Category Archives: Pets

This Cat is Eating Fancy – Feasting on Salmon Primavera

Fancy Feast Elegant Medleys Wild Salmon Primavera

[Rating: 5/5]

Pros: pleasing mix of fish, vegetables and greens for the cat – small pieces in a sauce

Cons: a bit more expensive than “bargain” cat foods

My cat insists on greens in his diet, and it seems his digestion does better when I incorporate greens into his meal plan.  One way to make him happy is feeding him Fancy Feast Wild Salmon Primavera from the Elegant Medleys line.  Sounds like he eats better than I do!


Fancy Feast Elegant Medleys Wild Salmon Primavera is packaged in a metal can with a pop-top lid.  The can has a distinctive green tint to it in keeping with their “can greens” advertising.  Each can contains three ounces of food.

Our Experiences

Our morning routine begins with the cat trampolining off my slumbering body.  If that doesn’t grab my attention, he persistently inserts his head beneath my sprawled arm: “Kitty wants pets now!”  And if that doesn’t roll me out of bed and onto my feet, I soon feel whiskers tickling my nose, and slanting an eye open reveals a feline face a quarter-inch from mine.  Since this completely freaks me out every time, I don’t know why he doesn’t start with that maneuver.

Once I’m mobile and have successfully been herded to the kitchen, the cat begins wrapping himself around my ankles.  I tell him that my landing in a heap on the floor won’t feed him faster.  Not that trying to talk commonsense to a determined feline wins me more floor space.  All these antics are his gambit to more quickly gain his wet food with greens.

One of his favorite wet foods is Fancy Feast Wild Salmon Primvaera.  I treat the wet food as a bonus addition to his main staple of dry food.  I divide the small can in half, giving him half the food and saving the other half for the next day.

I spoon the food onto a saucer.  For a small can, a half-can portion provides a generous serving for the cat.  He is an adult male cat who enjoys both his wet and dry foods.

The salmon primavera is packed in a sauce.  For the most part, the pieces are small and rarely need chopping into finer bits.  This meal is definitely not chunky.  The cat food ingredients with the fish, vegetables and greens are mixed well together.  Looking at the food, I can see bits of the greens and carrots.  There is no obvious odor to the food.

I leave the saucer of food on the floor near his dishes.  In the morning, he dives into eating the food but rarely finishes his half-can serving.  However , throughout the day, he returns to eat until the dish is clean.  He has no trouble eating this food since the pieces are small enough for easy consumption.  I keep the leftover can of food covered and on the counter at room temperature.  The cat is just as happy eating the food the second day.


These ingredients are from the manufacturer’s web site:

Fish Broth, Salmon, Wheat Gluten, Liver, Tomatoes, Carrots, Meat By-Products, Spinach, Corn Starch-Modified, Chicken, Artificial And Natural Flavors, Salt, Added Color (Red 3 And Other Color), Calcium Phosphate, Soy Protein Concentrate, Corn Oil, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source Of Vitamin K Activity), Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Potassium Iodide


Even though this Fancy Feast Elegant Medleys Wild Salmon Primavera is more expensive than “bargain” cat foods, I know he will eat it and enjoy his special meal.  Sometimes I buy the food in bulk to save money.

I hope you found this review useful.

Enjoy your day,

Copyright 2015 Dawn L. Stewart

Great pet products in our home.  Click image to view on Amazon.

Fancy Feast Florentine Variety Pack                 JW SoftGrip Cat Comb

Fancy Feast Primavera Variety Pack         SmartyKat Organic Catnip

A Green Treat – Pet Greens Semi-Moist Cat Treats

Pet Greens Semi-Moist Cat Treats – Deep Sea Tuna

[Rating: 5/5]

Pros: nutritional formula, no soy – corn – artificial colors or flavors, re-sealable package

Cons: mild scent may bother some people

My cat is a huge fan of eating greens, whether the greens are cat grass, mixed in with cat food, or part of his treats.  When I saw these Pet Greens Semi-Moist Cat Treats, I had a feeling my cat would love them.


These cat treats come in a re-sealable three-ounce packet.  Pet Greens Deep Sea Tuna flavor contains no corn, no wheat gluten, no soy, no artificial colors or flavors.  The product is advertised as a cat treat with healthy greens.  The treats are circular (a dark brown color) and contain wheat grass.   This product is made in the USA.

