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Unlikely Playmates

Animals at Play from Speaking of Faith on Vimeo.

What happens when a polar bear encounters a husky? Well, in this case, it was instant friendship and time to play. In this video Stuart Brown, a physician and clinical researcher who founded the National Institute for Play, describes Norbert Rosing's striking images of a wild polar bear playing with sled dogs. As the institute says:

We all know that play is fun, even joyful. It refreshes and energizes us. For centuries, thoughtful observers have recognized play as a central element of life, throughout life. Not only for children, but for working and retired adults. In play our burdens feel lighter and we are opened to new possibilities. But play goes even deeper –- it shapes our brains to make us smarter and more able to adapt in novel situations  . .  .

So now you have another bit of evidence (as if you really need it!) that playing with your pet is healthy -- for both of you.

Nursing Home Cares for Elderly Dogs

Playfulpup The Japanese are crazy about their pets and, with better health care and more doting owners, there has been a surge in elderly pets. To address this issue, a canine nursing home offering 24-hour veterinary care has recently opened in Japan.

The monthly fee of $800 covers their complete care including the presence of puppies who are employed to play with the old dogs, keeping them fit and feeling younger. Wait until the elders in Century Village hear about that. It is sure to give them some ideas for new services to offer at their clubhouse. . .

Halloween Treats for Your Dog

Scaredycat Okay, you have the perfect costume picked out for your poochie and you're sure he's going to win the contest for best-dressed, cutest-ever canine this year. But now the question is: when your neighborhood doggie comes barking at your door on Halloween do you have a treat ready to hand out?

Well, not to worry, Brooklyn's Buttercup's Paw-tisserie has the perfect selection of treats. Buttercup's Paw-tisserie, an all natural bakery, specializes in handcrafted treats that are baked fresh with no added sugar, salt, or preservatives. Not only are they healthy, they're beautiful. My favorite treat is the Scaredy Cat Cookie, a 4" carob coated, black cat cookie made with peanut butter and hand painted with yogurt and carob.

It comes individually wrapped with ribbon, not that many dogs would take the time to notice, but nevertheless I think this would be a hit with any dog out trick or treating.

Kitty Happy Hour

TeasersWhen It's Time for Happy Hour Bring on the Appetizers!

We all know how therapeutic play time can be. Here are some fun offerings from Fat Cat, Inc. This Vermont company began with handmade cat toys and draws on their love of cats and fine arts background to create designs that will make the kitties of the world happy.

They have many items available but these AppeTeasers(R) caught my eye. They are the Cocktail Wiener Dog, Mouse-A-Roni & Cheese, and Teenie Sardini. If they are at least half as fun as their names you will be pleased. They are cute, colorful, bite-sized and filled with organic catnip, sure to keep kitty coming back for more.

Time Share Dogs

Flexpet FlexPetz, a new service concept currently available in California and expanding to New York and London by year end, is for dog lovers who can't be owners. In exchange for an initiation fee, monthly membership fee, and daily doggy "rental" charge, members of the service get access to their choice of a variety of dogs for a few hours to a number of days.

So who would use this service, are these shallow people just looking for canine convenience? FlexPetz would say no. Members are responsible people who realize that due to restrictions where they live, or because of limited availability due to busy travel, business or family schedules, full-time dog ownership would be unfair to the dog. As for the dogs, they have all been rescued or re-homed (does anyone know what that means?), are fully trained, and receive life-long care. Look at their site for answers to some frequently asked questions.

If you love dogs but just can't commit to being a full-time owner, you may wish to consider this as one option. Another option: contact your local animal shelter and volunteer your time working with the animals. What do you think of this time share concept?

Meerkat Manor Trivia Quiz

If you are a fan of Animal Planet's Meerkat Manor you might enjoy taking this online Meerkat Manor trivia quiz, consisting of 10 multiple-choice questions. Once you submit all your answers, you see an answer sheet listing each question with the correct response, brief explanation and percentage of players who answered it correctly. The average player gets 7 correct -- and 70% is probably better than they do watching "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?"

A small note: the quiz has not been updated to reflect Flower's recent death. Oh, here come the tears again . . .

A Solution to the Pilling Problem

Pet Pill Pockets

Two years ago my cat developed a minor health problem that requires medication and our relationship hasn't been the same since. Every other day as I reach for the pill bottle, she seems to know what is going on and makes a mad dash for under the bed.

It becomes a test of wills -- as she tries to escape, I grab her, flip her over, shove a pill down her throat and try to force her to swallow before she tries to spit it out. It's a traumatic experience for both of us.

That was before I discovered Pill Pockets. These are chewy little treats made with a pocket that allows easy insertion of a pill (or other supplement). I admit I was skeptical because I have tried lots of tricks before and she has resisted me tooth and claw every time. But this time I got it right -- she loves these and looks forward to her "special" treats.

They are a bit pricey, but hey, they are worth every penny -- consider how much I am saving on bandages. Pill Pockets are available for dogs, too. (But don't they eat anything anyway...?) Once they are happily medicated, you can sit down with them and read them their Petscope horoscope.

Cat Fanciers' Assoc Show: Oct 13-14, 2007

Herm The 2007 CFA-Iams Cat Championship at Madison Square Garden, NYC will roll out the carpet for the finest pedigreed cats on October 13 and 14. This show, one of the most prestigious of the season, will spotlight hundreds of show cats representing 41 pedigreed breeds. Among the events will be the popular Feline Agility Competition, a tournament that challenges cats to navigate a series of tunnels, mazes and toys in the fastest time possible. Non-pedigreed cats, like the one shown here, qualify for entry but my question is: how do you get a cat to perform on cue?

General admission is only $15 a day, click here for a discount coupon. It's an extraordinary event for all who love cats, but bring along the friend who is always asking you why you think cats are so fascinating -- you are sure to make a convert.

Meerkat Mourning: The Death of Flower

Flower I have been a devoted fan of Animal Planet's Meerkat Manor since the beginning. They are so cute (except when they are crunching scorpions -- yuck!) and their personalities and daily dramas really come to life thanks to well-written scripts and the great narration of Sean Astin. Like a daytime soap opera or a primetime drama, this show tells the stories of a large, powerful family (the Whiskers), headed by a fearless leader (Flower, the matriarch), eluding enemies (snakes, birds of prey, squirrels), dealing with fierce rivals (the Commandos and the Zappas), all set in an exotic location (Africa's Kalahari desert).

It is easy to forget that these meerkat stories aren't pure fabrications and the "cast members" aren't actors. These programs are depictions of real events and animals and I was sadly reminded of that when Flower received a fatal snake bite while defending her pups in a recent episode. Because so many viewers grew to love Flower there has been an outpouring of affection, online discussions and tributes.

Reading her obituary almost had me in tears, but I smiled when I read the end "The family has asked that all donations be made in Flower's name to the Fellow Earthlings' Wildlife Center."

Pet Fashion for a Cause

Pinkribboncollar FelineFido.com is an online pet boutique offering designs for the "fashionably aware pet." They recently added Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness collars, collar charms, leashes and harnesses. Your pet will be a fashionista and 15% of the net proceeds from each of these items are donated to Susan G. Komen For the Cure.

And you do know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, right?