Thursday, January 29, 2015

Of Wales and Border Collies

                        I want to thank all the Welsh people who called or wrote after my last column.  By Welsh people, I don’t just mean descendants who live around here, I mean people actually from Wales.

                        Mrs. Alice Bushong of Elida sent my column to her cousin, Annie Gwendoline Jones, who lives in Aberhosan, a village in the valley just south of mine, on the other side of Geoff’s mountain.  She in turn showed it to a friend of hers, Mr. Emyr Roberts of Machynlleth.  He wrote me a very nice letter, and said it was heartbreaking that I was so close and didn’t get to meet them.  Someday I hope to make him regret writing that.  Our world is not as big as you think.

                        To Linda from Celina:  Everyone we encountered in Wales spoke English, and most spoke at least some Welsh.  We did hear a Welsh conversation in a restaurant in Machynlleth, but I have no idea what they said---hopefully, it didn’t have anything to do with food poisoning.  At one stop we made, I did have my own private Welsh tutor, although I’m not exactly sure what I learned.

                        Regrettably, we only had two full travel days in Wales.  In the last column, I described what we did on the first day.  Today, I want to tell about the second.

                        Our journey began with a stop at “Ewe-phoria,” a sheep and sheepdog education center, just a few miles from Johanna’s bed and breakfast near Corwen.  It was run by Aled Owen, a famous sheepdog trainer whose dog, “Bob,” was a three-time world champion.  “Bob” is semi-retired now, and we didn’t get to see him.  But, Aled had another dog, “Gwen,” who was younger and was used for the sheepdog demonstrations.

                        For those of you who have never seen a Border Collie herd sheep, their style is not unlike that of a wolf stalking its prey.  Actually, it’s exactly like that, only controlled…hopefully.

                        Most Border Collies have what is called “eye,” a hypnotic stare that they utilize when herding stock.  Some dogs are “strong-eyed,” some are “loose.”  Gwen was a loose-eyed dog.  He did what he was supposed to do, and got the job done, but he didn’t look at the sheep much.  Gwen wasn’t a very “flashy” worker.

                        The downside of a dog that is too strong-eyed is that all they want to do is lay down and stare at the sheep.  It’s hard to get them to move, thus limiting their usefulness to the shepherd.  Most handlers want a dog that is kind of in the middle, a dog like my own future international champion, “Robbie.”

                        From “Ewe-phoria,” we set out for what would be the highlight of my brother-in-law Gary’s Welsh experience, Caernarfon Castle.  Gary was really into castles and any kind of ruin that resembled a castle.

                        On the way to Caernarfon, we spotted a ruin near the little town of Llanberis, which was very close to Mount Snowdon.  We parked our car, and had to walk a short distance to get to the ruin, or as Cindy, Bonnie’s sister, liked to call them, “roo-wens.”  Along the road we were taking, we spotted a couple of farmers who were using two Border Collies to herd a group of sheep into a small pen in the corner of a field.

                        Cindy and Gary wanted to get to their “roo-wen,” but Bonnie and I hung back to watch the dogs.  I really liked how the dogs worked---they had the right amount of “eye.”  We watched from afar for a few minutes before mustering the courage to get a closer look.  The men seemed cautious as we approached, but they warmed up immediately after I introduced myself.  Evidently, being “John Jones from Ohio” opens up quite a few doors in Wales.  I don’t know why.

                        Mr. Owen and Mr. Jones were treating the sheep for “footrot,” a contagious bacterial infection that attacks sheep feet and makes them very lame.  Footrot was a problem everywhere we traveled to in Wales and Ireland.  Apparently, all the rain is good for the grass, but bad for sheep feet.

                        The farmers were trimming the feet very short and applying a topical medication.  I probably violated international veterinary practice acts when I suggested that they also give the sheep an injection of LA-200 as an additional therapy.  LA-200, an antibiotic, will remain in the sheep’s system for three days, providing a longer treatment without the sheep having to be re-caught.  They had never used this drug for footrot before, but said they might try it in the future.

                        I also told them how much I liked how their dogs herded the sheep, and I could tell both were pleased by that.  Mr. Jones proudly exclaimed that he had just sold the father of one of the dogs for 4000 pounds, which is a little under $8000… I thought they were good dogs.