Recommended Serving:
8 Treats – cats at 10 pounds
up to 12 Treats – for cats 10-plus pounds

Our Experiences

My adult male cat loves his greens.  His favorite foods and treats have greens incorporated into them.  So when I saw these natural “green” treats on Amazon at a bargain price, I decided to buy some.

Most of the treats I buy the cat are of the hard variety in order to help scrape his teeth clean for dental hygiene.  These particular treats are semi-most.  If I place one of the small discs between my fingers, they are soft enough to squeeze flat with a bit of finger pressure.  The cat has no problem chewing or swallowing them.

In case you are wondering, there is a bit of odor to the Deep Sea Tuna flavored treats.  The scent reminds me of fish and an alfalfa mix.  The smell is not overpowering, and it certainly doesn’t stop me from opening the package to dispense the treats to one prancing feline.  He becomes over-excited at the prospect of goodies that contain greens, and he knows the treats I buy contain them.  He also doesn’t care if the treats are served on a dish or placed on the floor.

The cat loves these Pet Greens Semi-Moist Cat Treats.  He doesn’t hesitate to dive into chowing them down with gusto.  Not a single treat remains on the floor.  Speaking of treat quantity, I only place about a half-dozen (6) treats on the floor at a time.  The package lists a greater quantity as a serving size, but placing the six treats on the floor works well for us.  He receives something special to munch, and no treats are left uneaten.


Tuna, Rice Flour, Chicken, Barley Flour, Vegetable Glycerine, Maple Syrup, Whole Ground Potatoes, Ground Wheat Grass Powder, Brewer’s Dried Yeast, Phosphoric Acid, Dried Cheddar Cheese, Tapioca Starch,  Natural Flavor, Salt, Fish Oil, (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Egg Product, preserved with Sorbic Acid and Mixed Tocopherols.

Crude Protein: Min 10-percent / Crude Fat: Min 4-percent / Crude Fiber: Max 2-percent / Moisture: Max 34-percent.


I like that these Pet Greens Semi-Moist Cat Treats are free from soy, corn and wheat gluten, with no artificial colors or flavors.  It is a comfort knowing they are also made in the United States of America.  The cat loves the flavor of these treats and is delighted to do his part in eating them!

I hope you found this review useful.

Enjoy your day,

Copyright 2015 Dawn L. Stewart

Pet products we like.  Click image to view on Amazon.

Feline Greenies Dental Treats              Smarty Kat Organic Catnip


Friskies Cat Food with Greens                   Multi-Surface Cat Scratcher


Best Cat Grooming Tool – JW GripSoft Cat Comb

JW GripSoft Cat Comb

[Rating: 5/5]

Pros: inexpensive, rubberized handle, effective tines comb hair and trap it until hair is removed

Cons: the cat insists on daily combings

A male cat rules this household.  He keeps me in line with early wake-up calls and general reminders throughout the day that keep his pampered life running smoothly.  One thing he is insistent about are his daily combings using the JW GripSoft Cat Comb.


The JW GripSoft Cat Comb has a rounded rubberized handle with a comfortable non-slid grip.  The metal comb tines are spaced close together with 41 tines on the comb.  Overall, the JW GripSoft comb is 9” long.  The handle is tapered, and at its widest point is 1 3/8”.  This particular comb is for use on medium- and long-haired cats.  The manufacturer advertises that the comb reduces matted fur and hairball formation.

Our Experiences

My cat and I agree.  This is the best cat comb we have purchased and used.

The feline who runs this household has a medium-long coat.  He also sheds and is prone to hairballs.  To help combat those nasty hairballs, I help him manage his furry coat with daily combing.  This JW comb is excellent on several levels.

First, the comb tines are close together.  It is obvious to see the results of each combing, sine the tines capture and hold the cat hair until the hair is pulled off the comb.  I just grab the combed hair near the base of the comb and pull the entire hair-wad off.  Fast and easy.

The cat loves this comb too.  He meows at me in the morning if I get busy and don’t start the ritual combing on time.  He leads me into the living room where I keep the comb and happily waits for the comb tines to scoop through his fur.  The tines capture undercoat hair, too, and I think he enjoys the gentle massaging feel of the comb.  During the summer, I’m sure he appreciates removing all loose fur to keep cooler.

The comb also has a soft-grip rubberized handle, which fits well in my hand.  My hand firmly stays on the handle, no slipping.  The handle is wide enough to prevent discomfort, too.  Using this comb is a pleasure.

