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Pets: An Owner’s Manual

People are crazy about their pets. In fact, these furry and feathery friends are more often than not members of the family. So to pay homage to animal lovers all over Dallas, we’ve put together the ultimate pet package: best vet
By Dawn McMullan |


The Animal Kingdom Art Paw Pet Portraits Big Bark Bakery
Canine Companions Cats Cats Cats Dallas Clickers
Dallas Dog Pack Everything Fishy
Find-A-Pet Merrick Pet Delicatessen North Texas Rabbit Sanctuary
Operation Kindness Pawsitively Pampered Pets In Home Pet and House Sitting Pic A Pal
Winky’s Pet Horoscopes    


PetPerfect Academy Canine Home School Landmark Retrievers
Top Dog Obedience Training, Good Dog Obedience School  


Park Cities Pet Sitter Society Pet Sitter Guardian Pet Sitters (serving Greater Dallas, The Colony, Mesquite, Frisco, and McKinney)
PetPerfect Academy Behavioral Veterinary Consultants ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
Pet Butler Pooper Scoopers  


Dr. Joe Allen    


Dr. Wade Dunn Dr. Karen Fling Dr. Joe Lindley


Dr. Joe Shaffer    


Dr. Mark Carter Dr. Don Grubbs  


Dr. Karen Matlock Dr. Michael Burkett  


Dr. Gary Bridges Dr. Jeff Ellis Dr. Robert Fitzpatrick
Dr. Terry Ford Dr. Fred Williams  


Dr. Lloyd Fiedler    


Dr. Karl Black Dr. Randy Harrell Dr. Andrew Martin


Dr. Marijean Grunewald Dr. Rod Shuffield Dr. Herman Swann


Dr. Wendy Dearixon    


Dr. Wendy Dearixon    


Dr. Hugh Hayes Dr. Cheryl Pfeffer  


Dr. Sue Chastain Dr. Clint Chastain  


Dr. Michael Paulssen    


Dr. John Sohmer Dr. Steven Wilson  


Dr. Denise Stover Dr. Bobby Willard  


Dr. Mike Sealock    


Dr. Heidi Lobprise    

Dallas pet people are a breed of their own. Their animals have migrated from the backyard to the bedroom and are now treated like members of the family.

Are we entering the generation of the flyball moms?

Imagine the minivan: little Joey is strapped in his car seat on his way to Mother’s Day Out; Lauren, lunch packed, is ready for pre-school; and Blue, the family black lab, calls shotgun while Oscar the shaggy terrier mix from the pound plops down on his poochie pillow—both on their way to doggie day care at Dee’s Doggie Den. After “school,” Mom makes the pick-ups, heads to the YMCA for Lauren’s soccer practice, then totes Joey along for Blue and Oscar’s afternoon session of flyball—a relay race involving a team of four dogs, hurdles, and tennis balls—with their buddies at the new leash-free White Rock Lake Dog Park. Back to get Lauren, then it’s a quick stop at Simon David for people food, followed by a dash into the Big Bark Bakery in Deep Ellum for doggie yappitizers.

Think we’re exaggerating? Check out this description of doggie day care at the High-Stone Pet Lodge near Brookhollow: “We have a daylong structured program, alternating different types of music with exercise and play in air-conditioned comfort and outdoor excursions. We offer treadmill time, ball playing, individual massage, snacks, and personal attention.” Of course, at $15 a day, it’s much cheaper than day care for your kids.

Animal lovers have always treated their pets as part of the family to some extent. But along with a good economy and people waiting longer to have children come lavish times for our pets.

“People are putting their values and beliefs onto their pets,” says Dr. Steven Wilson, owner of the Dallas Cat Clinic, a cat-only mobile veterinary practice. “It’s not just the dog in the yard anymore or a cat that hangs around the house. These are members of the family.”

Consider these results from a survey by the American Animal Hospital Association:

• 58 percent of owners consider themselves their pets’ mom or dad.

• Nearly one-third of pet owners spend more time with their pets than with family or friends.