                        Mr. Owen was an older man, and much more talkative.  He was also a very willing tutor and tried to teach me some Welsh words.  He said I had a very good accent; I guess I must have spit on him, such is the nature of the language.

                        I hesitate to try to reproduce any of the words here because every time Mr. Owen would teach me a new one, Mr. Jones would giggle.  I thought he was teaching me things like “How are you,” “please,” and “thank you,” but in case it wasn’t really “thank you,” we’ll just let it go at that.

                        After a few minutes of chatting with Mr. Owen, I could sense Mr. Jones getting a little impatient; they still had quite a few more sheep to treat.  One of his expensive dogs “rolled over” a couple of the sheep while they were waiting.  I guess the dog was getting a little impatient as well.

                        So we thanked them for the visit, and said our “good-byes,” I think, and caught up with Cindy and Gary at the “roo-wen.”  Then, it was off to the very massive and well-preserved Caernarfon Castle.

                        My only regret about our stay in Wales, besides the short time, was that I didn’t “ask the Welsh.”

                        Before I started training my puppy, “Robbie,” I had read a book called “A Way of Life,” by H. Glyn Jones, another famous Welsh dog trainer.  From the book, I couldn’t tell where he lived, but I knew he had gone to sheep dog trials in Ruthin and Llangollen, which were not far from Johanna’s house.  Since we had come so far and I didn’t want to miss him if he happened to be her next door neighbor, I asked Johanna if she knew him.  “Oh my God, no!  Go ask the Welsh!” was her reply.

                        But, I didn’t.  It was just one of those “woulda, coulda, shoulda” things that I wish I had done.  And, Aled surely would have known him---he was in the book.  I guess I didn’t ask Aled because “Ewe-phoria” was his “stage,” and I hated to ask him about another trainer while he was on his own stage.

                        So, if any of you know Glyn Jones, tell him “John Jones from Ohio” was asking about him.  And thank him for the great book.

                        Wales was magnificent; it was everything we had hoped it would be.  Mind you, we spent all of our time in North and mid-Wales.  I hear the southern part is more industrialized, and maybe not as idyllic.  But, where we were it was, it most absolutely was.

                        At the end of my last column, I compared my two valleys, and I thought my “valley” in Ohio was “greener.”  It probably is, but there is something about the other that I just can’t get past---something about it that keeps pulling me back.

                        I also wondered how my great-grandparents could have ever left a place like that.  Heck, I don’t even know how I did. 
Author:  Dr. John Jones, December 2005


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Confessions of a Killer

            I am a killer. My father was a killer. My brother is a killer. My niece is a killer. My wife is a killer.
            If you read that aloud with a gruff, almost grunting, British accent, you might think I was rehashing a scene from HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” featuring a nefarious character fittingly called “The Hound.”  No, I was simply overdramatizing a task we veterinarians are often called upon to perform- euthanasia.

            I must confess, though, I do watch that show. Like most HBO programs, “Game of Thrones” has its fair share of gratuitous sex and violence, but I don’t watch it for that. I watch it for the acting. Seriously.

            My friend, Dr. John Dodam, who teaches at the University of Missouri, when talking with his students about the different pathways taken to become a veterinarian, likes to mention his former classmate who was a theatre major. Let me clarify that point. He wasn’t a theatre major; he only took a couple of classes, okay maybe four, for the Humanities requirements. Besides, he thought they might ameliorate a shyness problem, and help give him a voice.

            As for euthanasia, I know I write about it and death way too much in these columns, which is ironic because I’m actually a pretty happy, optimistic guy. But veterinarians deal with death almost on a daily basis; in fact it’s a rare day when we don’t. To put things in perspective, consider that we care for our patients for about the same length of time a pediatrician does, except when our patients come of age, they don’t graduate from high school, they die. Thus exposed is the one major flaw of our dog and cat friends - they don’t live long enough. In spite of their short lives, many tell a compelling story. After all, death is but the final act in the drama that is a life.
             Saresa joined our family more than fifteen years ago. She was found at the bottom of a window well behind our office on a cold, rainy day in November. The long-haired, gray and white kitten, soggy and hungry, looked pathetic, but was otherwise healthy. With a little care, she grew to be a beautiful cat, regal in appearance and attitude, and soon became Queen of our house.