I’ve noticed that this comb does a more thorough job than other pet combs I’ve used.  Daily combing pulls out one or two full combs of hair.  The cat revels in the pampering, and I can tell he feels better with the loose hair removed.  I notice the cat isn’t choking or coughing up hairballs as often, which is a good thing!


I would buy the JW GripSoft Cat Comb again.  It is an affordable, excellent comb.  The comb is comfortable to hold, and the cat loves the feel of the tines against his skin.  He actually changes position to make sure I’m giving proper attention to all his fur.  And if I’m late grabbing the comb for his daily beautification, he comes to get me.  Daily combing also helps reduce hairball incidents and shedding.

I hope you found this review useful.

Enjoy your day,

Copyright 2015 Dawn L. Stewart

Other great pet products in our home.  Click to view on Amazon.

Dream Multi-Surface Cat Scratcher                    Organic Catnip

Tunnel Tower Lookout                                     Greenies Dental Cat Treats


Nutrients and Minerals – Keeping Betta Fish Healthy and Happy

Kent Marine Betta Bowl Essential

[Rating: 5/5]

Pros: conditions water and adds nutrients, liquid easy to use, bottle dispenses well

Cons: some cautions from the manufacturer (noted in review)

I rescued two betta fish and am pleased to say they are much happier in their new environment.  One of the items in my betta-care toolkit is Kent Marine Betta Bowl Essential.


Kent Marine Betta Bowl Essential serves two purposes.  It is designed to condition tap water in small bowls or aquariums for fish and plants.  The liquid neutralizes chlorine, chloramines, and ammonia, which can be harmful.  It also adds nutrients and minerals to the water.  The manufacturer says this product can be used for betta fish or other aquatic species.  The plastic bottle contains two fluid ounces.

My Experiences

For a while I had flirted with the idea of starting a small aquarium.  Years ago I raised an assortment of tropical fish in 5- and 10-gallon tanks.  My parents used to breed fish for sale in fish stores, and my brother has had all manner of tanks, including a large reef aquarium.

Two things tossed me toward betta fish.  1) My sister-in-law had a small aquarium with a betta, and the fish was gorgeous.  2) A coworker stopped by my desk to chat and casually mentioned that he was tempted to flush his two betta fish down the toilet because he no longer wanted them.  I immediately offered to adopt the fish and am an extremely happy betta owner.

One thing about betta fish is that they are fighting fish.  Ideally, betta fish need separation, each in its own tank or they will rip each other apart.  They are territorial, and as a rule, they do not co-mingle well with other fish.  So I needed two tanks, one for each betta.

When I received the fish, they were in a small half-gallon plastic tank with a divider down the middle to separate the male fish.  There was virtually no swimming room since each side also had tank ornaments taking up space.  The fish also came with a small packet of food and this Kent Marine Betta Bowl Essential for purifying the water and adding nutrients.

I bought two Fluval two-gallon aquariums and placed them side-by-side.  That way the fish had their own space but could socialize when I lifted the plastic canvas barrier I placed between the tanks.  (If male betta fish continually square-off against each other without a break, it can cause them stress.)

One great thing about Kent Marine Betta Bowl Essential is that it is promoted as instantly conditioning the water.  I use tap water, but I pour it into Brita water-purifying pitchers.  I let the water sit at least a day before adding it to the tank.  Every time I do a weekly water change, I add a few drops of Kent Marine Betta Bowl Essential.  The manufacturer suggests shaking the bottle before adding the liquid to the tank.  One teaspoon of the liquid added to a quarter-gallon (one quart) of water is recommended.  Since I’m using water purified in a Brita pitcher, I only add a few drops of the liquid, and it works great.  The fish are healthy and happy.

The Kent Marine Betta Bowl Essential bottle has a caution on it: “Product contains hydrosulfites and has characteristic sulfur odor that does not affect its use.  May stain or discolor carpets or materials.  Not for human consumption.  Do not taste, swallow or breathe.  Avoid contact with skin.” – I have never noticed an odor to this product.  My tanks sit atop a quilted table runner I made, plus the room is carpeted.  Some water has escaped me when making water changes, and the textiles have not stained.  The bottle is also designed so that my hands or skin do not come in contact with the liquid.


The betta fish have been with me for over eight months and are thriving.  The Kent Marine Betta Bowl Essential must be doing its job since the fish are active and happily creating bubble nests (a sign of content betta fish).

I hope you found this review useful.

