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Archive for June, 2007


Back in 1980s, my now long-deceased Siamese, Isis, compiled a list of her “Rules”

When I recently wrote in my June 26 column in the Times that our Abyssinian cat Tut is getting old, it drew an immediate response from Kathie Dreher in cyberspace. She reminded me of another very special feline, Isis, who directed my life back in the 1980s and early 1990s before she finally died of old age.

During her reign, Isis compiled a list of “Basic Rules for Cats Who Have a House to Run.” These provocative guidelines were amazingly well-received. Feral cats from as far away as Tasmania faxed in requests for copies, and some jerk in Canada even posted a copy of Isis’ rules on his personal Web site with a note thanking me for my permission to use it, which he didn’t have.

To date, humans and pets from around the world have asked for thousands of copies of these rules. (Isis must be lying on a cloud somewhere, purring.)

I think it’s time to share Isis’ rules with the world once again. I’m not sure the world is ready for them, but what the heck:


CHAIRS & RUGS. If you have to throw up, get into a chair quickly. If you cannot manage in time, get onto an Oriental rug. If there’s no Oriental rug, shag is good.

DOORS. Absolutely do NOT allow closed doors in any room. To get a door opened, stand on your hind legs and hammer with your forepaws. Once a door is opened, it is not necessary to use it. After you have ordered an outside door opened, stand halfway in and halfway out and think about several things. This is particularly important during very cold weather, rain, snow and mosquito season.

GUESTS. Quickly decide which guest hates cats the most. Sit on that human’s lap. If you can arrange to have Friskies Fish ‘N Glop on your breath, so much the better.

For sitting on laps or rubbing against trousers, select fabric color which contrasts well with fur. For example: White-furred cats go to black wool clothing.

For the guest who claims “I love kitties,” be ready with aloof disdain; apply claws to stockings or use a quick nip on the ankle. Be sure and hiss loudly if someone tries to pet you.

When walking among dishes on the dinner table, be prepared to look surprised and hurt when scolded. The idea is to convey, “But you allow me on the table when company isn’t here.”

Always accompany guests to the bathroom. It is not necessary to do anything. Just sit and stare.

WORK. If one of your humans is sewing or writing and another is idle, stay with the busy one. This is called helping, otherwise known as hampering. Following are the rules for hampering:

1. When supervising cooking, sit just behind the left heel of the cook. You cannot be seen and thereby stand a better chance of being stepped on, then picked up and consoled when you scream in pain.

2. For book readers, get in close under the chin, between the human’s eyes and the book, unless you can lie across the book itself.

3. For knitting projects, curl up quietly onto the lap of the knitter and pretend to doze. Occasionally reach out and slap the knitting needles sharply. This can cause dropped stitches or split yarn. The knitter may try to distract you with a scrap ball of yarn. Ignore it. Remember, the aim is to hamper work.

PLAY. It is very important. Get enough sleep in the daytime so you are fresh for playing catch the mouse or king-o-the-hill on top of their bed between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.

TRAINING. Begin people-training early. You will then have a smooth-running household.

Humans can be taught if you start early and are consistent.

There you go. I hope you enjoy these rules. For your future edification and enjoyment, I also have a set of our Lady Dog’s “Basic Rules for Dogs Who Have a Yard to Protect,” and for those people who think rules are for the birds, a set of my old cockatoo Lottie’s “Basic Rules for Birds Who Have a Cage to Maintain.”

Watch for them.

Posted on Wednesday, June 27th, 2007
Under: Cat Rules | 2 Comments »


Delta and Dawn the humpback whales
A poetic look by S. R. Chapman of Benicia at the mother and daughter humpback whales and their trip up the Sacramento River and their encounters with us “helpful” humans before they finally returned to the sea. Interesting.

