Millions of animals inhabit Earth, though the meaning and magnificence of this fact hardly reaches us in lives set apart by paved roads and claimed lands. When our human-only days echo our disconnection from the rest of the animal kingdom, we may set the proverbial table for one more and invite a pet to join our lives.
“A completely human life isn’t enough for most of us,” says Patricia McConnell, host of Wisconsin Public Radio’s nationally syndicated call-in show “Calling All Pets,” certified applied animal behaviorist and author of the 2002 book The Other End of the Leash.
Our love affairs with our pets, McConnell says, connect us to something we humans have lost: our relationship with nature. “Direct connection with nature is critical to real happiness,” she says. She loves her dogs because they’re dogs, her sheep because they’re sheep. “I don’t want them to be furry people.”
For many of us, it’s these muddy waters that are most intriguing, the overlap between our pets’ world and our own. “We’re increasingly aware of how similar animals and people are, in the sense that they have emotions, can feel pain, can feel happiness,” says McConnell. “We’re not two completely separate categories. We’re part of a continuum.”
About 60 percent of U.S. homes include at least one cat or dog. Of homes with pets, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 36.1 percent have dogs, 31.6 percent have cats, 4.6 percent have birds and 1.7 percent have horses. In 2002, we spent $18 billion on pet foods and supplies and $12 billion on veterinary services. Last year, the U.S. pet industry surpassed the toy industry and the candy industry in annual sales, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturing Association. Fifty-four percent of dog owners buy their pets Christmas presents and 9 percent buy them clothes. Of cat owners, 60 percent spent $200 or more on catnip toys alone.
Are they worth it?
If you’ve ever talked jibberjabber to your cat, sobbed into the fur of your dog or watched a child grow through raising a rabbit, fish, bird, horse or hermit crab, you know the answer.
My Sweet Petunia and I have been together 35 years now – five, if we measure in human time. Together we enjoy walks on the beach, travel and couch time, and an outsider watching us today wouldn’t suspect anything askew. But like any couple, the beginning was the rockiest. Truth is, we almost didn’t make it.
On the day our relationship was legally recognized, we gathered in the receiving room of the Humane Society-Ozaukee – me unable to peel my eyes from my intended; he, assaulted by last-minute jitters, pacing the room.
To discourage elopements gone bad, the Humane Society enforced a 48-hour waiting period after I made my selection. We had endured that and now, reunited by the cash register, were going through pre-union counseling.
“Do you have a house with a yard?” our adoption counselor asked me.
“I do,” I responded.
“Do you have children?”
“And do you have time to walk him every day?”
“I do,” I glowed, looking at my pet who now was pacing frantically, no doubt engulfed by second thoughts.
She pronounced me his new owner and we climbed into my waiting vehicle – me perched behind the wheel and he locked in a crate – and drove home – me curious about the sinking feeling in my stomach and he with nerves now frayed to the point of explosive diarrhea.
And suddenly, there we were. A new family.
My then 5-year-old son and I sat at the kitchen table, looking down at our new family member on our tiled floor. “Do we have to keep him?” Erik asked. My thoughts exactly, but I hadn’t dared to speak them.
I had ridden cloud nine during the preparations – the announcements to friends and family, the selection of his attire (leash and collar), the paging through magazines with dreamy photos depicting subjects running through fields, rolling together on the grass, gazing with certainty into each other’s eyes. My balloon popped altogether when we let him outside and watched as he pooped, then proceeded to dine on it. In a mere two human hours, the honeymoon had ended.
For the next two weeks, I told my son and myself that we could end it at any time, that 15 years was a long time to commit to someone we didn’t truly love, that he’d rebound into the arms of another and that, meanwhile, we’d try it one day at a time.
Well, you know the rest of the story. He stole our hearts. We became magnetized by his good looks, gentle yet playful manner, honesty and unconditional love lavished upon us. Soon we were giving him pet names such as Sweet Petunia, Thunder Paws, Boppo, Mr. Dog and one I’ve included purely for historical accuracy: Tattoo-Teeny-Weenie-Poochie-Puppy-Duppy. He’s earned every term of endearment, for he handles the lion’s share of security duties and children’s entertainment, greets us with a genuine smile whenever we re-enter the house and faces each morning, each errand, each tummy rub with a can-do spirit.
Our dog Jingles. A family member till death do us part.
Each year, local humane societies receive thousands of dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, gerbils, mice, ferrets and hamsters. Here’s how to contact them to learn more about adopting an animal:
• Humane Society-Wisconsin, 4500 W. Wisconsin Ave., 264-6257; www.wihumane.org.
• Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha, 701 North-view Rd., Waukesha, 262-542-8851; www.hawspets.org.
• Humane Society-Ozaukee, 2073 Highway W, Grafton, 262-377-7580; www.ozaukee
• Elm-Brook Humane Society, 21210 Enterprise Ave., Brookfield, 262-782-9261; www. ebhs.org.
• Washington County Humane Society, 3650 Highway 60, Slinger, 262-677-4388; www. washingtoncountyhumane.org.
• All other Wisconsin humane societies: www.geocities.com/
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.…
The woman in the striped pullover sings the hymn, but barely. She is one of 12 older adults seated in a circle at the adult day care at Catholic Charities in New Berlin. Like most of the others, she has Alzheimer’s disease.
I once was lost but now I’m found.…
The men and women move their lips to varying degrees. Some mumble. One man belts them out along with the male and female co-leaders. The woman in the striped shirt is a face-to-the-lap mumbler. But that will change when it’s her turn to hold Chatty.
Chatty, a certified cat therapist, is three laps away with sweet-voiced Katherine and is wrapped in what looks like pink swaddling clothes. Katherine, face glowing, rocks Chatty softy as she sings to her. “Here kitty kitty kitty,” she coos between verses.
“Song number 10-A,” the leaders announce.
Chatty is moved by owner Pat Bacon to the lap of the woman in stripes, who holds Chatty like a baby and sings to her.
If I falter, Lord, who cares? Who with me my burden shares?
She sings clearer now.
“When my feeble life is o’er, time for me will be no more; Guide me gently, safely o’er, To thy kingdom shore, to thy shore.
“Song number 31,” the leaders announce.
Chatty Cat is passed to a lady in a white cable sweater. But her effect lingers like perfume with the woman in stripes.
If you get there before I do, comin’ for to carry me home. Tell all my friends that I’m comin’ too.
The woman in the white sweater holds Chatty for the next song and refuses to pass the cat during a final duet.
When the gates are opened wide, I’ll be there at Jesus’ side.
Lord I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.
Sweet-voiced Katherine claps the loudest. The woman in the white sweater whispers into Chatty’s ear. The woman in stripes lifts her face upward now, lips moving, singing yet louder.
Therapy cats, dogs and rabbits can rekindle memories, ease depression and promote recovery from physical illnesses. Animals work with patients in nursing homes, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and more.
If you’re interested in volunteering your animal to be a therapy pet, you’ll have to complete obedience training and receive testing by a certified evaluator for Therapy Dogs International or the Delta Society. Next, you’ll have to join one of these organizations to receive insurance that will cover your pet during work.
Final step: get placed. To get work, contact Pets Helping People. This local nonprofit serves children and adults in southeastern Wisconsin. 262-785-8948; www.petshelpingpeople.org.
For more information on training and testing:
• Dogs for Independence Inc., 964-3341; www.dfiinc.org (dogs, cats).
• Best Paw Forward, 262-369-3935; www.bestpawforward.net (dogs, cats, rabbits).
• For Pet’s Sake, 888-581-9070; www.forpetssake.cc (dogs).
• For general information: Therapy Dogs International, 973-252-9800; www.tdi-dog.org.
Delta Society, 425-226-7357; www.deltasociety.org.
In the animal welfare system, animals are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. These are their stories.
Judy Vowell is a rescuer. For the past 17 years, she has reached out to pet ferrets whose lives hang in the balance. People purchase them as impulse items, only to discover that their activity level is more akin to a dog, not a hamster. So they ditch the weasel-like animal, often with Vowell, who runs Ferret Rescue out of her single-story North Side home.
“When my children grew up and moved out, I took over their bedrooms,” says Vowell. “Now the ferrets have taken over the house.”
She ain’t kidding. On any given day, some 60 animals sack out in little ferret hammocks in their cages or run free throughout the house. A vacant bedroom has been converted into a ferret warehouse.
You’d think that six dozen animals of any kind would stink up a house. You’d be wrong. The smelliest thing in the air is Vowell’s cigarette smoke, which isn’t to say that her house smells like a floral shop, but it’s surprisingly not putrid. This woman loves ferrets, and it shows. Around a full-time job working in the radiology department of Milwaukee Medical Clinic and with the help of volunteers, she cleans cages weekly and rotates schedules daily so that each animal enjoys three hours of cage-free time.
