Victory At Last!



I got great news on Sunday. While at a cat show in Baltimore, I got a phone call from a friend at a dog show. No big deal, except that she told me professional handler Kitty Burke had news for me. At that point, I started crying. You see, handlers only call during the day if they have really good news (or, I assume, really bad news.) In this case, it WAS really good news. My dog Visa had won!. She finished her long sought championship. It was something we had worked at for years. Yes, years.

When Visa was a little puppy, I knew there was something special about her. She would look right into my soul. Her show career started off well. At two years of age, she had twelve of the fifteen points needed to get her championship. Of the fifteen points, two wins have to be what are called major wins under different judges. A major requires  enough males or females entered to earn 3 or more points. That number varies greatly among breeds and changes from year to year. You don’t know if there are going to be enough dogs for a major until after the entries are submitted and counted. Even then, the major may “break” if an entry or two fail to show up on the day of the show.

Labradors are popular in the show ring as well as pets. That translates into higher numbers of dogs being needed for a major. The required numbers change every year. One year, as many as twenty nine other females were needed. You can imagine how hard it was to get that many to show up! Visa was entered in countless shows that she didn’t even go into the ring as the entry wasn’t high enough, or there were no shows while standing by the ring. You see, if it wasn’t a major,  her handler or I would pull her out as one or two point wins would not help her, but would take the points away from another dog that needed it. It was pretty frustrating to get up early, drive to a show and then stand by the ring, only to find out a dog or two didn’t show up.

I have to admit, I got very discouraged. You see, Visa started out showing at six months of age. I showed her and got a number of points on her and then she got a major win when she was on the road with her handler. That last win was FOUR years ago next month. I kept going with the encouragement of other Labrador people who knew Visa and told me she was worth it. I had decided to retire her from the conformation ring at the end of this year. Visa is also a performance competitor and has six titles in that arena, so my plan was to continue in that venue. I hate to give up, but it was looking hopeless. Her handler, Kitty, is retiring from handling at the end of the year, so I decided on one last weekend with her and another later in the month with me.

I got reports from my friends at the dog show that there was a lot of whooping going on when Visa won her class. They have been rooting for us all along. Then, when she won Best of Winners and it was evident she was a champion, her handler hugged the judge and one of my friends outside the ring called me so the handler could tell me the news when she came out of the ring. I got texts and phone calls that afternoon from my dog buds. Thanks to Kitty for never giving up.

When I got that call, it was the culmination of work, perseverance, and, yes, money. Was it worth it? For me, yes. For whatever reason, I felt Visa deserved that title on the front end of her name. She is a great dog. Temperament, health, trainability, athletic ability  and structure in one being. All that in one dog doesn’t come along very often. Champion Canterbury’s Priceless Gem RE BN CD CGC can now go do what she loves best….wallow in the creek.


Photo at top by RoxAnne Franklin

Truffles, My Little Princess



Sometime in 1998, the shelter called my hospital to tell me they had a long haired calico kitten available. Knowing my love for calico cats, someone at the shelter thought of me. So, to make a predictable story short….they delivered the kitten. I was not there at the time, so took a ride in to see her later. What I saw was one of the cutest kittens I had ever laid eyes on. Her cherubic face was enchanting. Someone on my staff had posted a sign on her kennel that said “where is my tiara?”; it fit her perfectly. To paraphrase the movie…she had me at hello.

I performed leukemia and FIV testing on her and took her home. She was an affectionate kitten. She spent a lot of time with me, purring incessantly. She loved my Labrador, Ruby, whose body became one of her favorite resting spots. She developed a health issue, chronic diarrhea. Treatment after treatment failed. She looked like an alien with big pointed ears as her condition deteriorated. While I had named her Truffles, her name probably should have been Stinky. She was always happy, though, climbing on my head in the middle of the night with her less than perfume- like odor. Finally, her diarrhea subsided and she began to look like the beauty she was.

