was quickly hooked. If you are a dog person—and I am—it’s pretty irresistible.

To read the rest of the article, which is fascinating, click here.

Purloined Pug; Family Offering Reward

This is really sick. The Kirschenbaum family of Coral Springs, FL, was robbed last n Wednesday by someone who broke into their home, stole their stuff, and worst of all, snatched their pug, Oscar. He's 6 and has a collapsed trachea, reports Alan Kirschenbaum. He needs medication twice daily.

Alan says that Oscar is "very docile...My kids are very upset about the robbery and more upset about the dog," who is fawn "with a blackish face."

There's a $500 reward.

Call 954-328-1877, or 954-345-9368 if you have information. Or call Broward County Crime-Stoppers: 954-493-TIPS.