Ferrets come and ferrets go, to the tune of roughly 200 per year. Her peak volume? “I once had more than 150 ferrets,” says Vowell. “For some reason, I can’t say no.”
Jean Wagner also has a hard time saying no. Wagner is an adopter. In her three-bedroom condo in Slinger, she keeps 25 adopted animals: four rabbits named Thelma, Louise, Buns and Daisy; three sugar gliders (gliding possums) named Sugar Plum, Joey and Jessie; four guinea pigs named Billy, Cobi, Fuzzy and Misty; and 18 rats named Katie, Molly, Oreo, Bashful, Bear, Roxy, April, Shy, Star, Hush, Tia, Smudge, Himi, Hoodi, Sable, Porsch, Belle and Celeste.
“I’ve built up a small herd,” says Wagner, who grew up in a home with 10 cats and checks the Washington County Humane Society’s Web site daily.
Each morning, she feeds each rat a broccoli treat and each guinea pig romaine lettuce and parsley. Evening treats for the rats consist of one piece of cantaloupe each, while the guinea pigs each nibble on a piece of cantaloupe and a piece of apple. “They expect it,” says Wagner.
The mice share a bedroom with guinea pigs and rats. Rabbits occupy a smaller bedroom. More rats and the sugar gliders are caged in the living room. “When I watch TV in a chair, Katie [rat] climbs up my leg and sits on me,” says Wagner.
Wagner estimates that she spends between $100 and $200 per month on food and supplies, more on the occasional medical bill. Two rats have undergone surgery for tumor removal, to the tune of $120 per surgery. “These ones are worth it,” she says of the animals whose natural lifespan is less than one year. “It’s a nice feeling to come home and talk to them, pick them up and give them a little hug and kiss.”
Last year, Wagner adopted four retired lab mice from an East Coast rodent rescue group founded by a Tufts University vet student. For the adoption fee of $3 per mouse, the rodents were resettled through logistics akin to an underground railroad journey. Volunteers drove them 1,120 miles across a third of the nation, passing them off at each junction – from Boston to Albany to Syracuse to Buffalo to Cleveland to Chicago to Racine to Slinger.
Two of the Harriet Tubmans of rodent rescue – Abbie Sheridan and her mother, Jennie Sheridan – drove the last leg of the journey from Racine, arriving at Wagner’s worksite on May 22, 2003. “I was glad I could save them,” Wagner says solemnly.
Local rescue networks exist for many animals, some of which are not accepted at humane societies. To surrender or adopt an animal:
• Ferret Fanciers of Greater Milwaukee, 535-1523; www.ffgm.org.
• Cullen Vivarium Wildlife Conservancy (reptiles and invertebrates); contact your local humane society for information.
• Mama Moondance Rat Rescue, 352-5897; www.ratrescue.org.
• The Pet Network (exotic birds), 464-8808; www.thepetnetwork.org.
LOST AND FOUND
The wind chill had plunged below zero in late January 2003 when a young man parked his car at a boat landing at Beaver Dam Lake, about 45 miles northwest of Milwaukee, and walked into the wilderness. After two days of futile searching that included search and rescue dogs, police called in one of the state’s top forensic evidence specialists – Zip. In less than two hours, the border collie located the dead man’s body leaning against a tree. A cadaver, even at sub-zero temperatures, is an easy find for Zip, who is trained to alert to the smell of death.
Zip is the most worked dog in Wisconsin, having been on more than 600 suspected homicide cases – new and cold – in Milwaukee, Dodge, Waukesha and Jefferson counties, says owner A.J. Marhofke. Marhofke, past deputy medical examiner for Waukesha County, now operates the emergency border collie rescue team called 911BC K-9 Search and Rescue. The volunteer team includes Mike Andre, head of the Forensic Evidence Division of the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, and Zip and Molly Mae, both adoptees from Border Collie Rescue.
There are thousands of search and rescue dogs in the United States whose job it is to find lost children and Alzheimer’s patients, traces of forensic evidence and victims of drownings, earthquakes, murder, suicide, avalanches and airplane crashes. While some are part of paid government teams, many others, like Zip, are members of all-volunteer groups.
How do the dogs do it? In a word, scent. Some dogs are trained to keep their noses to the ground and follow footsteps. (They’re actually smelling disturbances to the earth and microscopic dead cells and bacteria shed from the person’s body.) Others keep their noses up, sniffing the air for general or a particular human odor.