Back then, I was allowing my cats free access to the outdoors. Truffles, like the other cats, enjoyed going outside in the good weather. Not sure what she did, but as she aged, she became more and more of an outdoor only cat during the summer. It got to the point that she was outdoors completely from April through November. Once it got cold, she was my best buddy again, sleeping on me, kneading, purring, and patting my face with her paw. But during the summer months, I was a pariah. Even petting her outside was out of the question. To apply her monthly flea and tick control, I employed various tricks that usually only worked once. I even resorted to asking friends that dropped by to catch her so I could treat her.

These days, Truffles is getting old. Her gait is a little stiff, she doesn’t jump well, requiring treatment for arthritis. She stayed inside much longer this spring, not venturing out til June. Overall, she has been a healthy cat. Other than dental issues, she has required nothing other than routine care. At her current age, I don’t know how much time we will have together. All I know is that I will miss her when she is gone.


photo at top by Mark Thornton

Observations from a Day at the Dog Show

I just spent a day at the Philadelphia Kennel Club show. You know this show; it is televised on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a benched show, one of only a handful in the US at this time. A benched show means that the dogs are on display all day. Honestly, exhibitors hate these shows. It’s a long day for people and dogs. The dog may be in the ring for only a few minutes, but needs to be in the show hall for the entire day. That means many dogs, like my dog Visa, hold their bladders all day. You see, she is house trained and finds going “potty” in the designated rest areas a bad idea.

But, what makes a difficult show for competitors, makes a great show for spectators. The general public comes in and can view all the dogs that are competing any time during the day. Also, people like me can talk to them about the breed they like. That part is good. I can share what it is like to live with a Labrador Retriever. Yes, they shed. A lot. They can show me pictures of their dog at home, or their special dog they lost not long ago.

Visa did not win her class. Bummer. She has won at this show before and I was hoping for a repeat, but no such luck. Visa does well on “display”. While she does not love being fawned over, she accepts it with politeness. You see in Visa’s world, it is all about Sara. For whatever reason, she is more interested in what I am doing at all times than the people walking by. A rare exception is a particularly yummy smelling food.

The one thing that I am surprised at in these dealing with the dog loving public is how little people know about dog language and safe greetings. I spent much of the day telling children that it wasn’t safe to put their face right up in the dog’s face. Honestly, Visa, while not thrilled, was safe; face to face interaction is impolite in dog communication. But, the next dog may not be safe and the child could get a terrible injury. Parents seemed clueless. While many of the children knew to ask before petting, they had no idea what safe petting was. Of course, how would they know? Their parents didn’t know either. One woman walked up to Visa giving her a hearty hug around the neck. Really?

If you are a dog lover, take the time to learn the type of interactions that are safe and that dogs enjoy. If you are a parent, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to teach your child safe interactions with animals. One year at this same show, I was talking with people and out of the corner of my eye I saw a small girl reach her arm into the crate with my sleeping dog. Fortunately, all was well, but it could just as easily been a tragic incident. I explained to her father that he needed to watch his child, that dogs are dogs and the next crate his daughter reached into could have a dog that was not so tolerant.

Whether  you have been around dogs all your life, or  you are new to dogs, take a few minutes to read and understand the best ways to greet dogs. It is important to keep people safe and dogs comfortable. The following web site is full of valuable information for adults and children:

Diet TIme For Crinkle


Puzzle Feeder

Puzzle Feeder




My last blog about Crinkle, my rescued red tabby, mentioned the fact that he has gone from skeletal to portly in the year he has lived with me. I have more than a few cats; none are obese except him. I feed them all Science diet dry food and a canned food meal at night. It has worked well for me and my cats for years. My cats are active, with cat towers, lots of steps in the household and a fenced in cat yard that includes trees. But, Crinkle is fat. So fat, I really had to take off my blinders and address the problem.

With a house full of cats, some very thin, I chose to take up the bowls of food and replace them with cat puzzle feeders. The thin cats have all the food they want with the flick of a kitty wrist. Crinkle will also have to flick the wrist. In other words, he will not be able to hoist himself over to the cat bowl and gorge. Eating will take longer. Eating so much to maintain his weight will be a lot of work for him.