Delta and Dawn
     came to visit us
On a quiet and sunny day —
Were they lost, were they hungry,
     were they lonely,
Did they come just to play?
The stars and seasons
and constellations —
instinct and sheer will
Took them off their course
     for an unknown “reason” —
But we remember them —
We always will.
     We asked, “have you seen the
     whales today?
     Did they get help?
     Are they OK?”
We tracked them with every device
known to man
But they were guided
by an Unseen Hand!
     I know they are safe
     I know they live
Their visit is forever in our minds —
They helped us realize that some
     things transcend time —
     Some things transcend space —
     Some things transcend all the
     mundane “things” of life.
Our visit with the whales will be in our
memory and in our hearts FOREVER
because they represent something
bigger than we are
and something truly worthwhile.
— by S. R. Chapman, Wed., 5-30-2007, Benicia, CA, 5:45 p.m.

Posted on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007
Under: Whales | No Comments »


More pets are lost on the 4th of July holiday than at any other time of the year.
Lets get an early start to planning for a safe and sane 4th of July for your pets this year. For starters, if you haven’t already done so, it might be a good idea to get your pet micro-chipped before the 4th of July.

Every year I like to present a 4th of July press release from a different animal control department or nonprofit pet rescue organization. This year the City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services is sending out the following information offering six basic steps to making this July 4th a great holiday for you and your pets.

Loud noises from fireworks frighten animals due to their heightened senses of hearing, and they will often do anything they can to escape the noise. This behavior is usually unpredictable and out of character, and it may include chewing through a leash, jumping through screens and glass windows, digging under a fence, jumping over a wall, bolting away from the owner, and running into traffic.

Don’t get caught by surprise and lose your beloved pets.

Please read and follow these six guidelines carefully. The life you save may be that of a wonderful pet:

** Don’t take pets to fireworks displays. The explosions of the fireworks are loud to the human ear. Imagine how loud it sounds to your dog, who can hear sounds up to 60,000 cycles per second — that’s three times greater than the human ear can even register.

** Do not leave pets in the car. With only hot air to breathe inside a car, your pet can suffer serious health effects, even death, in a few short minutes. Partially opened windows do not provide sufficient air, but do provide an opportunity for your pet to be stolen. This practice is also illegal in the state of California.

** Keep pets indoors in a sheltered, quiet area. Some animals become destructive when frightened, so be sure you’ve removed any items your pet could destroy or may be harmful to your pet if chewed. Leave a television or radio playing at normal volume to keep your cat or dog company while you’re attending 4th of July picnics, parades, and other activities.

** Is your pet seriously distressed by loud noises? Consult with your veterinarian before July 4th for ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety your pet will experience during fireworks displays.

** Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. In their fear, pets who normally wouldn’t leave the yard may escape and become lost, or become entangled in their chain, risking injury or death.

** Make sure all pets are wearing ID tags. If they do become lost, they can be returned promptly. Animals found running at-large should be taken to the local animal care center, where they have the best chance of being reunited with their owners. Two forms of ID are always best when it comes to protecting your pet. If an individual finds your pet, the first thing he or she will look for is an ID tag. If your pet is taken to a shelter, it will also be scanned for a microchip.

Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2007
Under: Pet Safety | 1 Comment »


Keep your hummingbird feeders OUT of the sun!
You don’t want your back yard hummers to stick their beaks into boiling HOT nectar the next time they come to feed. It could scald those little flying flowers … and even kill them.

There are a number of ways to deal with the problem of hot hummingbird feeders.

** Make sure the feeder stays in the shade. Remember, the sun moves.

** Change the nectar frequently. When the weather is hot it doesn’t take long for the sugary nectar to go bad.

** If there’s a heat wave and it’s REALLY hot, take your feeder(s) down and out of use until the heat wave passes. Hummingbirds tend to visit feeders about 25 percent of the time and drink from flowers the other 75 percent, so there will be plenty for them to eat while your feeder is out of circulation for a few days.

Thanks for caring!

Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2007
Under: hummingbirds | 1 Comment »


Man dies from burns he got while saving dog
A friend and reporter here at the Times forwarded this Associated Press wire story and his comments to me this morning. It’s a tough question with no easy answers.