Zip’s specialty is forensic evidence – finding human remains as small as a drop of blood, as large as a cadaver. In this emerging subspecialty of search and rescue, Zip has made a name for himself since working his first case in November 2000. His cases are often grave reminders of the fragility of life. A sampling: searching for decaying bodies under water in Delafield, uncovering forensic evidence following a suspected homicide in Wauwa-tosa, locating the strewn body parts of a young man hit by a train in Sussex.
Dog Fancy Publications recognized him in 2003 as “one of the most noteworthy forensics dogs in the United States.” In 2002, Animal Planet featured Zip on “K9 to 5,” a cable television show that spotlights working dogs.
Zip’s name even reached the Peruvian government, which requested his aid in an archeological dig for Inca burial grounds in Cusco, the Inca capital until the mid-1500s. Zip worked three weeks and identified several burial sites. “Dogs can save a lot of money and manpower,” says Marhofke.
The main tool of Zip’s trade is his nose, the storefront of an olfactory system 1,000 to 100,000 times as powerful as that of a human and capable of distinguishing particular odors in a sea of scents. (Dogs have been trained to alert to the smell of termites, gas leaks, oil leaks, and aid doctors in diagnosing skin cancer.)
Marhofke has trained Zip to smell and alert to human-only cremated remains, blood, tissue and bones. Accordingly, Zip’s training kit includes a human tooth, aged blood and hair, a human bone, a knife with a single drop of blood on it. An acquain-tance once donated to 911BC her alcoholic father’s cremated remains. “She said, ‘For once he can do something good to help people,’ ” Marhofke recalls.
In his rambling backyard on his 110-acre farm in Dousman, Marhofke opens Zip’s kit and demonstrates. While Zip is sequestered, Marhofke removes the tooth, embeds it under a loose clump of earth, then summons Zip. The dog zigzags across the yard and, within seconds, drops and freezes, his border collie stare focused on the spot. The demo is repeated, this time using the knife and a different tuft of earth. Again, Zip completes the assignment in seconds.
“My dog does his job,” says Marhofke, “and I can help bring closure to people.”
Interested in becoming a search and rescue volunteer? You’ll need three things: a highly obedient dog, about 10 hours per week and a willingness to invest your own money. Although police departments sometimes pay hotel bills for search and rescue units, most expenses, including equipment, veterinary bills and vehicle wear and tear, are volunteer paid and range from $2,000 to $5,000 annually, according to Jen Bidner, author of Dog Heroes (Lyons Press, 2002).
While 911BC is not open to new members, another search and rescue group in Milwaukee, People and Paws, is open. This group, founded in 2000, searches for about 10 missing persons per year in an area extending north to Port Washington and south to Gurnee, Illinois. Founder Geoff Gardiner, an ex-cop from Toronto, says the dogs have been on the trails of missing children, missing persons with Alzheimer’s disease, two people missing after suicides and one kidnapping. The group, he says, has worked with law enforcement agencies throughout southeastern Wisconsin. (Search and rescue groups do not respond to private requests.) For information: Geoff Gardiner, 531-4098; www.peopleandpaws.org.
For information on 911BC: www. 911bc.org.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
The average bird owner owns 2.1 birds, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For mental and physical stimulation, birds need interaction with other birds, or at least constant interaction with humans. They ache if deprived of social contact and downright suffer emotionally when a mate dies. Birds in the parrot family, which includes parakeets, cockatiels and cockatoos, are perhaps the most social of all birds.
This story of companionship starts with the shy and reclusive Louie, a parakeet living at Brady Street Futons. Louie’s life wasn’t awesome or harsh. But life was cool. He could leave his cage and fly around the store if he chose to, which he didn’t. He was fed, occasionally cooed at by customers. Perhaps Louie would have been content living out his days alone in the futon store. But that wasn’t to be.
Enter Rocky. The friendly, outgoing cockatiel was down on his luck, having recently crashed into a house in the UWM neighborhood after his escape from who knows where. Luck shined upon the bright yellow bird. He picked himself up to discover the house belonged to the sister of Kurt Bauer, who owned Louie and Brady Street Futons. Bauer brought Rocky to the store and introduced him to the parakeet. Something in Louie lit up. Could his world of one expand to a world of two? It could and it did. Louie’s daily life changed and with it his personality. “Rocky helped Louie come out of his shell,” says Bauer. “They were so tight.”
Exit Louie. With death comes grief, and when Louie died of cancer, Rocky’s tail feathers sagged. “He was needy,” explains Bauer. “He was lonely. He got loud.”