I love Crinkle. He wormed his way into my heart with his struggle to survive against the odds. Now, my job is to help him attain a healthy weight. I am sure his metabolism  is screwed up after starvation and then obesity. I think his mantra has become ” I shall never go hungry again!” . I don’t want him to be hungry. But, I do want him to be healthy. With only a couple of cats, the job would be easy with meal feeding and limiting portions. With a house full of cats, it is more difficult. Wish me luck with the feeders. If I don’t make progress with this, the next step is to segregate him in the house.

Keep your fingers crossed for Crinkle!

Giblet, My Problem Child

I love Giblet. Giblet is not all that lovable sometimes. He is a big long haired brown tabby that has issues. I know it’s not his fault. Giblet did not choose to live in a house with 000_0048multiple cats. That environment stresses him endlessly. He is better on medication, but not perfect.

Giblet was born down the road from me. A stray cat visited my friend’s barn just in time to deliver a litter of kittens. I brought him home to cheer me up as I had a significant surgery planned that would leave me incapacitated for some time. He was adorable, all round and fluffy. It was nearing Thanksgiving, thus, I named him Giblet. He was a darling kitten and did his job of nursing me after surgery, keeping me entertained. It was a huge job. Two of my dogs died within eight days of each other as I recuperated. It was a terrible time for me.

Giblet was affectionate and playful. As he matured, his personality changed. He became anxious, disliking the other cats and stressed in general. Giblet became what every cat owner dreads….he’s a peer. Yep, he pees outside the litter box and sprays. Physical examination, urinalysis, and bladder radiographs did not reveal a medical problem I could wave a magic wand and fix. Nope, Giblet is one of those cats that pee because he is always upset. I built a large outdoor cat yard so he could go out, 100_0141pee where ever he wanted and enjoy the outdoors safely. That idea failed. He is terrified of the outdoors. I bought a house full of cat towers and climbers to provide environmental richness. He’s just  not into them.

This is the kind of cat many people dump at a shelter. I will never do that. He is my cat. The day I took him home, I made a commitment to him. He cuddles and kneads my right arm. My responsibility is clear…to provide the best life I can for him. That’s what pet ownership is about.

Crinkle’s Year Anniversary

Can you believe it’s been a year since Crinkle was rescued on that hot summer day, dying in a parking lot? It was a tough time, taking a couple of months of intensive treatment to get him healthy.  He survived against the odds for sure. I get asked frequently how he is doing. After all, he has been the subject of three previous blogs. He has become, well, sort of a celebrity.

Crinkle is doing great. He is fat and happy. Yes, I said fat. More than chubby. And, yes, I am concerned his obesity will lead to health problems. He is a big round orange ball that waddles around the house. He seems to have leveled off recently, and I am hoping that is a good sign. For a while, I thought he might explode into bits and pieces of cat debris flying through the air.10 months

He is the picture of contentment, whether he is sitting in my lap purring or laying in another of his favorite spots. His bent ear lends him character and reminds us of his previous life. The knot on his tail, the remnant of his maggot infested wound, is another ever present reminder. He seems to have gotten past all that.

I sure would like to know his story. I’ve even thought about calling a pet psychic to get a reading. But, then, I think maybe it is better he keeps his secrets. He’s dealt with his past and there’s no reason I need to agonize over it as well.

Happy Birthday Praline and Sprinkles!


2 years1It’s been almost two years since Praline and Sprinkles entered my life. It’s a bit of a bizarre tale. I got a call one morning from the office that a couple from Maine had walked in the door. They were  camping nearby. They found an injured mommy cat with three kittens at the campground. It just so happens that these people worked with a pet rescue in Maine. But, there was a complication…they were on their way to a wedding in the Philadelphia area and would not be able to take the feline family with them. They wanted the mother treated and would pick them up on their way home.