• Six out of 10 pet owners say they would spend $1,000 or more to save their pets’ lives.

• 70 percent report that playing with their pet when they are stressed or worried relaxes them.

• Half say they celebrate their pets’ birthdays, and almost 80 percent give them gifts for their birthdays or holidays.

• Almost seven out of 10 pet owners talk to their pets on the telephone or through their answering machines when they’re not home.

Love like this is what inspired Dr. Karen Fling when she designed the East Lake Veterinary Hospital. The menu of her new clinic’s services and amenities sounds more like a day spa than a vet’s office: acupuncture, therapeutic hydromassage, dog bedrooms with small televisions, and cat condos with a view of the birdfeeders. In the works are hospice apartments, where pet owners can stay to be near their critically ill pet.

All this love, peace, and harmony is well and good, but how much does it all cost? If you tally manitenance, food, and medical expenses, Americans shell out almost $20 billion a year on our pets, including $3 billion in pet accessories. And there are few pet luxuries you can’t find in the Dallas area—from a $2,000 ruby choker at Tails of the City to $75-per-session agility lessons at Dallas Dog Sports (sort of like Gymboree for dogs).

But most of the big expenditures are due to the astounding advances veterinary medicine has made in recent years, prolonging the lives of sick pets. No longer do you have to trek to A&M for testing; Dallas now has the Veterinary Referral Center of North Texas near Trinity Mills Road and the Tollway. At this referral-only clinic, experts can give your animal a blood transfusion; conduct an ultrasound with color flow Doppler capabilities (to see if the blood is flowing through the arteries in the correct direction); and treat your pet for cancer, heart disease, and skin and eye problems. Yes, these are expensive. No, most people still don’t have pet insurance (only about 1 percent of pet owners have signed up during the 20 years it has been available).

Alexander Pope mused in the 18th century that “histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends.” In the 21st century, a wise and unknown poet paraphrased Pope into bumper sticker-ese: “The more people I meet, the more I like my dog.”

We still like people, especially after surveying the dedicated experts, care-takers, and pet people in Dallas. Along the way, we compiled a comprehensive pet owner’s guide, loaded with plenty of information to chew on.

Web Barks and Bytes

Looking for a holistic vet, a spotted hedgehog, or a cure for doggie breath? The answer is just a click away.

The Animal Kingdom
A quality selection of freshwater fish, baby ferrets, guinea pigs, and hedgehogs.

Art Paw Pet Portraits
Attention, technophiles: a source for digital pet portraits.

Big Bark Bakery
For your puppy’s sweet tooth.

Canine Companions
Helpful hints on training, local group classes, and more.

Cats Cats Cats
For the cat (or cat-lover) who has everything.

Dallas Clickers
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Check out the Trick ‘n’ Click Classes—a fun, no-pressure way to train your dog.

Everything from boarding information to travel tips.

Dog Pack
Discover supply shops, shelters, pet-friendly restaurants, and a cure for doggie breath.

Everything Fishy
Everything Fishy has anything fish-y.

Head to this site if Fido’s run away. We especially love the reunion stories.

Merrick Pet Delicatessen
These natural pet treats are guilt-free for owners, but special to your pets.

North Texas Rabbit Sanctuary
Adopt a rabbit, volunteer to help the sanctuary, and link to other cool bunny- related sites.

Operation Kindness
The oldest and largest no-kill animal shelter in Dallas. See the dogs and cats ready for adoption, find out how to volunteer, or get handy tips.

Pawsitively Pampered Pets In Home Pet and House Sitting
Need a pet-sitter while you’re on vacation? PPP offers a range of services to make your pet feel comfortable and loved in its own home.

Pic A Pal
If you want to adopt a new friend, visit this nonprofit, no-kill rescue organization.

Winky’s Pet Horoscopes
Winky consults the stars to keep your pet prepared for the many surprises that are waiting in the backyard.

Doggie Boot Camps

There are many options when it comes to training your problem pooch. Here are five experts that take a bite out of bad behavior.