Enter Jimbo. A customer gave the reticent gray cockatiel to Bauer, who excitedly introduced him to the grieving Rocky. But it was not love, or even civility, at first sight. Rocky basically said, “Howdy, pretty boy!” Jimbo basically said, “Put a cracker in it.”
“Rocky just really wanted to be his pal. But Jimbo didn’t want a lot to do with him,” Bauer recalls. Seven months later, the two have sorted out their differences. They’ve even found common ground. They perch in the cage together. When Bauer enters the room, they both take flight and land on his head. The adventurous, party-colored, Type-A Rocky leads. The reticent, business suit-colored Type-B Jimbo follows. They’re not birds of a feather. But they stick together.
It’s bedtime in the Sabatini household. “Quaid, tug,” says Linda Sabatini, and the German shepherd dutifully pulls off her socks. “Quaid, nose it,” and the dog turns off the bedroom lights using his nose.
Sabatini, who is a molecular biologist and professor in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is not physically disabled. She has, however, a passion for training service dogs to aid those who are. “I have a great deal of respect for the individual who faces challenges on a daily basis,” she explains.
Since 1997, Sabatini has been a foster mom for five service dogs. (Some programs use foster homes; others work directly with a physically disabled person and his or her dog.) Sabatini’s job: to mold a playful puppy into a reliable working dog, ready to be permanently adopted by a person with a physical disability.
Puppies come to live with Sabatini when they are between 8 months and 1 year old. They accompany her to work, UWM basketball games, the grocery store, on airplane rides. “Life is pretty normal, except a dog is always at my side,” says Sabatini.
All the while, during the six to 18 months they live with her, Sabatini teaches her foster dogs between 40 and 50 commands. The dogs learn how to remove a person’s coat (tug), pick up a pair of shoes being indicated with a laser light (take it), deliver the shoes (bring it), push elevator buttons (nose it), get a Coke from the refrigerator (tug, take it), even fetch the mail, including opening and closing the mailbox (tug, take it, bring it, nose it).
The dogs are also “listening” to her body language. “Dogs are so in tune with body language that a person with a physical disability can have a hard time [initially],” says Sabatini. A wheelchair, partial paralysis, spasticity or a limp, for example, can throw off the dog. She kept this in mind while training Chesney, a yellow lab chosen to serve a woman whose medical condition had frozen her joints, including her elbows, thereby locking her arms in a crossed position. While working with Chesney, Sabatini crossed her own arms much of the time.
When Sabatini has done her job, it’s time to say good-bye. Slowly, a weekend at a time, the dog steps into his new life as a working dog. The permanent owner tackles the list of commands and the dog adjusts to a different voice, a different body.
At some point, the final good-bye looms for Sabatini and her student. “I can tell when the dog is ready to be placed when it’s clear the dog and person have become a team,” she says. “When I’m handing over the dog, the person is so excited.” She pauses. For her, this moment is bittersweet. “It’s very, very hard.”
Today, Sabatini regularly visits two of the dogs she trained and their owners, with whom she’s become close friends. The dogs remember her, she says, but their lives have changed. “They’re happy to see me, but that other person is their mom now. Not me.”
The local demand for service dogs is increasing, according to Miko Ortiz, treasurer of Dogs for Independence Inc. The nonprofit agency placed six trained service dogs with Milwaukeeans last year and two the year before. Dogs for Independence receives about six applications per month from people who want to provide foster homes or who want to adopt a trained dog, says Ortiz.
For information on becoming a foster home for a service dog, contact Dogs for Independence Inc., 964-3341; www.dfiinc.org.
If you or someone in your family has a mild disability and would like help in training your dog to do such things as alert to sounds (telephone, doorbell, oven timer) and retrieve objects, call Teacher’s Pet Dog Training, 282-7534.
For general information on service dogs: Delta Society National Service Dog Center, 425-226-7357; www.deltasociety.org.
A FRIEND IN NEED
Regular blood donations from about 125 dogs and cats are helping to save the lives of Milwaukee’s injured and sick pets – those with leukemia, some undergoing major surgery and pets injured by motor vehicles.
On this day, the blood donor is a cat named Bobe. At the Animal Emergency Center in Glendale, the only animal-blood donation site in southeastern Wisconsin, Bobe is prepped for donation. Fur is shaved from his thigh and a sedative is given. When he’s groggy, fur is shaved from his neck, a needle inserted into an artery and the donation begins. Ten minutes later, two ounces of blood have been extracted. In roughly 30 minutes, the sedative will wear off and Bobe will be good to go.