Enjoy your day,

Copyright 2015 Dawn L. Stewart

My review of the Fluval SPEC Desktop Glass 2-Gallon Aquarium:

Click image to view product on Amazon:

Fluval SPEC Aquarium               Betta Fish Care Book


Brita Water Pitcher                       Betta Bio-Gold Food


Beautiful Betta Fish – Betta Bio-Gold Keeps Them Happy and Healthy

Hikari Betta Bio-Gold Fish Food


Pros: nutritionally balanced, large quantity, pellets float, easy dispenser, foil packet repels water droplets

Cons: is it just me? – sometimes challenging to count the right amount of pellets

When a coworker commented that he was tempted to flush his two betta fish down the toilet … well, you can imagine my reaction.  The two male bettas desperately needed a good home, which is how I came to adopt them.  One way I am keeping the fish happy is by feeding them Hikari Betta Bio-Gold fish food.


The 0.7 ounce foil package has a plastic dispenser opening near the bottom of the bag so that the food is easy to dispense.  This food comes in other package sizes as well.

Hikari Betta Bio-Gold is pelleted and designed to float on the water surface.  The small round pellets are balanced for optimum betta nutrition.  Hikari says this food includes premium-select fish meal, which provides a superior protein source.  The package also says this is a “color enhancing diet”.

The manufacturer recommends feeding 5 to 10 pellets a day (up to 3 times a day).

My Experiences

These two betta fish are living the good life.  I upgraded their living conditions from a small half-gallon tank, which had a divider to keep the males separated.  Now each fish has their own two-gallon aquarium.  I set the tanks side-by-side so the fish could visit.  Most of the day a piece of plastic canvas sits between the two glass tanks so the fish can’t become agitated by constantly seeing each other.  Male bettas are territorial and will fight; hence the name “fighting fish”.

I started feeding the fish the food their former keeper gave me.  While they seemed to enjoy it, I thought their color could be better.  It made me think about the nutritional value in the food I was giving them.

After some research, I decided to feed them Betta Bio-Gold fish food.  I liked that the package proclaimed the food as containing optimum nutrition and that it would enhance the betta’s color.  Something is obviously working since the fish have more energy, brighter color, and are creating bubble nests in their environment (a sign they are comfortable and happy).

I experimented with how many pellets to feed the fish.  Feeding each fish four pellets in the morning, and four more pellets in the early evening is working well.  Their body weight is good with no bloating associated with over-eating.

The tanks have air circulation pumps, so I turn the pumps off prior to feeding.  If I don’t turn off the pump, the fish food is swept along in a current toward the filter.  I want to make sure the fish are able to eat the food before the filter grabs it.  The fish are very quick to eat the pellets, so the pump doesn’t stay off long.  I also like that the food floats.  The betta fish enjoy snapping up the floating food.  Plus, I can easily see the pellets to know they have been consumed.

I do not sprinkle the food into the tank directly from the packet.  It is too difficult to control how many pellets will enter the tank.  Instead, I have small glass dish, and I pour the pellets into the dish.  Then I collect four pellets for each fish (pinching the pellets up with my fingers), and then drop the pellets into their tanks.  I leave the remaining pellets in the glass dish, which has a lid.
Please read my review of the Fluval SPEC Desktop Aquarium – my fish love it!


My betta fish have enjoyed eating Betta Bio-Gold fish food for about eight months now.  I see a noticeable improved difference in their color and energy levels.  The fish are happy!

Enjoy the day,

Copyright 2015 Dawn L. Stewart

Betta-Bio Gold –                          Fluval                                         Betta Fish
Smaller Packet                              Desktop Aquarium           Care Guide
                       Click image to view product at Amazon

Cats love Temptations treats

I am not allowed to come home from the store without Temptations treats for the cats.



Cats love them

My cats can’t get enough of them

Some nutritional value

One variety helps to reduce hair balls


Cats love them

They pester me mercilessly for treats


Blacky and Inky have been pestering me for treats for over 15 years now. Tuffy the 2nd and Cassie are new to the game, since they are the young ones.

Whenever I leave the house, however briefly, they insist that I make up for their inconvenience by pawing out treats. Whenever my friend Catherine comes by, the kitty-cat dance begins again. You see, Catherine often picks up groceries for me, so the cats naturally assume that she is bringing treats for them.

Temptations are their favorite, although they will eat some other brands of cat treats. Whiskas claims that these treats have good nutritional  value, but they cannot be the entire diet for the cats. Blacky and Inky disagree, and they would eat a whole bag of treats every day, if I let them. I paw out three or four treats at a time.

Cats love them, and I like to make my cats happy.