             Unfortunately for Saresa, like in “Camelot,” her reign was short- lived as she became what we call an inappropriate eliminator, meaning she took to urinating on our bedspread to show her disapproval of another family cat. Though thrown out of the palace, she was given the keys to a new kingdom- the barn. She seemed to enjoy her new life, and claimed the central part of the barn, where the food-bowl was kept, as her new domain.
             With the passage of time, a substantial weight gain, an arthritic shuffle, and an unkempt barn-coat, she came to resemble “Grizabella,” the former glamour star from the musical “Cats.” This summer, however, she began to lose weight even as her appetite was voracious.

               A simple blood test revealed hyperthyroidism, and further exam, a mass on her thyroid gland. Medication to counteract the increased thyroid hormone seemed to help for awhile, but with winter coming on and her condition failing rapidly, she was moved to her new assisted living home above our office.
              Sadly, it wasn’t long before food became not a friend, but something to avoid, and when the lump in her throat made it difficult to breathe, Saresa let us know it was time. I sat beside her on her loveseat, gently gave her an anesthetic injection, then held and petted her as she drifted off. When she was in a deep plane of sleep, the euthanasia solution was administered, and within two beats of her heart she was gone- her death peaceful, painless, and quick.

             A death can be beautiful. My mom taught me that on April 12, 1991. Although profoundly weakened by her chronic disease, she was aware and in control until very near the end. We had a final goodbye, a final “I love you”, even a final wave. I’ll never forget her skinny little arm and hand rising above the blankets. Of course, the memory makes me sad, but it also makes me smile. The wave was so her.
             I want to die like that, with dignity and grace. But if I can’t, truth be told, I wouldn’t mind going like the cat. 

            I am proud to be a veterinarian, and I’m grateful I have the ability, the resources, and society’s blessing to end the pain and suffering of my patients. Every life and every story should have a good ending.
Author:  Dr. John Jones

Friday, January 23, 2015

“How Green Is Your Valley”

                        “How Green Was My Valley,” a 1941 movie starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, and a young Roddy McDowall, told the heartwarming and sometimes tragic story of a Welsh coalmining family in the late 1800’s.  I had always wanted to see this movie, but could never find it on TV or in a video store.  A couple of years ago my wife did locate it, I think in a catalogue, and gave it to me for my birthday.  Although kind of corny and schmaltzy by today’s standards, it nevertheless was about my people, and according to the video jacket, “one of the best films ever made.”

                         Last week, I had the opportunity to see how green my valley really was.  My wife and I, and her sister and brother-in-law, went “on holiday” as they say, to Ireland and Wales, homelands of some of our ancestors. 

                        Three years ago, my Uncle Hugh wrote his autobiography, telling not just the story of his life for his children and grandchildren, but also as much as he knew or could find out about our ancestors.  Although not a New York booklist bestseller, it did make mention of me, so is, therefore, one of my favorite books.

                        Included in this book were several old photos including a grainy snapshot of some buildings and mountains with “Melinbyrhedyn” written across the top front of the picture.  The largest building, a church, was the birthplace of my great-grandmother Jones, Mary E. Thomas.  Her father was the sexton of the church building, and they lived in a tiny dwelling built on the rear.

                        All four of us had goals for this trip.  Gary wanted to see castles, the Egan sisters wanted to do an “Amazing Race” tour of Ireland, and myself, all I wanted to do was find this 130 year old picture.

                        We stayed three nights in Wales, near Corwen, in an old hunting lodge -  manor house run by a somewhat uptight Englishwoman named Johanna, who I think could have used a little more “fibre” in her diet.

                        What she lacked in warmth and hospitality, however, she made up for by having a really good map, a map far better than any of the ones we had, a map that had a little, bitty unnamed road leading to a little, bitty village called Melinbyrhedyn.  And, God bless her, Johanna let us borrow it.

                        We drove for about an hour and a half southwest through some of the most beautiful countryside and mountains you could ever imagine.  And sheep!  There were literally millions of them.  It was heaven if you like sheep, and I think you know I do.  Most were of the Welsh Mountain breed, but as we got closer to Machynlleth, close to my ancestral village, we saw more and more Welsh Hill Speckled sheep, a stylish breed with distinct black markings on their faces.

                        Based on the map, we drove through Machynlleth, and took the first left out of town.  We quickly passed a little golf course that made the Delphos Country Club look like Augusta National.  But I bet they don’t have sheep greenskeepers at Augusta like they do in Machynlleth.