So we kept the hungry family at the hospital. Over the phone, I was told two of the kittens were long haired calicos. OMG. I was smitten before meeting them. You see, I ADORE long haired calicos. I already had two at home. But, having entered the crazy cat lady league, I decided I would only meet them and maybe keep one. Well, no surprise, I kept both baby kitties. They were (and are) lovely creatures. Their mom and brother went home with big hearted clients and are beloved pets. So, it was indeed a happy ending for these cats.

I know it doesn’t end up this way most of the time. My heart aches for those litters that are dumped. I can’t fathom what is going through peoples’ minds when they leave cats or dogs behind. I also get a pit in my gut when I imagine what the animal is thinking. How awful.

But, on the bright side, I love both Praline and Sprinkles. They are delightful kitties, full of personality and sweetness. When they2 years were young, they were sucklers. Sprinkles would nurse incessantly on my ear lobe and Praline would nurse on my neck. I would try to unhook them. Praline was so insistent that her mouth would “pop” off when I removed her from my skin. I had kitten hickies. Yes, you read that right. I had little tiny bruises on my neck. Sprinkles wasn’t so attached to my ear lobe, but I still had to struggle to remove her. They out grew this compulsion, although Praline still nuzzles and Sprinkles licks my ear lobe (by the way, she prefers the right lobe.)

I feel like all my secrets are out. Yes, I am obsessed with cats. And yes, I have had ear sucking cats; honestly, I’ve had a total of three of them. Two years after Praline and Sprinkles came into my life, I want to thank the people that rescued them. I don’t remember their names. If you are out there reading this….thank you for walking in to the veterinary hospital just south of Pottsville with these cats. I know you didn’t know the owner was a crazy cat lady, but it was a nice coincidence.




Photo on left is Sprinkles

Photo on right is Praline


Canine Good Citizen

IMG_2919Last weekend, I went to a dog show. Nothing unusual about that. But, what was different was the fact that I loaded up my car with dogs that were not entered in the show. The kennel club was offering Canine Good Citizen testing, so I decided to have all my Canterbury Tails girls tested.

The AKC test is fairly simple and straight forward. It is open to any dog, pedigree or not. Dogs need to be able to follow basic cues, walk easily on a leash, deal with people, other dogs, and distractions. For my dogs, it was not difficult. They have all spent time in the show ring around other dogs and people. The three older dogs are titled in obedience, so the skills were not hard for them.

My youngest dog, Orchid, did not know a stay command until I decided a week before to take them all for the test. So, almost every day of the previous week, Orchid and I practiced a stay. By the end of the week, she was doing pretty well, but I wasn’t sure how she would perform under pressure with the distractions of the show grounds.

The test consists of the handler ( me) meeting up with a stranger, chatting and shaking hands while the dog waits politely. The next step is for the dog to sit and allow the tester to pet her. After that, the dog is to allow the tester to run a brush over her body and pick up a paw (as if to clip a nail.). After that, I walked the dog around the ring on a loose leash. The next step required the handler to have the dog sit and then down. The challenge was when I had to walk 20 feet away from Orchid after asking her to stay. She did it!!! After returning back to her, I had to walk away again and then call her to me. No sweat. The following step had me walk the dog through a crowd of people and dogs. At a dog show, you can’t go anywhere without walking through both! The very last step had me leave my dog with the tester and go out of sight for three minutes. The three older dogs hardly acknowledged my return. Orchid, being the youngster, was happy to see me.

Fancy, Visa, Jubilee, and Orchid all passed with flying colors. I am a proud doggie mom.


Photo of Canterbury’s Priceless Gem RE BN CD CGC by RoxAnne Franklin

New Barn Cats

People that know me, KNOW  I don’t need another cat. But, the couple of older indoor/outdoor cats I have seem to be retired. They used to provide rodent control in the barn. I realized they are in retirement as the rodent population is swelling. I didn’t add Miracle Grow to make this happen. I am reluctant to use poisons as I do have dogs that would gladly eat anything they can get their mouths on. My house cats lead a protected life and have no clue about the evils of the outdoor world. They go out only in a safely contained area. Most have long, lovely coats that would collect dirt and debri if allowed to run free.