Deluxe Accommodations for My Betta Fish – Fluval SPEC Aquarium

Fluval SPEC Glass Desktop Aquarium – 2 Gallon


Pros: glass aquarium, 3-stage filtration, air circulation pump with settings, LED light, cover with hole to feed fish, great for betta fish

Cons: does not come with water conditioner, fish food, or tank decorations

I had been thinking of starting a fish tank when a coworker commented he almost flushed his betta fish down the toilet.  After I unclenched my jaw, I offered to adopt the fish.  He presented the two fish to me in a half-gallon plastic bowl with a divider down the middle so that the fish could not fight.  (Male betta fish will rip each other apart if in the same tank.  They are territorial.)  I bought two Fluval SPEC Glass Desktop Aquariums, which hold two gallons of water.  Each fish resides in his own upscale, roomy tank.


The Fluval SPEC Glass Desktop Aquarium comes in a box with: the two-gallon glass aquarium with plastic cover (which has a feeding hole in it), an LED light unit with Allen wrench, circulation pump with output nozzle and three flow settings, foam filter block, activated carbon insert, BIOMAX insert, a low-voltage transformer.  It also includes a folded sheet of installation instructions.

The tank does not come with water conditioner, fish food, gravel, or aquarium decorations.  Only the tank and its accessories are in the box.

The two sides and front of the tank are clear glass.  The back wall of the tank is frosted glass to help hide the filter media and air circulation pump.  The pump circulates forty gallons of water an hour.  Overall tank size is 7.25 inches long x 9.25 inches wide x 10 inches high.

My Experiences

The fish have been settled and very happy in their Fluval SPEC tanks for about eight months.

For the most part setup was quick and easy.  The instructions are basic, and they include illustrations.  Essentially, rinse the aquarium and filter media (no soap; just fresh water).  Place the filter, media and pump into the tank.  The Allen wrench is used to tighten the LED light in place on the back edge of the tank.  Plug in the pump adapter and light cord.  Fill the aquarium with water.  (I used water from my Brita pitchers and added the tap water conditioner as recommended.)

Things to consider:

1.  Select the power flow setting on the circulation pump before installing it in the tank.  The pump is a tight fit in its designated compartment.  I selected the lowest setting and both betta fish enjoy the air circulation throughout the tank.  I worried about the water current tiring the fish, though, so I have the pump and light on a timer so that it is not on all day.

2.  I could not figure out how to install the air circulation pump into its compartment.  To help me better visualize the installation, I went to YouTube and found a video demonstration.  After the fact, I saw that one of the darker illustrations in the instructions shows that the black nozzle needs to be removed before the unit is inserted into the compartment.  Once I removed the nozzle, the circulation pump was easy to install.

3.  After the water has been added, it is time to decorate the tank.  The two-gallon tank is vertical rather than horizontal, so floor space is limited.  I added gravel to the tank bottom (rinsing it first).  Then I added a silk plant to each tank.  Betta fins are delicate and can rip, so I did not want possible sharp areas on plastic plants to harm the fish.  The silk plants work great and the fish enjoy swimming in and around the plant fronds.  I also bought a small decoration, but I had to look awhile before finding one that was the correct scale for the tank (most decorations are on the large size).

4.  Once the aquarium was set up, I let the water sit for a day before adding the fish.  I also added some of the water from the old fish tank to help acclimatize them to their new environment.

I placed both tanks side by side.  However, I didn’t want the fish stressing out seeing each other all the time.  They are fighting fish and posture at one another in aggressive shows of dominance.  I cut a piece of plastic canvas and inserted it between the two tanks, removing it a few times during the day so that the fish see each other.  Could be my imagination, but I think the two fish look forward to sparring with each other through the glass.  (In case you are wondering, plastic canvas is a stiff open-grid constructed from plastic.  It is available at most craft stores since it is usually used for needlework.  Another nice feature is that the plastic canvas repels any water that touches it.)

There is a circular opening in the top of the lid.  The LED light is positioned over the hole to illuminate the tank.  I had heard that betta fish can jump.  To prevent an incident, I cut some fine tulle and placed it across the top of each cover.  (I bought black tulle at a local craft/fabric store.  The black blends right into the cover so you would never know it is there.)

Before I had tanks with the air circulation pump, I had to do water changes several times a week to keep the fish healthy.  I find that with the pump, I can do a water change and tank cleaning once a week.  It is recommended to replace at least 20-percent of the water once a week.  I usually replace 30- to 40-percent of the water.  I also use a sturdy fish net to remove the gravel to clean it either once a week or every other week depending upon how it looks.

