By: Arden Moore
For nine years, I lived in South Florida and looked forward to the occasional getaway to Key West. From my home in Palm Beach County, it took about five hours to reach the final key – Key West.
Ah, but it was well worth the drive. Instead of a rainbow at the end of the trip, there was a special house, actually a mansion, which housed special cats. These cats are all descendents of polydactyl cats owned – and adored – by the late famous writer, Ernest Hemingway.
Polydactyl cats, by definition, have extra toes – on their front paws and sometimes, back paws, too. Hemingway’s felines – more accurately – their descendants – have freely roamed the grounds of the Hemingway house which is now a major tourist attraction in Key West. Many of them loved to greet visitors and pose for photos.
These cats knew they had it made. Free meals. Free lodging. Adoring fans. What could be better? Unfortunately, big government, namely the U.S. Department of Agriculture, opted to try to force removal of the cats – citing a city law that prohibits more than four domestic animals per household.
For more than a year, the feds engaged in a catfight with the locals running the Hemingway house. I am happy to report that the Key West City Commission recently voted to exempt the Hemingway house from that city law on the number of animals allowed per property.
The famous polydactyl cats will get to roam the grounds as the members of the commission ruled that these felines are indeed animals of historic, social and tourism significance.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit Key West, please do. It is one of the few remaining places in the country where freedom truly exists – without a lot of meddling laws. Just ask the Hemingway cats.
By: Dr. Jack Stephens
Previously I have reported how I have personally witnessed people eliminate antidepressants by the simple act of obtaining a dog, especially a “lap” or household dog or cat. I have also shared how it is being scientifically documented and measured that pets can reduce and even eliminate mild depression.
Now, the National Women’s Health Resource Center and Support Partners has a national education campaign dedicated to people with depression, touting the benefits of a dog in overcoming depression. They suggest that petting your dog will help relieve stress and anxiety, taking your dog for a walk gives you exercise and relieves stress, and teaching your dog a new trick will give you a sense of accomplishment.
More and more social and healthcare professions are seeing the value of pets in helping to keep us healthy and improving our health when we are ill, stressed or depressed. Why is this important? Because the acknowledgment by national organizations and health care professionals will expand the access and awareness of the valuable role that pets play in our health. What more natural way to stay healthy and happy than by having the joy of owning a pet?
If you review some of my previous blogs you will see where I discuss the exact biochemical feedback mechanisms we experience when we are with our pets. How pets improve our health and well being by altering our biochemistry is still under investigation, and I will share the findings as they continue to develop. In summary a few benefits of pets are as follows:
The quiet interaction of petting a pet will lower your blood pressure, decrease your stress hormone and increase the levels of good hormones and neurotransmitters which will all help you feel better.
The simple act of watching fish in a fish tank will lower your blood pressure and decrease feelings of anxiety.
Interacting with your pet will increase your serotonin levels, which are instrumental to decreasing the feelings of depression.
Walking your pet will help you lose weight better than other traditional weight loss methods and improve your sense of well being.
According to a leading clinical psychologist, “While a doctor, family and friends should form the basis of a support network for clinically depressed individuals, dogs can play an important role by being a constant companion. Depression is often associated with strong social stigma, causing people to withdraw from their lives and intensifying the emotional symptoms of the illness.”
You and I know walking your dog will bring on more social contacts, make you feel better and help you lose weight, which are all beneficial to your emotional health and physical well being. Having a constant companion in your home will decrease the feeling of loneliness, provide you with activity that makes you feel needed and improve your biochemistry. So, take care of your buddies, and they will take care of you.
“Prescribe Pets Not Pills”
By: Arden Moore
Far too often, people equate barking with bad behavior in a dog. Just like people, dogs vocalize in many ways to convey various messages.
In my neighborhood, we all know (and hear) a mini-Schnauzer named Buddy who lives with a fun and feisty senior named Flo. Buddy unleashes a series of high-pitched yap-yap-yaps whenever anyone approaches the front door or whenever he spots trespassing cats in his backyard.
In this case, barking serves a benefit. Flo wears a hearing aid, and her dog seems to tune in when he is needed by running up to her and sounding a noisy alert. Buddy’s breed was born to bark. Schnauzers rank among the chattiest of canine breeds.
Having a noisy dog comes in handy for Flo during those times when solicitors come to her front door uninvited. Buddy barks so loud and so long that Flo can’t hear what the people are trying to pitch. They leave in frustration and Flo rewards Buddy for a bark well timed. Buddy also barks to awaken Flo if he hears a strange sound in the backyard at night. Most dogs seek jobs, and in Buddy’s case, he feels he earns his daily kibble by serving as Flo’s keen sense of ears. He detects everything that goes past Flo’s house.
But Buddy doesn’t bark just to bark. Whenever I bring over my two dogs, Chipper and Cleo, Buddy doesn’t bark – he cries out in pure joy as the sight of seeing his two doggy play pals coming up his walk. He also turns off his barking machine once welcomed guests are inside Flo’s home.
Flo has been a lifelong dog lover and she does her best to keep Buddy at his best. She signed him up for Pets Best insurance when he was a pup, has his coat professionally groomed and feeds him only high-quality food.
In the beginning, Flo would apologize for Buddy’s noise-making ways. Now, she embraces his vocalizations and proudly nicknamed him, Buddy Barky. Between a home alarm system and Buddy, Flo feels justifiably safe and secure.
Arden Moore, author of 17 books on cats and dogs, including her latest, The Dog Behavior Answer Book and The Cat Behavior Answer Book.
By: Arden Moore
It’s not everyday one receives a personalized letter from Martha Stewart. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine I would garner praise from the queen of daytime TV regarding a six-year-old dog cookbook.
It just goes to show that some nutritional advice is timeless. In this case, I wrote a book called Real Food for Dogs: 50 Vet-Approved Recipes for a Healthier Dog (Storey Books). The recent commercial pet food scare sent sales of my cookbook soaring all the way up to #6 on Amazon. The book has sold more than 40,000 copies this spring, and my life has been forever changed. When I wrote the book, the meals and treats were intended to compliment quality commercial dog food as ways to hone in good doggy manners. The pet food recall, though, found more people turning to my book for safe ways to prepare food for their dogs.
I’ve been on dozens of television and radio shows coast-to-coast plus Canada to tout tips on how to prepare healthy meals and treats for dogs. One stop included an appearance on the “Martha Stewart Living Radio” show with co-hosts Dean and Betsy. Just before airtime, the producer whispered in my ear, “You know, Martha listens to this show. She listens very carefully.”
During the hour, we prepared a recipe from my book called “Bow Wow Brownies” (made with carob – a safe substitute for chocolate, which is lethal for dogs) and made it in honor of Martha’s Chow Chow named Paw Paw. I also gave the producer an autographed copy of my book to deliver to Martha. Within a week back from New York City, I received a letter from Martha, who practiced – as always – good etiquette. She wrote:
“Dear Arden: Thank you so much for sending me a copy of your book, Real Food for Dogs. It was kind of you to think of me and very much appreciated. I have started preparing more home-cooked meals for my dogs since the recent dog food scare and they seem to be happier and healthier because of it. Kind regards, Martha Stewart”
Today, the letter is inside a frame and displayed in my home office in Oceanside, California. True, the letter comes from a celebrity, but the words come from a person who loves her dogs and who wants to do what she can to keep them healthy. That’s the real message all of us who are fortunate to have a dog share our lives should heed.