Last year I spent $1,000 on dog training. Most of it went to Roger Conant at Landmark Retrievers in Ennis. I sent Roger a 9-month-old golden named Speed who’d chewed our backyard to sticks and was jumping on our children despite my efforts to convince him otherwise. My wife didn’t care what Roger had to do to get Speed to behave, including sedation or the removal of a leg. After six weeks of basic obedience training, Speed returned alert, well mannered, and able to heel, sit, and stay—all on voice command from any member of our family.

Had I not already known Roger (he’d trained another of our dogs), I might have gone to a bookstore or veterinarian to investigate trainers and training methods before sending Speed off to boarding school. I recently did both to prepare the below list of dog trainers in Dallas.

At Borders, I got the impression that the Manstopper folks who employ choke chain collars and padded body suits are a withering minority. Hardly any of today’s dog trainers recommend corporal punishment for correcting unwanted behavior. Electronic collars are about the strongest corrective tools used. The current vogue recommends communicating our desires in a pleasant variation of wolf language. “Remember,” sings the chorus, “dogs need to be secure of their place in your pack—at the bottom.”

If the Borders’ shelves are any indication, you can teach a dog to do almost anything, including how to predict epileptic seizures in children and adults. Dogs are being trained to work as arson detectors, termite hunters, and—for an unlucky few—landmine locators.

According to local veterinarians and dog care professionals, there are many qualified area dog trainers. Ultimately both require the owner’s attention and follow through. In the end, the training is only as good as we are.—Jeff Bowden


PetPerfect Academy

Canine Home School

Landmark Retrievers,

Top Dog Obedience Training,

Good Dog Obedience School,

Rescue Me

We’ve all experienced the stress of a runaway pet. We asked the local SPCA for some expert advice on how to handle the situation.

How To Find Your Lost Pet

First of all, don’t leave the area too quickly to go after your pet. If he runs off while you are at a park, he’ll probably come back. Spend 15-30 minutes calling and whistling for your dog in a cheerful voice. When you do leave the area, ask anyone if they’ve seen the animal and hand out something with your name and phone number. Next, canvass the neighborhood on foot and then by car. Bring along a really good treat.

If there is still no sign of your pet, prepare a flyer including your pet’s name, a description, a photo, and contact information. Make sure to include details about the animal such as whether he comes when his name is called, how he interacts with people, etc. Post the flyers in the area where your pet was last seen and in your neighborhood. Call your vet and all local vets, the highway department, and local animal shelters. Also list you pet with and continually check

Some general tips to remember:

• Always keep a current photograph of your pet handy.

• Check your fence periodically to make sure boards are secure, etc.

• Keep your gate latched at all times.

• Make sure your pet wears his tags at all times.


The best way to ensure that your pet returns home safely is appropriate identification. The most common are tags. Unfortunately, though tags work well on dogs, most cats don’t wear them.

Microchips are new, affordable (about $40), and permanent, but they shouldn’t be substituted for tags. The procedure, which is offered by the SPCA and most vets, involves injecting a microchip about the size of a grain of rice between the animal’s shoulder blades. We recommend both tags and the microchip so Scout will make it home safely and soon.

How To Handle Strays

If you come across a lost animal, observe his behavior before approaching. If you decide not to approach him, call animal control immediately. Give a description of the animal, where he was headed, and if he had a collar. Be as descriptive as possible.

   If you successfully approach the dog and he follows you, go ahead and secure the animal. If you can keep him fenced in your own backyard, do so. Just be cautious if you have other pets. The stray dog might have fleas or illness. Check the dog for tags. If he is wearing tags, call the owner. If he doesn’t have tags, take a picture of the dog and get the word out that you have it. This includes making “found” posters, telling your neighbors, etc. If you have no response after about two days, take the animal to the closest animal shelter. But be sure to leave your name and phone number to be contacted in case the facility decides to destroy the pet and you are willing to place him elsewhere.