So, I made the decision to adopt MORE cats. I contacted Jess, the manager at Ruth Steinert Memorial SPCA, and told her 20130607_112539what I was looking for- short haired, friendly cats that would be good mousers. She offered up Joshua and Diego, claiming that they had been tested for job skills and passed. The two black cats were delivered to me at the hospital. I updated their vaccinations and took them home.

It’s been a week now. They are no longer caged in the barn, they have free access everywhere. Apparently they were at the shelter for over 18 months, so they seem pretty happy to be in this environment. Their new names are Waffles and Syrup. I have promised them food, water, parasite control and a heated pad in winter. They wear collars with IDs and are microchipped.  Here’s to a long and happy life here……and hopefully they WILL do their part and clear the barn of rodents.


Breeders Need to Focus on Health

IMG_7415_edited-1 - Copy - Copy - Copy

As a veterinarian, dog sport enthusiast, and breeder, I am always interested in what it takes to breed a quality animal. I have known many breeders over the years, most of them Labrador breeders as that is my breed, but also other breeds and even species (horse and cat). I have attended seminars from both the veterinary and sport aspects of breeding. I have a pretty good handle on what breeders want in their puppies. I don’t always agree with how they go about producing those results.

Show breeders want a beautiful dog. Working dog breeders want dogs with drive and intelligence. Puppy producers want puppies……period. Most puppies from any breeder will grow up to be family pets. As I see it, all breeders should be striving for long term health. Most quality breeders perform health screening tests appropriate for the breed. If they don’t, shame on them. What many do not do, is take into consideration overall health, the more common ailments, including allergies, ear infections, etc. If we breed dogs with chronic issues like recurrent hot spots, we can expect to get puppies with the same.

I have attended lectures by reproduction specialists in veterinary medicine that encourage breeding young bitches to make the most of a healthy uterus. Younger males are likely to have higher sperm counts and better fertility. What we don’t know when breeding these young dogs, is the long term health of these dogs! Are they going to live free of allergies, tumors and seizures? Some breeds have such a problem that it is rare to see a specimen over seven years of age!

Veterinarian Ian Dunbar, PhD, BVetMed MRCVS , feels bitch owners should be looking for males that are at least ten years old, so health can be evaluated at a later age. Ideally, an older dog should be free of chronic diseases including arthritis at this age to be considered worthy of breeding. Dr Dunbar, a behaviorist and leader in the dog training community, also feels that while bitches have to be bred at a comparatively young  age, breeders should wait longer  than they currently do to ensure overall health.

I am in the middle of these two opinions. I understand the need to breed bitches at a younger age. I do think many people breed too young. Not too young for the bitch’s health, but too young for health and soundness to truly be evaluated. I think the idea of using an older male is a good one. Waiting until ten may be extreme, but I think the goal is clear.

I do feel breeders tend to overlook what they consider to be minor problems that are in actuality not minor problems. When looking into breeding my lovely chocolate champion to a beautiful, winning male that had produced a number of puppies, I questioned owners of previous  litters sired by this dog about their puppies. The answers were very positive. I bred to this dog and my litter produced one puppy with an over bite and two with elbow dysplasia. I later learned that one breeder had had one  puppy from each of her two litters by this male with an over bite. This well meaning breeder did not believe that this was a big deal. In my book, it is a big deal. It can affect the dog’s comfort and dental maintenance issues for the future owner. The elbow issues are disappointing. Both parents are screened for elbow disease, but still produced it. I initially kept a gorgeous girl from this litter. She had no health issues, but I placed her in a pet home due to my reluctance to breed her since her litter mates had problems.

There are no guarantees with any adventure into the breeding world. Breeders must concentrate on overall quality, not just a winner, worker, or cute pet.


photo of Jubilee by RoxAnne Franklin