Bobe donates blood three times a year. The center – which has accepted donations from cats, dogs, ferrets and a bird – is currently only looking for cat and dog donors, says Cheryl Page, donor coordinator. The in-house cockatoo could donate in a pinch for a bird in need, she says.
Most of the blood stays at the center, which treats more than 7,000 animals annually; a small portion is used by local vets during or after major surgery.
For the donation, Bobe’s owner, Peggy Davis, receives a $25 credit toward center services and a 14-pound bucket of cat food. Dogs owners receive a 20-pound bag of dog food, courtesy of Ralston Purina. All animal donors receive a free annual physical that includes a complete blood analysis.
The need for animal blood donations has increased in recent years as veterinary medical technology has advanced. To donate: Donor cats must be between 1 and 7 years old and weigh 8 to 15 pounds. Dogs must be between 1 and 6 years old and weigh at least 45 pounds. For more information, call the Animal Emergency Center at 540-6710.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs visit the vet 2.8 times per year, cats 1.9 times and birds 0.3 times. Don’t wait until an emergency arises to find a trusted vet. If you’re looking for a vet, here are some things to keep in mind:
• Gather information from friends, groomers, breed clubs, boarders, Yellow Pages.
• By phone, ask about clinic hours, if the vet regularly treats your type of pet, range of services, payment methods, who cares for pets overnight, emergency policy during and after business hours and whether
you can request a specific vet.
• Schedule a short visit. Does the office smell and look clean? Are employees professional and friendly? Ask to see the kennel.
• Ask the vet questions that are important to you – his or her education, specialized training, why the vet chose this business, et cetera. You’re looking for a vet with whom you feel comfortable, one who is compassionate and committed to the field.
Massages for your four aching legs. Personal grooming in a mobile spa. Shopping. Sports. Art. Dancing. Parties. Here’s a nose-to-tail guide of places your human may enjoy taking you.
Shop Till You Flop
Good news for dogs, the expected news for cats: “Dog people buy things for their dogs. Cat people buy things for themselves with cats on it,” says Karen Jaeckels, owner of The Dog Spot. There are just not as many items to give a cat, she says.
Regardless of your species, you’ll be happy to know this: pet owners are spending 40 to 50 percent more on your necessities and extras than in 2001, and they’re spending it at specialty shops.
• For an upscale boutique/bakery combo, try The Doggy Bag, The Dog Spot or the Santa Fe Shop. Despite the names, both dogs and cats are served. Cat stuff includes the Lazy Cat Laser toy and cat-themed tapestries, checkbook covers, candles, purses and pillows stitched with sayings like, “You can agree with me or you can be wrong.” Dog stuff includes the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-a-squirrel stuffed animal, sweaters, life vests and pawprint art projects. Gourmet treats are also for sale. In the Third Ward, the Cat Doctor, a cat-only veterinarian, sells unique cat gifts such as a radio-controlled mouse and a video or DVD featuring chirping birds and scampering squirrels.
The Doggy Bag, 150 E. Wisconsin Ave., Oconomowoc, 262-560-1717. The Dog Spot, 7707 W. State St., Wauwatosa, 258-3444. Santa Fe Shop, W62 N580-A Washington Ave., Cedarburg, 262-376-1497; www.santafeshop.com. Cat Doctor, 236 N. Water Street, 272-2287.
• Metropawlis rose from the belief that folks living Downtown and on the East Side relate differently to their pets. If you refer to yourself as your pet’s mom or dad, they’ve got your number. They offer pet strollers, mood collars, faux gemstone collars, paw wax, protective eyewear, aromatherapy spritzers, all-natural doggy shampoo with peppermint and tea tree essential oils and designer featherwear that “provides your dog with confidence as people shower him with love, attention and adoration.” 1327 E. Brady St., 273-7387; www.metropawlis.com.
• The ovens at Petlicious Dog Biscuit Bakery cook up treats for dogs and cats such as Pupp-aroni Pizza, Gourmutt Cupcakes and Cool Cat Cookies. 2217 Silvernail Rd., Pewaukee, 262-548-0923; www.petlicious.com.
• Dogs, don’t forget who made this shopping trip possible. Pick up a hand-crafted, dog-shaped lamp or nightlight for your human from Just Whistle! Just Whistle! received a Chicago’s Choice Award for Best New Product when it exhibited at the city’s Mercantile Mart in last summer’s home and gift show. Ceramic artist Barb Opferman of Whitefish Bay creates dog-shaped bases while photographer Kay McKinley of Bayside takes the photos that grace the lampshades. Featured breeds: golden retriever, dachshund, pug, poodle, Jack Russell terrier, cocker spaniel, cavalier King Charles spaniel, Yorkshire terrier and black lab. Nightlights $24; table lamps $120-$170. Products sold through The Dog Spot or by calling Just Whistle! at 964-8912; www.just-whistle.com.