Maintenance Required

A local guide to pet sitters, pooper scoopers, and puppy shrinks.

Pets aren’t always fun and games; they are a major commitment. Your spontaneous weekend getaways now require making arrangements for a pet sitter. Your once-perfect lawn now demands that someone remove those unsightly clumps. Like kids, animals go through emotional phases and you might find it necessary to seek help on the couch of a behavior specialist.

But thankfully, the industry surrounding animals has shaped itself to accommodate our fast-paced lives, and if you’ve got the cash, they’ve got the solutions.

Having to leave your pet behind when you go out of town is easily remedied by the proliferation of pet sitting services. The problem is finding one that is right for you. When looking for a pet sitter, make sure the company or person is a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and is insured and bonded. Membership with NAPPS ensures they will meet professional standards and guidelines and follow a code of ethics. Their list of duties runs the gamut: the majority of pet sitters will visit your pet daily, pick up your mail and newspapers, administer medication, and can even offer more tailored services like overnight stays so Fluffy won’t have to sleep alone.

Animals form deep emotional attachments to their owners and can suffer separation anxiety when left alone. Sometimes bored and lonely animals manifest their discontent with destructive behavior. In extreme cases, dogs are now being treated with Prozac or Clomicalm—the first drug created specifically for animal anxiety. But there is no need for you to feel guilt-ridden. Even if your kitty has a severe case of ennui and has taken a liking to “inappropriate elimination” on your new chaise, don’t fret. Behavioral problems can arise at any time for a number of reasons, but with a bit of patience and some help from a pet behaviorist, behavioral modification can take place in three to four weeks.

Here are some sources to help keep you from taking the Prozac.
—Kristie Ramirez

Park Cities Pet Sitter

Society Pet Sitter

Guardian Pet Sitters (serving Greater Dallas, The Colony, Mesquite, Frisco, and McKinney)

PetPerfect Academy

Behavioral Veterinary Consultants

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

Pet Butler

Pooper Scoopers

Best Bets for Vets in your neighborhood

Selecting a vet for your animal can be the best choice—or worst mistake—you ever make. To find the best in Dallas, we asked area veterinary clinics, specialists, breeders, trainers, and owners who they recommend.

Dr. Joe Allen
Boulevard Animal Hospital
6413 Colleyworld Blvd.

Dr. Wade Dunn
Lakewood Animal Hospital
6363 Richmond Ave.

Dr. Karen Fling
East Lake Veterinary Hospital
10101 E. Northwest Hwy.

Dr. Joe Lindley
Lindley’s Veterinary Clinic
9600 Audelia Rd., 214-341-6600

Dr. Joe Shaffer
Flower Mound
Veterinary Hospital
1601 Arrowhead Dr.

Dr. Mark Carter
Springhill Veterinary Clinic
3214 Big Spring Rd.

Dr. Don Grubbs
Campbell Park Animal Hospital 3443 W. Campbell Rd.
Ste. 700

Dr. Karen Matlock
Metroplex Veterinary Center
700 W. Airport Fwy.

Dr. Michael Burkett
Buena Vista Animal Clinic
4131 N. Story Rd.

Dr. Gary Bridges
Prestonwood Pet Clinic
5242 Meadowcreek Dr., Ste. 110 972-233-7343

Dr. Jeff Ellis
Preston Park Animal Hospital
18770 Preston Rd., 972-985-0081

Dr. Robert Fitzpatrick
Central Expressway
Animal Hospital
11680 Forest Central Dr.

Dr. Terry Ford
North Dallas Veterinary Hospital
604 Park Forest Shopping Center 972-620-9012

Dr. Fred Williams
Midway Road Animal Clinic
12700 Midway Rd., Ste. 106

Dr. Lloyd Fiedler
Love Field Pet Hospital
6550 Lemmon Ave.

Dr. Karl Black
Park Cities Animal Hospital
4520 Lovers Ln.

Dr. Randy Harrell
Dr. John Vandermeer
Highland Park Animal Clinic
5323 N. Central Expwy.