If you find the tank is growing algae, I found a solution.  The tanks started to produce algae, but I pretty much stopped the process by reducing the amount of light in the tanks.  I turned off one of the LED lights.  I swiveled the working LED light so that it shines between the two tanks.  I also reduced the amount of time the LED light is on.  This solution works great.  Hardly any algae are growing.


The Fluval SPEC Glass Desktop Aquariums were great buys.  I would purchase them again.  The tanks don’t leak.  The glass and tanks are easy to clean.  The LED lights are great as is the air circulation pump.  I also like the ease of being able to feed the fish through the opening in the cover.  My two betta fish are extremely happy as is proven by the bubble nests they build.

Enjoy the day,

Copyright 2015 Dawn L. Stewart

                      Click to view at Amazon

Communication and Practice Might Make You Your Own Dog Whisperer

Listening to Dogs: How to be Your Own Training Guru by Jon Katzlistening-to-dogs



Pros: Personalized training philosophy offered, Familiar goofs and dog moments we all share

Cons: Not a dog training book, Possibly not suitable for first-time dog owners, Last few chapters wander, Not much that’s new

Years ago trainers recommended establishing pack order when working with our dogs. A few went so far as to have the alpha family member mark boundaries with his/her urine. Later a friendlier form of training, positive behavior reinforcement seemed effective yet gentler. So many variations exist today that first-time dog owners become confused and clueless. Author Jon Katz offers a different perspective in his book, Listening to Dogs: How to be Your Own Training Guru. This isn’t exactly a dog training book, it’s not something I would recommend for a first-time dog owner, but he does provide something for reflection.


My relationship with Katz’s books has been a love/hate bond. I read everything he writes including a few books I treasure and a couple I’d prefer to fling across the room in protest. In Listening to Dogs Katz doesn’t pretend to be a trainer or a guru, he claims he avoids questions on how he trains his dogs, he suggests that what works for his dogs on his farm probably won’t work for you and your dog in your house/yard/apartment. He suggests that trainers such as Cesar Millan know how to work with their dogs in given situations but when dog owners attempt his methods they frequently fail — and then assume they’re incapable of training their dogs. Most of the books seem to have “little to do with the lives of most dog lovers and owners” – another reason they search for mystical dog-training gurus.

kopi like toby

Katz states that “dog training has been one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life. It is not, for me, an exercise in authority, a matter of technique, a rigid theory that smothers thinking, individuality, and the very personal nature of our relationships with these animals.” It is my interpretation based upon reading this book and all of his previous books that he has grown like the rest of us in learning how to work with our dogs. His observations over the years are based on close relationships with his furry companions which has taught him to respect them and that they will in turn respect him.  Practice and observations have also provided him with confidence in working with his dogs.


Katz offers a few suggestions on how he approaches some basic training. He teaches his dogs how to live in their world (his and the dogs’s world). Katz is a delightful storyteller but he almost completely lost me (he was at risk from being flung across the room) when recounting a moment with a mousetrap and some cheese to discourage a golden retriever from inappropriate behavior. Later I completely agreed with him when he said to never give a dog anything for free — to always make them work for the reward, whether it’s food, play or something they enjoy. He keeps crates for his dogs when he’s gone to prevent them from getting into mischief. He claims he doesn’t have the time or energy to use some of the popular strategies so instead he applies his own versions.

cooper the style dude

These customized strategies, however, come from his many years of experiences with his dogs. I firmly believe that my own relationship with a very special dog is because I have tremendous respect for her as she does for me. I’ve never had to raise my voice at her (she’s a Labrador), I allow her to examine items when we walk so she understands her community, she receives praise and rewards for doing what is asked, and I spend a lot of time studying her body language as she does mine. Years of following the advice of pack theorists never produced such a sweet dog. Instead, I agree with his motto for training, “Dignity with dogs.”

Miss CleoPatti per Erica

Katz uses Listening to Dogs as a vehicle for a refreshing  and exploratory look at the booming dog training business and dog training book industry. He states early that like “most American dog lovers, my bookshelves were lined with hundreds of dollars of books on training dogs.”  (My own is stuffed with dog training books as well as great stories including all of Katz’s.) But when push came to shove, none of the books on his shelves offered practical suggestions for his Labrador Lenore. He needed his own strategies and for most of the last few years of working with dogs, he has been his own guru.