Treat Yourself to a Massage…
Still your furry canine or feline body under a professional’s touch that may relieve arthritis, decrease anxiety, minimize risk of injuries and even increase your trust toward human beings. About $35.
There is no certification for feline massage. The following certified canine massage therapists work on both cats and dogs:
• Kathleen Folz, works onsite, 303-1045.
• Douglas Arthur, works onsite, 704-8112.
• Silver Spring Animal Wellness Center, 1405 W. Silver Spring Dr., 228-7655.
…Or a Tellington Touch Session
Whether you’re a dog, cat, horse, elephant or fish, you can boost your well-being and improve your behavior with a kind touch, said to decrease aggression and anxiety and improve focus. Specific touches, used by zoo personnel to help make animals more manageable, include the simple circle rub, ear strokes and gum rubs.
• Claudeen McAuliffe, certified Tellington Ttouch practitioner, Oconomowoc, 262-569-1050; www.kindnessk9.com. Home and office visits: $60 per hour.
• The Wisconsin Humane Society offers public seminars on Tellington Ttouch four times yearly. $45. 264-6257.
A Picture Lasts Forever
Capture your radiant self in a black-and-white portrait by canine photographer Stef Bartz of Wauwatosa. Bartz’ photos, which have been displayed at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts and V. Richards Cafe, prove there’s more to capturing canine personality than pushing that little black button. Photos shot on location. Prices start at $350. 453-2060; www.sbartzphotography.com.
Polish Your Etiquette
Elevate your style beyond the butt sniff and become a Canine Good Citizen in an American Kennel Club class that will teach you good manners – how to greet a stranger, how to handle distractions. The six-week, $85 class is offered by many training schools in the Milwaukee area.
Hire a Pooper Scooper
You’ve grown accustomed to someone picking it up for you. That someone may want a break, especially when spring’s thaw unveils a jackpot of poop. This year, have your human call Scoops Pet Waste Removal Service. Scoops founder, a gainfully employed civil engineer named Mike Burns of Menomonee Falls, has a full-time job with excellent benefits. But he wanted more. Per week, his 60 canine customers fill up one standard-size garbage can. Help him put it over the top. Beginning at $9 weekly or $14 biweekly. Spring clean-up rates vary. 262-366-7949.
While Your Owner’s Away
Don’t sit on the couch all day fantasizing that your bark scared the mailman away… again. When your human works, slip off to a doggy day care for some doggone fun.
Central Park Doggy Day Care, 5780 W. Hemlock, 353-9991, and 420 S. First St., 347-9612; Harmony Pet Care, 1208 Dolphin Ct., Waukesha, 262-446-2273. $18.50 per day; round-trip shuttle service from home, office or park-n-ride runs from $3.75 to $11.
Canine Campus Pet Resort, 38322 Delafield Rd., Oconomowoc, 262-965-5971; www.canine-campus.com. $17 per day.
Tend to Routine Preening
Cats and dogs, look your best with a fur wash, cut and blow dry without the inconvenience of going to the groomer. A mobile grooming van will come to you. In-the-van amenities may include soothing music, aromatherapy and hydrotherapy massage. Wisconsin K9 Center, 962-8237. Aussie Pet Mobile, 858-9399.
Party On, Dawg!
Yappy Hour for dogs is held every other Friday at Petlicious Dog Biscuit Bakery, January through July, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. You’ll sample the bakery’s products, including doggy ice cream, play games and enjoy all-you-can-drink water. $5 per dog. Petlicious also hosts The Dog Days of Summer Beach Party in August and two fund-raisers for local humane societies – a Halloween dress-up party and photos with Santa.
Celebrating a birthday or obedience class graduation? Book your party at The Dog Spot or The Doggy Bag. You’ve been a good boy, so you and your friends will enjoy treats and games.
Too young to party with the big dogs? Puppies between 9 weeks and 5 months old can crash a puppy party. These informal affairs are hosted weekly by For Pet’s Sake at the following locations: Groom’N Time (S74 W16832 Janesville Rd., Muskego) and Doggy Day Care (420 S. First St.). For information, call For Pet’s Sake (888-581-9070; www.forpetssake.cc).