Dr. Andrew Martin
Lovers Lane Animal
Medical Center
4660 W. Lovers Ln.

Dr. Marijean Grunewald
North Plano Animal Hospital
3101 Legacy Dr.

Dr. Rod Shuffield
Windhaven Vet Hospital
3232 Parkwood Blvd.

Dr. Herman Swann
Plano Arapaho Veterinary Clinic
1400 N. Plano Rd.

Dr. Wendy Dearixon
Animal Medical
Center of Richardson
590 W. Campbell Rd.

Dr. Ed Silverman
Uptown Veterinary Hospital
3101 McKinney Ave.
Ste. 105
Bird Brains
Dr. Hugh Hayes
Summertree Animal & Bird Clinic
12300 Inwood Rd.

Dr. Cheryl Pfeffer
North Plano Animal Hospital
3101 Legacy Dr.
Exotic Experts
Dr. Sue Chastain
Dr. Clint Chastain
Preston Road Animal Hospital
6060 LBJ Fwy.
Rodents (rats, hamsters,
mice, ferrets)

Eye Guy
Dr. Michael Paulssen
5820 W. I-20, Arlington

Heals on Wheels
Dr.  John Sohmer
The House Call Vet

Dr. Steven Wilson
Dallas Cat Clinic

Horse doctor
Dr. Denise Stover
Dr. Bobby Willard
8000 Cross Timbers Rd.
Flower Mound

Injured wildlife & Birds
Dr. Mike Sealock
I-30 @ Ridge Rd.

Teeth Police
Dr. Heidi Lobprise
Coit Road Animal Hospital
12600 Coit Rd.

 New No-Leash On Life

Texas Rangers announcer Eric Nadel pioneers the first leash-free dog park in Dallas.

Eric Nadel is in his 23rd year as the play-by-play announcer of Texas Rangers radio. Over the past year, Nadel has worked to establish the first leash-free dog park in Dallas. The park was approved by the Park Board on April 12, 2001, and will open this summer at Mockingbird Point at White Rock Lake.

D: Have you always had pets?

Eric: Yes. I grew up in Brooklyn. It was an effort to have a dog in New York. You’d have to walk it in the street.

D: Did growing up in New York get you interested in dog parks?

Eric: Not really. I got exposed to them in ’97 when my wife and I decided to take a car trip to Carmel, Calif., with our dog, Mookie, named after Mets player Mookie Wilson. We’d read that Carmel was the most dog-friendly city in America.

D: Was it?

Eric: Yes. The public beach is the biggest leash-free park, probably in the country. Every afternoon at 5 p.m. is like doggy happy hour. There are hotels and bed-and-breakfasts that take pets. Doris Day set up the first one. The day we got there, we checked in and walked to the beach. I’ll never forget letting Mookie off the leash. She looked at us like, “Are you kidding me?” Then she jumped up in the air and spun around and took off in a state of delirium.

D: So what happened next?

Eric: I started checking around other cities for leash-free dog parks. I found some in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and  Colorado. Then I discovered that Austin has several leash-free areas. So we drove down. We started thinking seriously about one in Dallas.

D: When did you get involved?

Eric: Sometime in early 2000. Unbeknownst to me, Kim Morales had begun contacting city council members about dog parks. Council member Lois Finkleman was very passionate about the issue. In chambers she spoke of her personal experience of going to dog parks in Portland. Because of my media contacts, I was able to get on radio shows and talk about the benefits of dog parks. There’s no better way to get exercise for your dog than to let it run unleashed. Did you know that there isn’t any place in Dallas where you can legally play ball with your dog?

D: No, we didn’t. Do you throw a baseball when you play catch with your dog?

Eric: Our new dog, Nemo, doesn’t play catch. But he loves dog parks. There’s no place he’d rather be.

D: Tell us about the site.

Eric: It’s called Mockingbird Point at White Rock Lake Park. It’s on the south side of Mockingbird, just west of the bridge that crosses the lake. Muenster Milling Company, the makers of Muenster All-Natural Dog Food, donated the money to set it up. The park will be fenced and have fountains, benches, and plastic bag dispensers.