Practice and Practice, Communicate and Observe

Listening to Dogs begins tight. The brief stories are typically heartwarming offering insight into the relationships he shares with his dogs. This is not a dog training book, but rather a book of his personal philosophy that offers different perspectives. The brief book (64 pages) begins to wander toward the end and occasionally he pontificates on topics such as the rainbow bridge or emotionalizing animals and attachment theories. Several valuable take-aways make this worth reading. It’s a fast read, the pictures of his various dogs are delightful for fans, and he makes training sound positive and personally rewarding. It is and it’s an experience everyone should have but if you’re new, read this with the knowledge that you still want to learn how to train your dog to the basics and that skill will come from another source AND it will mature with practice.


A Dog, A Nursing Home, Compassion and Wit

A Dog Walks Into A Nursing Home by Sue Halpern



Pros: Pransky, Nursing home residents, Halpern’s writing, Humor

Cons: Wish all nursing homes were as progressive as the one in this book

Sue Halpern needed to reinvent herself. It was time. Pransky, her intelligent and active labradoodle was bored and also needed a job and reinvention. Pransky was a service dog failure, not because she couldn’t learn but because she couldn’t quit shedding, but Halpern thought she might be halfway to being a therapy dog. They reinvented themselves as a nursing home therapy dog pair.  She was good; Pransky turns out to be phenomenal with the empathy and knowledge that let her know what people needed from her.


This lab is also bored and ready to help -- she's looking to be reinvented.
This lab is also bored and ready to help — she’s looking to be reinvented.

A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home follows Jane Pauley’s book,Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life, where one small section briefly described Sue Halpern’s story. I was, nonetheless intrigued and really wanted to know more. My dog is smart and bored and she also sheds. I’m looking for a way to reinvent myself in a meaningful way that contributes to society. I was, however, quite impressed by Pransky’s responses to the various residents she met.  I was also quite impressed by the insight provided by Halpern, not as much with her story about her dog but with her profound insight into nursing homes and the residents.


Pransky jumping up into the bed of a dying resident and just lying there offering all the comfort she could with her stillness and her presence said so much about the value of an extraordinary therapy dog. Jon Katz’s dog, Izzy, in his book not only introduced me to the value of therapy dogs in nursing homes but sold me completely on the benefits. Again, the dog knowing when to move close in created an unforgettable moment.


We should all be so fortunate.

If looking for a story about an amazing dog you’ll find it in A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home but this offers much more – her story is also about the people she meets, their struggles and their responses to Pransky. She introduces us to them with humanity and an unusually high level of warmth. It’s also a witty and compassionate look into a nursing home’s daily activities with staff and residents. This is a remarkable home and does not present itself as dark and dreary but instead a place where the staff is very involved with the residents and helping them enjoy their lives.


Halpern shares philosophical thoughts and skillfully organizes this around seven familiar virtues common to most religious beliefs: love, hope, faith, prudence, justice, fortitude and restraint. She seasons the virtues and stories with ethics and thoughts from a variety of philosophers including Plato, Aristotle, and Saint Augustine as well as a few more recent thinkers.


Beginning with the concept, proceeding through some training (and cheating), and continuing through several years of regular Tuesday visits (if it’s Tuesday it must be Pransky’s day), we learn how valuable the nursing home residents are for Sue and Pransky – we also learn how very valuable they are to the residents. Halpern proves a talented author, with an enjoyable sense of humor, while Pransky demonstrates amazing compassion. Their book and collection of stories provides a lot of endearing thoughts on aging, companionship, and the value of our lives. I finished this admiring the two but also considering what awaits my generation as we reach the age of the nursing home’s residents.

Who Needs to be Rescued the Most?

An Unexpected Grace by Kristin von Kreisler



Pros: Grace

Cons: Not well thought out, primary character unlikable, large dog lovers will cringe at some situations

Spoiler Alert: This review has spoilers but I’m not recommending  it as something to be read.

Kristin von Kreisler’s An Unexpected Grace comes with a fully predictable ending wrapped up in a frustrating storyline that had this dog lover agonizing over the continued stupidity. I’ll quickly say that the dog deserved better, that the primary character Lila was completely unlikeable and those around her were unbelievably insensitive when thinking she would be good for the dog.  Lila is clearly a head case.


Being a head case is understandable. She was shot at work.

The book is about Lila Elliot, a “starving artist” who works an ordinary office job, who is living in a run-down apartment and licking her heartbreak wounds after a breakup with her long-term boyfriend.  The story opens at work when a recently fired janitor enters and shoots and kills several colleagues and injures others including Lila. Following her surgery Lila’s best friend Cristina cares for her at her home and offers refuge for recuperation. Coincidentally Cristina is also fostering a severely abused Golden Retriever named Grace.

