I enjoy hearing your views -- and you're certainly not hesitant about expressing them! Here are some recent reader emails:
COMMENT: Please, medicating a dog to deal with fears, really? Dogs are not people! -- A.P., Cyberspace
Of course, drugs shouldn't be the first "go to" alternative for a fearful pooch. However, dogs -- or people, for that matter -- who are absolutely terrified can't learn. Also, there's no way to explain to a dog with severe separation anxiety why there's no reason to fear that you won't return home, or to make a dog with thunderstorm anxiety understand rationally that there's no reason to be scared.
COMMENT: Thanks for encouraging people to adopt FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) infected cats. I always enjoy your columns and especially appreciate that you advocate for cats since they're so often overlooked. FIV cats can have normal lives and deserve the chance to live. Thank you for helping them. -- L.C.S., Cyberspace
S.D.: Although this is a broad generalization, I argue FIV infected cats are particularly affectionate, based on my own experiences. Cats with FIV do require regular preventive care exams and proactive veterinary care to catch illness early. Because many cats (unfortunately) don't receive this degree of care, it can be argued that FIV cats may enjoy better health than many uninfected cats.
FIV is transmitted primarily via bites, and only to other cats. So obviously, an FIV positive cat should easily be adopted into a home without other cats. However, it's been shown that with appropriate introductions to other cats, cat fights are unlikely. Maybe these big guys with FIV think, "Been there, done that."
I agree 500 percent with your comments, and am thrilled that increasingly, animal shelters are adopting FIV cats. Still, many shelters summarily euthanize FIV cats, and that's a tragedy.
COMMENT: I have a better way to stop cats from clawing furniture; take catnip seeds or catnip grass and boil it in a pan of water for a few minutes. Then "paint" that water onto a scratching post. Cats love the smell and will scratch to their hearts' content. This technique worked for my cat. -- E.R, Cyberspace
S.D.: Your idea is brilliant! Certainly, rubbing catnip on scratching posts entices many cats, like a sign saying, "scratch here." So, coating the post with catnip makes total sense!
COMMENT: We adopted Lucy, a Jack Russell-mix. She's a mild-tempered dog who's very specific about what she barks about. At Christmas, when my wife's cousin arrived for to visit, we couldn't get Lucy to stop barking. Later that night, the cousin was taken to the hospital with extreme abdominal pain. She was diagnosed with colon cancer and passed away early this year.
In another instance, Lucy began barking at my wife's brother, whom she adored. We couldn't figure out why. Mark was soon diagnosed prostate cancer. Lucy continued to be very agitated each time Mark came over. Eventually, Mark's prostate was completely removed. On Mark's first visit after surgery, Lucy was very happy to see him and didn't bark. Can she actually "smell" cancer? I'd heard similar stories, but was amazed to witness this happen. Any thoughts? -- A.F. Cyberspace
S.D.: Over the years, I've received countless emails like yours. Scientists have confirmed that there are several types of cancers dogs can identify by scent. The non-profit InSitu Foundation has a web site on this topic: dogsdetectcancer.org. Studies have shown dogs can detect bladder, lung, ovarian, prostate, breast and colorectal cancer. I'm sorry for your loss.
COMMENT: You missed the answer about dogs who eat poop by a good mile. Twice I bought a puppy who did this. My vet told me that when puppies are taken away from their mothers and siblings, some handle it well, but a few are so lonely they'll eat their own droppings. Both times, I bought a second puppy. The poop-eating stopped the very day I brought a companion home for my dog. -- A.M., Cyberspace
S.D.: Certainly, coprophagia, or poop eating, may be related to anxiety, particularly in puppies. It's also possible that when bringing home a second puppy, the first would continue to chow down on poop, and the second pup would learn the same behavior. The explanation for coprophagia in most (adult) dogs has more to do with a breed predisposition or individual predisposition, combined with opportunity.
COMMENT: The people of Holland love Cesar Millan, no matter what you say. He's the best! -- M.A., Amsterdam, Holland
S.D.: You're referring to a blog post (which likely Millan himself had nothing to do with) which used colorful language to describe me because I've been an open critic of many of Millan's dog training methods.
I'm sure many people in Holland do love Mr. Millan. However, my guess is that Dutch animal behavior and animal welfare experts concur with colleagues around the world, expressing serious concerns about Millan's methods.
(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 http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)