Gary: Ah. what a dilemma this story raises for humans: what risk to take to save a pet?

(BC-CA-BRF–Bay-Hero Hospitalized,0231)
(Artist who saved dog from fire succumbs to injuries)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A local artist who once rescued a drowning woman died from injuries he sustained four months ago while saving a friend’s dog from a burning house.

Michael James Keenan, 44, died Monday of complications from burns at St. Francis Memorial Hospital. He sustained burns over 80 percent of his body in February when he rescued a Jack Russell terrier from a Russian Hill home.

“He was the kind of guy who would walk into any pub and walk out with 15 friends,” said Owen Kelly, a childhood friend.

For several weeks after he was injured, friends and family were optimistic Keenan would recover. Doctors initially said his chances of survival were 50-50.

But Kelly said Keenan recently came down with an infection and suffered a stroke Sunday night. He was pronounced brain dead Monday.

The dog Kelly saved survived after being treated at a local animal hospital.

The rescue was the second time Kelly performed an act of heroism.

On Christmas Day 2001, he saw a car drive into San Francisco Bay and jumped in to save the couple inside the car, using a wrench to smash the back window. He was able to pull the wife out, but her husband drowned. (END)

What risk should someone take to rescue a pet? There are no easy answers on this one.

What would you do?

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
Under: Pets in Danger | 5 Comments »


If you’re too hot, how HOT are your pets with their fur coats?
Here are a few simple suggestions to help you keep your live-in animals safe during the present hot weather. Cut this out and stick it on your refrigerator door:

** Make sure your pets have a large supply of fresh, cool water available to them at all times. More than one dish of water is always a good idea so they will be easy to find when your pet gets thirsty. Remember — the sun moves — so please make sure the water dishes stay out of the sun all day.

** Your indoor and outdoor pets need to have cool places to get away from the sun and heat. You can hose down an area under the bushes so the dog will have a cool place to lie down. You can always give him/her a bath to clean off the mud later.

** Make sure the sun doesn’t shine on your bird cages or aquariums. Heat can kill caged birds because they don’t have a way to get away from it. And aquarium water lose oxygen when it gets warm … and your fish can suffocate.

** Rabbits and guinea pigs are VERY heat-sensitive. Put a frozen plastic 2-liter bottle of water in the cage to keep the animal cool. It can also still be too hot for rabbits or guinea pigs outside in some shaded areas, especially if there’s no breeze.

** Never — ever — leave pets or small kids alone in your car, even with windows down, even in the shade, even for a just a minute. It will kill them.

Posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
Under: Hot Weather | No Comments »


Summertime allergies affect animals, too!
Animal lovers may be celebrating the arrival of summer, but for many, the season is synonymous with the “A” word — allergies!

Just like humans, companion animals frequently develop allergies. In fact, information collected by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York shows that about one out of every five dogs nationwide suffers from some form of allergy.

My cat, Tut, itches and scratches all summer long as assorted pollens in the air irritate his skin and drive him crazy. He meets my wife, Lois, at the bedroom door every morning, demanding that she brush and comb him to help alleviate the itching. I get the same greeting when I get home from work. We also feed both our cats a hypoallergenic diet, mainly because Tut is also allergic to many foods.

A recent ASPCA press release reports that an allergy is a disease that results from an abnormal reaction of the immune system to common substances. In humans, symptoms normally include sneezing, wheezing, runny nose and watery eyes. Dogs and cats commonly lick and scratch, causing skin irritations and hair loss, and/or frequent skin and ear infections. These symptoms can make your pet very uncomfortable.

Dr. Jeanne Budgin, veterinary dermatologist at the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, says skin disorders are among the most common reasons for visits to the vet. “Many skin disorders are a result of allergies,” says Dr. Budgin. “It’s extremely important for the comfort and health of your pet to determine the source of the allergy and treat it appropriately.” In fact, simply inhaling, ingesting or having physical contact with an allergen may cause a reaction in an allergic dog or cat.