D: Sounds like you’ll have to watch where you step.

Eric: Not really. But people need to be aware of their responsibilities. You need to pick up after your dog and stay in close contact with him. If everybody does that, we’ll have a great time. —J.B.

The Lap of Luxury

Days spas and B&Bs where your pets can rest their weary paws.

Canine Country Club (4931 Airline Rd., 214-526-2033), owned and operated by Highland Park Animal Clinic, offers full-service boarding and grooming at the Spa and Clubhouse. Spa bath, blow dry, brush out, nail trim, and ear clean are all part of the spa day at this country retreat. Pick up and delivery are available.

Dazzle Dog Grooming Spa (10729 Audelia Rd., 214-341-4413) offers hot oil treatments, spa tub time, herbal shampoos, and individualized service. Owner Joann Jones has groomed championship show dogs for 33 years, specializing in Afghans and poodles, so she knows how to make your dog look like a champ.

Your pet will have a more luxurious vacation than you at JD Kennels (6641 I-30 W, Royce City, 972-636-9494). Door-to-door service takes your pet from the comfort of home to a relaxing country escape. Play time, yard time, ball, socializing, and spa time are of the package. Grooming is available upon request.

Petite Pooch Chateau (3420 Garden Brook Dr., Farmers Branch, 972-241-2500) is an upscale salon, hotel, and day care center for small canines. Owner Norma Gonzales accommodates the special needs of each client on an individual basis. Luxurious, uniquely decorated suites are furnished with a cozy bed, fresh food, water bowls, and fresh linens daily. There are two indoor and three outdoor playgrounds, and each dog gets five to six outdoor play times. For Buffy’s day of beauty, the Chateau offers signature “Refresh ‘N Pamper” services, including clipping scissor finish and custom styling.—Valerie Douglas

Canine Couture

Need a ruby collar for your little princess? Check out these trendy shops.

The Perky Poodle (2706 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-526-3243) offers a full range of accessories, including a genuine pearl necklace, faux mink throws, an entire line of signature pooch perfumes (choose from Tommy Holedigger, Aramutts, White Dalmatians), and a wrought-iron daybed with a matching dish set.

Interested in matching your pup’s furnishings to your décor? Haute Dogs & Fat Cats (114 Preston Royal Village, 214-369-8380) can build a sleigh bed to your dog’s specifications, including a little doggie cameo on the headboard.

Is your dog trying to improve his aura? Herbs and Pets (800-731-90904 or offer holistic products and treatments to improve Kittie’s karma. Herb seeds for home growing and ready-made, all-natural products like Black Walnut extract are available.

For the occasional jaunt in the rain, pick up a Burberry trench coat at Tails of the City (3419 Milton Ave., Ste. B, 214-750-7602). The ultimate in pet designer duds, Tails also offers Burberry sweaters, beds, gold and silver monogrammed tags, ostrich collars, and tiaras for your little princess. If you have a queen, Tails also carries a complete line of signature damask, silk, and tapestry bedding and a ruby collar for a mere $2,000.

Feline prowess is the order of the day at the Cat Connection (14233 Inwood Rd., 972-386-MEOW). The largest cat-specific facility in the southwest, the Cat Connection has an extensive supply of scratching posts for your furry friend.—V.D.

How I Spent $10,000 on My Dog 

Finding the right vet can not only save your pet’s life, but it can also save you big bucks.

I was sleeping soundly when a cold, wet nose gently poked my cheek. Under the covers, I lay still, hoping he would go back to sleep. Suddenly a hot, wet tongue lapped across my face. This was Louie’s way of telling me he really meant business—he couldn’t hold it any longer.

My black lab and I had danced this early-morning tango for almost nine years. As he had gotten older, the wake-up licks came earlier. I’d stumble in the dark, open the door to let him out, and leave the door open a crack so he could return at will.

