One man’s financial problem: Watchdog consumer

A grateful dog owner can now buy a few video games, guilt free"The dog ate my homework." The feeble excuse has been used so often it has become a common American aphorism, and motto of the lethargic. One video game aficionado, however, woke up last week to find that his dog, Oscar, had somehow purchased 5,000 Microsoft points on his Xbox Live gaming system.

A writer named Greg on the video game blog Kotaku admits that in the past, Oscar has chewed up and torn apart pillows, sox, candles, toilet paper and bottles. This time, Greg awoke to find that his Xbox controller had been gnawed on during the night, and $62.50 worth of online Microsoft Points had been purchased.

After some elementary sleuthing, the dog owner concluded that Oscar, in a frenzy of chewing, somehow managed to press the buttons necessary to turn on the videogame system, enter the online store and purchase the points, which can be used toward Xbox merchandise.

Lenient in his pet care, Greg wrote on the blog, "All in all, I’m not mad. A bunch of new games to keep me busy and a reason to finally go buy that black controller I’ve been wanting."

While training dogs, the U.S. Humane Society recommends positive reinforcement and ignoring undesirable responses as the most effective methods.

Microchip technology helps find lost pets

A microchip can link pets to their ownersLost pets can cause distress to second-graders, businessmen and shelter owners alike. Aside from the emotional vacancy the pet leaves, missing animals cause a pet care burden to shelters which are already overpopulated with homeless cats and dogs. The good news is a new study has found that cats that are placed in animal shelters are 20 times more likely to be returned to their owners if they have been implanted with a microchip.

Linda Lord of Ohio State University visited 53 shelters in 23 states from August 2007 until March 2008, and found that less than 2 percent of admitted animals had a microchip on them.

However, 29 percent of cats with microchips were returned to their owners, compared to 2 percent without the chips. For dogs, 52 percent of those with chips were returned compared to 21 percent without the technology.

"Hopefully, this study will help the public become more aware of how important microchipping is," said Jill Lee, executive director of the Cat Welfare Association. "It’s a very simple thing to have done."

According to the U.S. Humane Society, the chips, which are the size of a grain of rice, contain a number that is revealed after the microchip is scanned. A shelter worker can then enter the number into a registry to obtain the pet owner’s information.

ASPCA honors prized pets and owners

The ASPCA this week will honor some amazing animals and their ownersGrammys, Nobel Prizes, road race trophies, gold stars – everyone gets an award nowadays. Few honorees, however have accomplished the outstanding feats that some pets and pet owners are able to boast.

This week, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) will hold the Humane Awards Luncheon in New York City to recognize the heroism and astonishing achievements performed by animal owners and their beloved pets.

"The ASPCA is proud to honor those who have demonstrated extraordinary compassion, bravery and commitment to furthering the human-animal bond," said ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres. "The Humane Awards celebrates the important role that animals play in our lives."

The ASPCA Dog of the Year award for 2009 will go to Archie, a black Labrador retriever that serves as an assistance dog for Sergeant Clay Rankin, who suffered spinal injuries while performing military service in Iraq. The Cat of the Year will be YouTube sensation, Nora, a former shelter pet who entertained the world this year with her dexterity on the piano.

The ASPCA also gives awards for Firefighter of the Year, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, and the Tommy Monahan Kid of the Year – an award named after a 9-year-old who took pet care to the next level, losing his life to save his pet from a house fire in 2007.

Research assesses dogs’ carbon pawprints

What impact do pets have on the environment?Some environmentalists will chastise their friends who drive gas-guzzling SUVs, leave the faucet running or fail to reuse their recyclables. In a new book, two New Zealand authors are asking dog owners to assess the environmental impact of their pet’s carbon paw print.

Robert and Brenda Vale, authors of Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, analyze how pet care for cats and dogs can impact the environment, Fox News reports. Specifically examining the carbon emissions pets create, the researchers found that dog food ingredients, and the land required to produce the food give a medium sized dog a carbon foot print of about .84 hectares per year.

In comparison, a Toyota Land Cruiser driven about 6,200 miles a year creates an eco-footprint of about 0.41 hectares.

However, animal lover and dog trainer Linda Findlay says the researchers do not factor in the emotional value of owning pets. "What the dogs give back to me is probably equal to what the environment gives me – but on a more emotional level," she told the Timaru Herald.

Findlay did however say that by mainly feeding her dogs biscuits, she did her part to minimize their impact on the environment.

According to the Center for Sustainable Economy, the sustainable footprint level for each person is about 15.71 hectares each year.

Pet food brand takes ‘holistic’ approach to pet health

A new brand of pet food is thinking about healthSome Americans wouldn’t think twice before grabbing a selection of organic, vitamin rich foods to enjoy with their family members each night. People who believe in the power of nutrition to promote healthier and longer lives may want to investigate a new brand of pet food that claims to take a holistic and natural approach to preserving pet health.

Representatives from the pet food company, Holistic Select, say that their recipes include "unique, functional ingredients found in nature," which positively impact the long term health of cats and dogs.

The foods feature a combination of enzymes, probiotics, live micro-organisms, botanicals and phytonutrients to promote the company’s health goals.

One customer, called Toby F. attested, "My puppy Kenya is doing so well on Holistic Select that I would never consider feeding her anything else…Her muscle tone is so dense and defined; she is the picture of health, and I attribute that to what I a feeding her."

Taking into consideration the pet’s tastes, some recipes include ingredients like duck meal and cranberries that company officials say prevent allergies and promote health skin and proper digestive function.

According to the National Institutes of Health loss of appetite, increased thirst, weight changes and sluggish behavior in pets are all reasons to contact a veterinarian.

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