Advice from the Experts

Most owners do love their pets -- and the pets love them back

Article Tools
Tribune Media Services

Once again, here are some of your comments on recent columns, even comments relating to issues I've discussed on my national radio Steve Dale's Pet World. Thanks for listening, and for writing. I enjoy hearing from you!

COMMENT: In love with a cat? In love, really? I'd like to tell that person to marry the cat if the cat is so loved. Obviously, the feeling isn't mutual, since the cat couldn't care less about shredding the owner's furniture. Cats, like dogs and all other pets, see us as nothing more than walking can openers. -- G.R., Cyberspace

STEVE DALE: Thanks for the opportunity to state what I believe is the obvious. Call it what you want, but I call it love when I hear about a pet risking its life for its owner. Sure, such cases may be exceptional, but they're real and happen all the time. Evidence of a genuine human/animal connection is also obvious when a pet awakens an owner who's about go into a diabetic crash, or warns its owner of an impending seizure. If we're only walking can openers, why would pets be motivated to help us?

As for our feelings toward pets, yours are the exception. According to all pet owner surveys I'm aware of, pets overwhelmingly are considered beloved members of the family. Some senior citizens have indicated that with family no longer living, or residing far away, their pets keep them going, providing a reason to get up in the morning. We know that pets positively influence the health of their owners.

Not long ago, some scientists were convinced that human emotions were just that, and not found among animals. Today, we know that's not true. The neurochemistry in dogs and cats is nearly identical to our own.

COMMENT: I thought you might like to know how much you touched someone's life many years ago. I was recently contacted by Lisa Ramsey Jorgensen, the sister of a long-time client. Lisa told me about her cat, Sabrina, who passed away in August 2002 from HCM (feline hyperthrophic cardiomyopathy, a commonly fatal heart disease in cats).

She wrote a letter to Cats Magazine referring to an article they'd done on HCM -- and you were mentioned in the piece. Her letter was printed, she subsequently got in touch with you, and said you were very kind to her. Every year, on Sabrina's birthday and on the anniversary of Sabrina's passing, Lisa makes a donation to the Winn Feline Foundation, specifying that it go to the Ricky Fund, which you began to raise money for research on HCM.

Lisa gave me permission to send this note to you and asked if you were happy with the research Winn has done through the Ricky Fund. She also wonders if you have cats now. I'm so glad you were there for Lisa all those years ago. You're a very special person. -- C.D., Portland, OR

STEVE DALE: Thank you for your kind words. The Winn Feline Foundation raises money to fund cat health and welfare related studies, and I'm proud to serve on their board of directors. The Ricky Fund dollars have, indeed, made a difference. There's now a genetic test (a simple cheek swab) for Ragdoll and Maine Coon cats to determine if the defect for HCM exists in individual cats. As a result, breeding programs have begun to see less HCM. The test isn't perfect, however, and we need a solution for all cats. I'm grateful for your friend's contributions, and more donors are needed.

As for me personally, my wife and I share our home with two mixed-breed dogs, a northern-blue tongue skink (a type of lizard) and a Devon Rex cat named Roxy.

COMMENT: A neighbor gave us a dwarf hamster. With cats and dogs at home, I was reluctant to take him, but my granddaughter begged and I finally relented. The next day, as she tried to take the hamster out of his cage, he jumped from her hands and got loose in the bedroom.

We were prepared, shutting the door and placing a towel along the bottom to prevent Hammy from becoming snack food for my Labradors. Unfortunately, we couldn't find him and after several minutes of searching, decided he must have escaped from the room. We walked to the living room, looked out toward our pool, and a feeling of dread came over us.

As I lifted the top of the skimmer, there was Hammy, belly up, going around in circles inside the skimmer. I quickly grabbed him and took him inside, placed him on his back on a towel, and began cardiac compressions with one finger. I continued for about a minute, and just as I was about to give up, I saw his little foot begin to twitch. I picked him up in the towel, rubbed his back vigorously for quite a while until I could feel him come back to life. Then I put him in his cage and put a heat lamp nearby to warm him up.

A week later, Hammy is perfectly fine. I thought this might be an unusual story and might even help save another animal's life one day. -- K.R., via cyberspace

STEVE DALE: Indeed, I receive few stories involving CPR for hamsters. Good for you!

COMMENT: I was listening to your radio show when a guy called in wanting to date other pet lovers. I couldn't believe you weren't aware that there are already many dating services catered to pet owners. If you Google "dating services for cat lovers," you'll quite a list. -- J.R., Cyberspace

STEVE DALE: Who knew? Thank you for the information.

COMMENT: I was a friend of Dr. R.K. Anderson. My mother was a special friend of Dr. Anderson's, as they lived in the same condo building. I appreciated your recent comments about his contributions to veterinary medicine. -- R.G., via cyberspace

STEVE DALE: While Anderson's name may not familiar to the public, his contributions to understanding dog behavior and training are well known to veterinary professionals. Anderson (with Ruth Foster) invented the Gentle Leader, a halter for dogs, and was among the first to use science-based positive training techniques. He died last October at age 90. Arguably, few veterinarians touched as many dog trainers, veterinarians and veterinary technicians as Anderson; he never stopped teaching or learning.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.