Louie was the love of my life. He anticipated my every emotion. If I cried, he sat at my feet and rested his head on my lap. If I raised my voice, he would poke his head around the corner to gauge the situation. He comforted me when we huddled in our shattered house after an earthquake. He mourned with me through my divorce. His heightened senses made me feel safe. I could read complex emotions in his smallest sigh or snore. He taught me about real love and loyalty.

One morning, when Louie came back inside and I stumbled over to shut the door, I noticed that he was hobbling down the hall with his back left leg swinging around like it wasn’t connected to his body.

After a hysterical trip to my vet, I found out that it wasn’t. He had torn his anterior crutiate ligament and needed surgery.

Louie’s sparkling brown eyes stared at me as the vet explained the risks of surgery. My only question was, “How much?”

Plenty of people in this situation would choose to put a dog down. But then there are those of us whose pets are family and who wouldn’t consider doing anything but everything for them.

I have always had a dog; therefore I have always had a vet. I’ve had more vets than dogs because vets are human beings and not as easy to trust as dogs. At the time Louie ripped his ACL, I’d visited the clinic twice for routine procedures. What did I know about their surgical expertise? Should I trust what they were telling me? It sounds foolish in hindsight, but the thought of taking an injured 90-pound dog to another hospital for a second opinion seemed impossible. I wish I’d been wiser, for I was soon much poorer.

When I picked him up after surgery, his leg was wrapped from his midsection to his toes. I was instructed to give him a plethora of pills and to keep him from jumping on anything. Oh yes, and that will be $2,100 please.

Ten days later, the stitches were removed. The next day Louie entered the kitchen with his leg as unhinged as an old barn door.

“Guess we need stronger wire,” the tech laughed. “There are no guarantees with these large active dogs. You have to keep them still.” As Louie went back under the knife, I built a Labrador-proof recovery room. This time they only charged me $1,800.

The stronger wire method held long enough to get Louie into rehab. Luckily, I already had a swimming pool or I’m sure I would have been out another $25 grand. And then there were the post-op drugs. On top of the antibiotics andheart and thyroid medications Louie was already taking, he was prescribed a series of 10 Cosequin injections at $60 a shot. The worst part was I would have to bring him in every other day. In order to keep my job to pay for them, I learned to give Louie the shots myself.

On my first attempt, I pulled up a hunk of skin behind his neck and accidentally plunged the needle all the way through to the other side. I cried as I watched the liquid squirt on the refrigerator door. But each night as I sat down to read and Louie twirled around my chair three times before deciding the best spot to settle down, I never thought about the money.

Six weeks and $1,000 in X-rays, blood work, and drugs later, I came home to find Louie standing at the door grinning from ear to ear with his leg twisting in the wind.

This time I was more mad than sad. I called a friend who referred me to a specialist in Fort Worth who couldn’t see me for two weeks. After hearing my story, they told me to come in before 7 the next morning. At 5:30 a.m., I loaded Louie into the car for the 120-mile roundtrip drive to Camp Bowie Animal Clinic. This would be the first of at least 50 trips I would make across I-30.

Dr. Fred Tierce opened the door to the examining room with a grim look on his face. With white wiry hair, full beard, and reading glasses perched low on his nose, he could pass for Santa Claus if not for his rigid demeanor. He’s all business. After he took X-rays, he returned shaking his head. For the next two hours, he opened drawers with dog bones of all shapes and sizes matching tibias with fibias and going into great detail on methods of knee reconstruction.

He made no bones about the fact that the technique used on Louie was outdated for large dogs. Performing another surgery on a 9-year-old dog wasn’t a risk that he wanted to take. He even suggested cutting the leg off. “I know plenty of dogs that get around just fine on three legs,” he said.

Patiently he sat down, put pen to paper, and gave me the choice. He could rebuild the knee with screws and wire mesh. The surgery would be long, complicated, and around $2,500. But it would have Louie back to playing ball in 12 weeks. I handed over my Visa, the one that gets me one airline mile for every dollar I spend.