Some common causes of allergic reactions in pets:
** Flea allergies are the most common form of allergy in dogs and cats. The incidence of flea allergy increases in the spring and summer months, and if an animal is allergic to fleas, one bite may cause itching for up to three weeks.

** Foods can also trigger allergies and skin disorders in pets. The symptoms are usually skin related, but may include intestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Food allergy may exist alone or in combination with other types of allergy.

** Allergies associated with molds, pollens, house dust mites and other offending substances (allergens) cause a condition called “atopy,” an airborne allergy which results in rashes that cause itching and may affect animals.

** Tree pollens and grasses: Tree pollens cause most allergy symptoms. Grasses emerge with spring as tree pollens diminish. At present, oak and grass are the major pollens present in the environment. And while many feel protected from pollens, it is important to remember that pollens may travel many miles.

If you think your dog or cat may have allergies, talk to your veterinarian and discuss having your pet tested and treated.

For more information on how to take care of your pets this summer, check out

Posted on Friday, June 15th, 2007
Under: Pet Allergies | 1 Comment »


There’s lots of overreaction when wild animals are spotted in the big city
Deer, coyotes and other wild animals have been thriving for years in large cities and sprawling suburban communities all over the U.S., so it shouldn’t be a big surprise when people encounter them. But it is.

People never cease to be amazed when a coyote trots past them on the local jogging trail, or they glance out the kitchen window and spot a deer “pruning” the roses in their back yard.

Every morning when I arrive at the Times, the first thing I do is check out the wire services in our computer system to see what kind of animal stories the Associated Press has been sending out to its member newspapers during the night. Here are a couple of recent examples:

June 5, 2007
City leaders support sharpshooting to control urban deer

HELENA, Mont. — City commissioners trying to deal with deer that damage gardens, obstruct traffic and sometimes frighten people here want to hire sharpshooters who would kill several hundred of the animals.
The Helena City Commission voted 4-1 on Monday to send the state wildlife agency a deer-management plan with use of sharpshooters as one of the recommendations. Public comment included support for the plan and denouncement of what critics call a city-sanctioned slaughter. Some speakers questioned the importance of the deer issue. Others offered to shoot deer themselves, with personal weapons. …

June 5, 2007
Coyotes sighted in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — Coyotes in Golden Gate Park? That’s what San Francisco Animal Care & Control officials are receiving calls about. The animals have also been sighted in the Presidio and Bernal Heights, Animal Care & Control is reporting today.
There have been no reports of aggressive behavior or interaction with people or animals. No one knows where the coyotes came from or how they got to the city. Animal Care & Control advises that people living in the area of the sightings take common sense precautions. …

Those of you who follow this blog should be aware that I’ve been writing about wildlife and the “urban wilderness” for the last 37 years. By “urban wilderness,” I of course mean your back yard and the streets, parks, back alleys, rooftops, storm drains, and even the downtown sidewalks of the city where you live.

My goal has always been to try and help people learn to get along with their wild neighbors.

You probably have been long aware of the more common high-profile wildlife that prowls through your back yard in the early evening hours just after dark. These animals include raccoons, opossums and skunks.

What you may not know is that coyotes, deer, red foxes, gray foxes, bobcats, bats, great horned owls, barn owls, and a lot of different kinds of wild rodents may also be sniffing around your patio later at night after you’ve gone to bed. On extremely rare occasions in a few communities near open space areas, a curious mountain lion may stand on its hind legs so it can peer over your back fence to see what you’re watching on television.

And then there are the wild beasties that flit, hop, flutter, dig, slither and crawl around, in and above your yard during daylight hours. These fascinating creatures include songbirds, birds of prey, treefrogs, toads, salamanders, snakes, lizards, gophers, moles, and a scurry of spiders, scorpions, preying mantids, and many insects you may never even have heard of.

That’s why I started calling the places where we live, the “urban wilderness,” or sometimes, the “urban jungle.”