Grace was stolen by a hunky, well-intended young man who had observed the dog’s abuse. Grace had been tied up out in the neighbor’s backyard, during all types of weather, with very little food. Her collar had not been changed over the years and had cut deeply into the dog’s neck. Adam rescued the dog by taking her and hiding her at Cristrina’s house.


Soon after Lila started living at her friend’s house Cristina leaves with her husband and children for a six-month long business trip. Naturally she asks Lila to remain, rent free, and oh, by-the-way, take care of Grace. Lila is terrified of dogs because of a dog bite as a child; there is no way she will ever even touch a dog let alone like one yet it seems that Lila and Adam have been scheming to get Lila to adopt the dog so that they would be each other’s therapist. This, in my opinion, seems insensitive and foolish and I wondered why they didn’t consider an official rescue group who would try hard to locate a suitable foster home. (That however wouldn’t have worked in this story.)


Lila is emotionally disturbed. She hears internal voices from different personalities. Her Crazy Aunt voice seems to be manipulating her thoughts most days although it might have been her Pleaser voice that got her into so much trouble. She’s obsessed with finding out more about the man who shot her. He, as so often happens, died during the shooting so there won’t be any closure in court. She suffers from undiagnosed PTSD.  I can understand her trauma and her unrealistic thoughts and her need for time to recover. I can understand her having a therapy dog. Being shot while in the safety of your workplace has to be horribly unsettling. Yet, I never enjoyed this character.


An Unexpected Grace is about the recovery of both Grace and Lila. Both were emotionally and physically damaged and both needed help. Unfortunately much of this storyline simply doesn’t make sense.


  • Why place a sweet but desperately lonely Golden Retriever under the care of a woman who not only makes it completely clear she doesn’t like dogs but also has physical and emotional trauma that makes it nearly impossible for her to care for the dog?
  • Cristina and Adam both professed to be caring dog people, but why expose this needy dog solely to Lila?
  • Adam essentially disappeared for a long period of time after placing Grace under Lila’s care. Yet, he becomes angry with her when she attempts to leave Grace at an animal shelter. But wait, he doesn’t take Grace from Lila at that time. What?
  • Lila had been “caring” for Grace for several weeks when she took her to the animal shelter.  Staff fancy-pupsthere removed Grace’s bandana. Lila was extremely shocked to see the scars and exposed raw skin under the bandana and said she had never removed the bandana and had no idea. Isn’t one of the first rules of writing to write about what you know? My dogs both wear bandanas and I need to re-tie them at least twice a day.
  • Lila was completely unaware of how to take care of or groom a dog and had not brushed or bathed this golden until after the animal shelter trip. There’s more.


Perhaps I’m crazy but none of this makes sense. Between irresponsible dog lovers and friends, unrealistic events and unpredictable 180 degree personality changes, as well as an unlikeable main character this book left me cold and occasionally angry. Ms. von Kreisler has dogs, helps with rescuing, yet I wonder if she would ever leave a dog like Grace with someone like Lila? When I explained all of my concerns to my blond lab she just stared and said stupid happens and thanks for not being one of those people.


The best authors make it nearly impossible to predict the ending. Crazy-dog-ladyOften I can guess the conclusion several chapters out from the end. That’s fine. I had the conclusion for An Unexpected Grace within the first couple chapters once meeting Adam. Several times I almost walked away but kept reading on the basis of several reviews. One, who claimed that this was an OK story, but assumed that a dog lover would probably enjoy more — that was an incorrect assumption.  Anyone who knows me or follows my reviews quickly realizes that dogs are important family members. There is a “crazy dog lady” bumper sticker on my car. I finished this simply to see how the author wrapped up the story. Lila remained creepy, even after she has her epiphany. Her Crazy Aunt trait disappears and her Horny Guttersnipe personality takes over toward the end.


How does this end? Predictably. The 180-degree turns don’t make sense. I rolled my eyes a lot when she suddenly becomes the person she hasn’t been. I’m left wondering how stable she’ll be in the future but that’s fortunately not my problem.  This book was read in its entirety but does not earn any recommendations from this dog and book lover.


 Golden Retriever Rescue groups exist and most would bend over backwards to find a suitable foster home for this dog or any other dog in this situation. A national site, , can help point people to local sites.