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Felicitous Felines

MadixA while ago, I posted an entry discussing starch digestion in dogs. Essentially, the domesticated dog is domesticated in part because it can digest molecules that wolves can’t.  They likely developed this trait over time to be closer to us. Now there is evidence that our feline friends have done the same ‘evolution’. 


Geneticists have determined that wild cats brains do not fire up in response to treats offered, as do house kitties.  What is interesting to me, is that a reinforced behavior led to a long-term genetic change.  In this case, domestic felines run neuro pathways different from wild felines in response to their humans signals.  They have evolved to interact with us closer. This is somewhat different from what we have accepted about cat behavior previously. 

We joke about their indifference to our presence, but perhaps this observation is unfair to felines. There is evidence they do have the capacity to bond to us like dogs.

It makes me think of the bigger picture. What else could we change in OUR brains and genes over time if we were only willing?

Happy Holidays!


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Hello Parenting

GrendelleavesYou love your pet like it’s your child.  Admit it. 

No really, you can admit it, there’s proof. See the article below;


Alloparenting —  caring for another species like it’s your own.  I like the word ‘parent’ much better than the politically correct ‘guardian’ when referring to the role in our animal’s life.  Parenting implies love and protection. Emphasis on love.  We are a lucky species to have oxytocin and Rover in our lives.

More later………………………………………………………………

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RIP Rufus


Warning: This story will make you cry.



I am often asked how am I able to put animals to sleep.  The answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know how I do it, I just do it. I would guess that a lot of other veterinarians feel the same. 

Somehow we are able to compartmentalize our feelings. And our feelings run the gamut. Grief, with the pet owner whose pet we have cared for since they first brought it to us. Anger, at ourselves for not being able to fix everything or at circumstance that has to bring death. Sadness, when those soft eyes look at you and understand. Often contentment, when you know a pet has had a full, happy life with people who loved it every single day. 

I was glad Dr. Palma wrote this article, there haven’t been many that discuss what it feels like when the vet has to say goodbye to one of their own.  We feel the same way you do when given the ultimate bad news. In some ways we are luckier than you. We get to work in an environment surrounded by people who understand how hard it is, how much our furry companions mean to us. Most of us have family and friends who support us.  In some ways we are unluckier than you. We blame ourselves when we can’t fix it, which is what we trained to do. We blame ourselves, if we just had been a little bit better of a doctor, we might have saved them.

And the end of the article, Dr. Palma recognizes that he is a more compassionate veterinarian for the life and death he shared with Rufus. He’s right. Even though vets may euthanize loved pets every day, it’s different when it’s the pet YOU love.

More later………………………………………



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A Nucleus Of Happiness

ApolloYour dog DOES love you. Or at least he/she thinks very positively about you. That’s the interesting finding in this article in National Geographic.


In this study dogs were trained to sit quietly in an MRI tube while their brains were analyzed. (Incredibly well-trained dogs, right?)  The researchers found that when the dogs were given a scent associated with their owners, a specific part of their brain associated with positive emotions ‘lit up’. This did not happen when the dogs were allowed to sniff other objects without an owner’s scent.

It’s common knowledge dogs can smell better than we can, they use their nose to explore their world. But here is another important part of the direct nose-brain connection. Your dogs sniffs you and feels pleasure! You scratch her head/rub her ears and you feel pleasure! What could be more satisfying than the human animal bond?

More later……………………………..


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Oh The Humanity!

!cid_D17F3D75-6E91-4A71-9B00-244874F4EDBBI’ve posted before about the dichotomies in life regarding animals. 

This article should bring a smile to your face.  It reinforces what most of us intuitively understand. Pets make us better humans.


This article made me shudder.


Of course I understand the need for humane euthanasia for unwanted or neglected animals. But it’s hard to stomach after reading how much pets bring to our lives. 

We have a mutually beneficial relationship, pets and humans. We should strive to be mindful of responsibilities to them.

More later………………………………………………………






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Where There’s a Will……….



The link is to a Wall Street Journal article explaining the increasing popularity of pet trusts. The idea is to have money set aside for an animal’s daily needs and medical care if it’s owner dies.

The cost of everything pet related including simple things like pet food has skyrocketed since 2008. It makes sense to be proactive when so many people consider their pets not mere possessions but family members.

I’m not normally a trendsetter but I DID set up a trust for my dogs in 2005, soon after I moved to Baraboo. My dogs were my kids, period. I used to tease my family that if they didn’t take care of them if something happened to me, I’d haunt them. 

But then I realized I had to be the facilitator of that care.

My lawyer had not done a pet trust before, so he and I researched pet trusts. We communicated with other lawyers and judges and veterinarians who had written and ruled on these trusts and came up with a document outlining what I wanted.  After the trust was set up and finalized I remember feeling very satisfied that my boys would be able to continue their life comfortably and wouldn’t be a financial burden to my family. 

I’ve had clients over the years that I’ve discussed this with and they have set up trusts for their pets as well. I expect that my next dog will have his own trust too. 

Of course this is what we call a first world problem. Many countries citizens don’t have the luxury of safety, good nutrition or health care themselves.  I’m grateful to live in a country and at a time where we can make these decisions for our family be they two-legged or four-legged.

More later……………………………………………

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Mindful Meowser

Mindfulness;  paying attention, in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentallyAO9C0557

It’s well-known in veterinary circles that Christmas and New Year’s bring a spate of euthanasias. Why our most cherished patients or helpless creatures appear in our hospital in increased numbers at the holidays is unknown. Most vets will tell you that giving an animal a peaceful death when it is suffering is the ultimate kindness, but even the most positive among us have a harder time at the holidays. We’re all supposed to be joyous this time of year.

My friends and clients that work in the medical field tell me they see the sick, the lonely, the mentally ill, the isolated among us end up in the ER more this time of year too. 

As much as we love animals, we love our clients too.  We are lucky at Hill-Dale to have close relationships with so many, and I count it as a blessing to live and work in a small town where I can know them personally as well as professionally.

In the last month we’ve had many clients that are battling major illness in themselves and their family. They have all been remarkably strong in the face of sadness and pain.

This was reinforced to me yesterday when I spoke with a dear client whose husband is battling cancer. She told me it has forced her to live in the moment and enjoy each day.  Her experience has made her mindful.  She said that mindfulness was something she strived for in the past but it took until now to feel she can embrace the principle.

Once again I’m reminded how much we can learn from our pets and why we love them so.  They are the ultimate mindful beings.  They live for simple pleasures. They eat with gusto, sleep hard, complain when compelled, and guilelessly love.  What’s so hard about that?

Happy Holidays and more later……………………………………..