Huge trees have even been found growing on the tops of many old buildings in some large Eastern cities — their roots drawing sustenance deep from within the “soil” created by the natural composting of rotting rooftops, walls and wood used to construct the buildings. The trees were probably “planted” by birds that deposited feces containing fertile seeds onto the rooftops.

That’s just a sample of what’s going on in the urban wilderness around us. Drop by every day and I’ll try to keep you informed on what’s going on in your back yard while you’re fast asleep.

I’ll also offer suggestions, from time to time, on how you and your wild neighbors can get along compatibly so no one has to be shot by sharpshooters provided by frustrated city fathers (and mothers).

Posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2007
Under: The Urban Wilderness | 2 Comments »


Skunks are always on the prowl
I’m getting a lot of requests for this “Skunk Off” recipe to help people clean skunk spray off of unfortunate dogs that have encountered those little stinkers in their back yards.

One of my readers found a letter to the editor in a Chemical Engineering trade magazine a couple of decades ago and cut it out and forwarded it to me. A chemical engineer’s dog got sprayed and the engineer figured out an off-the-shelf formula that chemically neutralizes skunk spray. Unfortunately my reader didn’t include the name of the engineer who invented this, so we can’t thank him/her.

Stick this formula on your refrigerator door so it will be handy in case you ever need it. It’s easy to make and as I said, it chemically neutralizes that very bad smell.

TAKE: 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (from a pharmacy); ¼-cup baking soda; 1 teaspoon liquid soap (I use Dawn). Mix it all together and wash the sprayed animal, keeping the mixture out of its eyes, nose and mouth. Rinse with tap water.

Don’t bottle this stuff. The mix causes a mild chemical reaction and it could escape into a BIG mess if confined in a bottle.

Based on feedback from hundreds of users, this recipe, as listed, is a suitable quantity for a small dog. Double the above amount for medium-size dogs. Triple it for large dogs.

It’s amazingly effective.

Posted on Wednesday, June 13th, 2007
Under: Skunks | 6 Comments »


Common yard and garden substances can be hazardous to animals who eat them
United Animal Nations (UAN), a national animal protection organization dedicated to bringing animals out of crisis and into care, has issued a list of the common summertime substances that can be hazardous to our pets.

“Many of the plants in our gardens and the products we use to care for them can cause intestinal upset and other medical complications in dogs and cats,” said UAN president and CEO Nicole Forsyth. “With summer upon us we’ll be spending more time outdoors and must make sure our pets don’t eat these dangerous and potentially lethal substances.”

Forsyth advises pet owners to prevent their pets from “dining out” on the following potentially toxic substances:

amaryllis … azaleas … clematis … daffodils … gladiolas … hibiscus … hydrangea … irises … lilies … morning glories … oleander … rhododendron … tulips … wisteria
* This list is not comprehensive but represents some of the most common plants.

antifreeze … cacao bean mulch … citronella candles … fertilizers … fly bait containing methomyl … insecticides … insect repellent containing DEET … rat bait … slug and snail baits containing metaldehyde and methiocarb … sunscreen products not specifically for animals … pool treatment supplies … weed killers

** Rat bait, which causes bleeding, and snail/slug bait, which causes violent seizures and elevated body temperature, are the two most life-threatening substances.

** Antifreeze, while not typically considered a gardening substance, can cause severe kidney failure and even small amounts can be fatal.

“Even the most well-behaved pets can get into things that are not intended to be eaten,” said UAN board member Armaiti May, DVM. “Ideally, pet guardians should avoid using any potentially toxic substances. Otherwise, these items should be placed in areas inaccessible to animals.”

If you suspect that your pet has ingested a toxic substance, or if he or she is exhibiting symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy or excessive thirst, call your veterinarian immediately.

The life you save may be that of your beloved dog, cat or bird. /Gary

** You can find out more about United Animal Nations at

Posted on Tuesday, June 12th, 2007
Under: Pets & Poisons | No Comments »