Louie was in Fort Worth for a month. Every other evening I drove over with my book and a blanket to join other parents, and we sat in the dog runs and stroked our healing animals. After two months, Louie was back in the pool and chasing tennis balls like a teenager. And his bills were comparable to having one—his medications for all his ailments at this point were running close to $300 a month.

Three years later, Louie’s health deteriorated and I knew it was time to put him down. My two best friends made the last trek to Fort Worth. Louie lay next to me in the back seat with a ball in his mouth gazing at me with reassurance. He knew what was happening and he comforted me with understanding eyes.

Two years later, I made eye contact with a white lab puppy at an animal shelter, and before I knew it, she was sitting in the back seat of my car. After six weeks of house training and destroying my shoes, my new dog Lulu had partially filled a hole in my heart. Of course, I had learned my lesson and took her straight to Dr. Tierce for a checkup.

He got down on the floor and was fingering his way up her hind legs when she flinched. He looked up shaking his head. By this time, I knew him so well I just closed my eyes and said yes.

At least I got 3,000 more airline miles.

Paw Premiums

Are your vet bills outrageous? Perhaps it’s time to insure your pet. We did the research and narrowed it down to three primary U.S. providers.

Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the largest and oldest of the U.S. insurers, has two policies to choose from: the Superior and the Standard plan. Both provide the same coverage and carry a $50 per-incident deductible. The two plans differ in benefit schedule allowances, maximum amount allowed per year, and premium amounts. Vaccination and routine care coverage can also be added to either plan for $99 a year. Both policies include a $12 Lost and Found Registration fee. You can get a quote or enroll your pet online at

The next site we visited was Premier covers cats and dogs only and offers three different insurance plans: Premier Basic, Premier Plus, and Premier Ultimate. All three have an annual deductible of $100. Insure more than one pet with Premier and receive a 10 percent discount.

Preferred Pet Health Plus has three plans: Basic, Value, and Choice. The plans differ in per-incident and annual policy limits. The Value and Choice plans also include preventive care treatments. Preferred Pet Health Plus offers a 10 percent discount plan if two or more pets are enrolled. For more information, visit

—J.D. and J.E.

Good Grief

A new pet grief counseling program from the Dallas SPCA helps pet owners deal with their loss.

Chances are, if you’re an animal lover, you will deal with the loss of a pet more than once in your life. For some, dealing with the loss of a beloved cat is as difficult as dealing with the loss of a parent. Others bury the dead and drown their sorrows in sweet new-puppy breath. Grieving people experience both physical and emotional trauma as they try to adapt to the upheaval in their lives. And no two people heal the same way or in the same amount of time.

The death of a pet means the loss of a non-judgmental source of love. In pet grief groups, pets are referred to as “my life,” “my best friend,” and “the only true source of love in my life.” These intense feelings are misunderstood by non-animal lovers and many times discounted even by fellow pet owners. We all grieve in our own way and there are no rules when it comes to dealing with grief. Relief only comes when you find a safe place to deal with it.

Psychologists have plenty of multistage programs designed to help people deal with their feelings. For the most part, identifying stages and working through them is effective. It is comforting to know that you are not the first person to feel this way (although you may not believe that) and embracing the stages of depression, hopelessness, and loneliness soon give way to acceptance as the mourning process continues.

Healing will occur, but there are many things that a bereaved owner can do to speed up the process.

• Give yourself permission to grieve and remember only you know what your pet meant to you.

• Memorialize your pet to help provide closure.

• Surround yourself with people who understand your loss.

• Give yourself permission to backslide.

• Most important, don’t be afraid to get help.

Thanks to some dedicated volunteers, the Dallas SPCA has just introduced a new pet grief counseling program designed to provide support and guidance. Diane Pomerance, Ph.D., a certified grief-recovery specialist, and volunteer counselor-in-training Jean Nadel run a two-hour session on the first Saturday of every month. Their goal is to train other volunteers and create counseling groups across the city. Call 214-651-9611 for more information.

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