Macho, Macho Mutt
Sit? Lie down? Play dead? Sissy dogs may be satisfied with that, but macho mutts want to work it. And you can at a variety of classes that will have you running relay races (flyball), tackling an obstacle course (agility) or chasing a fast-moving plastic bag (the lure).
Balls! Balls! Balls! If this is your mantra, try flyball. In flyball, the start is signaled, one dog from a four-dog team bolts over four hurdles, retrieves a tennis ball, bolts back and the next teammate is off and running.
Agility courses are the McDonald’s Playland for pups. Whether you’re a dachshund or Rotweiller, you can try your paw at a course consisting of eight hurdles, three tunnels, one teeter totter, a weave in which you serpentine around 12 aligned poles, a hanging tire and a plank.
Sight hounds go gaga over the lure. The course features an unscented plastic shopping bag being pulled on a rope and pulley system in a backyard-sized figure 8.
Expect to pay about $85 for eight sessions. Following are some of the more active clubs and schools in or near Milwaukee that are open to the neophyte.
Amiable Dog Training School, Brookfield, 289-7785; www.dogclass.com.
Cream City Canine Agility Club near Waterford; email@example.com.
Cudahy Kennel Club, St. Francis. 769-0758.
For Pet’s Sake, Mukwonago, 888-581-9070; www.forpetssake.cc.
K9 Obedience Training Club of Menomonee Falls, 262-252-3569; www.k9otc.com.
Milwaukee Dog Training Club, 961-6163; www.milwaukeedog.com.
Western Waukesha County Dog Training Club, Ixonia, 262-569-9433; www.seespotsit.com.
Dance, Doggy, Dance
Can you feel the rhythm? Is your tail wagging to the beat? Have your human take you to dancing lessons. A six-week, $90 course is offered by For Pet’s Sake. At the course’s end, you’ll dance at nursing home fundraisers. 828 Perkins Dr., Mukwonago, 888-581-9070; www.forpetssake.cc.
Live the High Life
When your human vacations, beg for a stay at the Cat Doctor or Canine Campus Pet Resort.
At the Cat Doctor, you’ll choose from three sizes of rooms, all of which have cat trees, and receive daily play time. 236 N. Water St., 272-2287.
At Canine Campus, amenities include off-the-floor beds, TV and stereo. Cats welcome. 38322 Delafield Rd., Oconomowoc, 262-965-5971; www.canine-campus.com.
Glendale’s Animal Emergency Center is open 24 hours a day. Veterinarians at the state-of-the-art facility treat more than 7,000 pets each year, including dogs, cats, rabbits, iguanas and birds. Vets specialize in emergency medicine, cardiology, surgery and oncology. 2100 W. Silver Spring Dr., 540-6710; www.animalemergencycenter.com.
A 24-hour Animal Poison Control Center is operated by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; the phone is staffed by veterinary toxicologists. $45 fee. 888-426-4435; www.apcc.aspca.org.
Local, Late-breaking News
For local dog-related news, pick up a copy of Fetch!, a new bimonthly metro Milwaukee magazine. At press time, Fetch! was scheduled for a January launch by Joseph and Jennifer Kojis of Milwaukee. The free, ad-driven magazine is being distributed to pet-related establishments in Milwaukee, Washington, Ozaukee and Waukesha counties. 489-0283.
The Dog Days at State Fair
For the past 25 years, Wisconsin State Fair has featured a Dog Fair Day. The all-day event includes displays of flyball, agility, the lure, the weave, dog dancing, a parade of breeds and more.
Pet Loss Counseling
The Wisconsin Human Society offers free group counseling for people whose pets have died and those who face the decision of euthanasia. The group, led by a counselor with a master’s degree in social work, meets the first Thursday of each month from 7-8 p.m. at the Humane Society, 4500 W. Wisconsin Ave., 431-6156. Registration is necessary.
Individual e-mail and phone counseling and free information packets are offered by Rainbow Passage Pet Loss and Bereave-ment Support Center. Charlene Douglas, who holds a master’s degree in counseling and a doctorate in educational psychology, operates Rainbow Passage from her Grafton home. 262-376-0340; firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Romp in the Park
Local, off-leash dog parks are the goal of R.O.M.P. for Dogs Inc. (Residents for Off-Leash Milwaukee Parks). Once a site is selected, private contributions will fund its development and upkeep. For information on meetings, to join R.O.M.P. or to link to dog parks throughout Wisconsin, visit www.romp4dogs.org.
Carolyn Alfvin, avid pet lover, is a regular contributor to Milwaukee Magazine.