                        About a mile later we came to a fork in the road.  A weathered wooden sign, bearing the name “Melinbyrhedyn,” pointed down a one lane road that can only be described as a “hedge tunnel.”

                        This road led up a hill, and at the top of the hill we crossed over a cattle guard, which I thought was a little strange, as there were no cattle in sight.  As we rumbled over the guard, the hedges gave way and we could see the valley below.  The hills were covered mostly with bracken fern, and there was a little river running on the valley floor.

                        On the far side of the river sat a tiny village, and as we made our way down the hill, comparing the mountain pattern in the old photo to the mountain pattern before us, it was evident that I was “home.”

                        The stone church wasn’t very large, but its lines were still straight and true.  A stone at the peak showed that it was built in 1851; my great-grandmother was “built” in 1857.  We snooped around the church a bit, and knocked on the door of the residence in the rear, but nobody was home.

                        In fact, it didn’t seem like anyone was home anywhere.  We continued our snooping down the lane behind the church, and were very close to the neighbor’s house when I heard a somewhat apprehensive “Hellooo.”  I looked up to see a mop of gray hair and a pair of piercing blue eyes peering over the wooden fence around the patio.

                        “Hello, I’m John Jones from Ohio.  Would you like to see what your house looked like 130 years ago?”  I said as I held up Uncle Hugh’s book for the man to see.  The apprehension withdrew from his face, and was replaced with a big smile and a “Would you come in for tea?”

                        One would think that the highlight of my trip would be finding the church.  The real highlight was meeting Geoff.  Geoff and his wife, Margaret, were just the nicest people.  Geoff was a retired engineer from England, and they had first come to Melinbyrhedyn in 1982 to visit a friend-and never really left.

                        They were, that day we were there, actually unpacking and moving into the house they had used as a “holiday house” for years, to live in Melinbyrhedyn permanently, and to increase the population to eight.

                        Yet, they took the time to chat with us, show us old photos that looked eerily like mine, and gave us some refreshing tea.

                        During our conversation, Geoff mentioned that he had heard us coming down the hill...Aha! I knew it.  That cattle guard wasn’t for cows, it was for us.  The guard was their “community watch” program.

                        As we were saying our goodbyes, Geoff asked if we would do him a favor.  At the fork in the road, he wanted us to take a left and climb up the mountain before going back to Machynlleth.  “Please do it for me,” was the last thing I remember him saying.  As we drove up the hill, it felt good knowing the village was in such good hands.

                        We did exactly as Geoff said.  And, oh my!  The view from the top was the most magnificent and beautiful thing I have ever seen.  Mountains and sheep for as far as you could see.  Thank you, Geoff, for this great gift.

                        Although we only stayed for a few minutes, it seemed like dozens of thoughts raced through my head.  I wondered if my own sheep would like to live on this mountain.  I thought of my dad, and how much I wished he were here to see all this beauty, and of course I thought of my great-grandparents.  How could they have ever left a place such as this?

                        But leave they did. With three little boys, they came to Venedocia sometime before 1882, the year my grandpa was born.  He was the first American-born Jones.

                        How green was my valley?  Pretty darn. But as we came down the mountain, I realized it wasn’t as green as my valley here in Ohio.  I don’t know what forces drove my great-grandparents from Wales, whether it was the abject poverty of the mines, or just the hope of something better in America, but I do know that their decision to leave had a profoundly positive effect on my life.  America has been very good to my family and me, and for that, I am forever grateful.

                        The choices you make can affect generations to come.  Make good ones.

Author:  Dr. John Jones, September 2005

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Veterinary Clients are Truly Inspirational

                                I have been writing these columns for 12 years now, which equates to multiple generations of my own four-legged family members.  Writing is one of my greatest passions, next to caring for pets and their people.  I took the opportunity to learn journalism during my high school years, but much to my father’s dismay, I chose veterinary medicine for my lifelong career instead.
                                One of the biggest challenges for journalists is repeatedly coming up with fresh topics to write about.  Or, as I like to describe it, “being inspired.”  My husband and I have both realized over the years that writing about what you have experienced, observed and know is always easiest and most entertaining. 

                                Where is this leading?  To my clients, of course.  They both inspire and provide me with thought provoking material to write about every day and, admittedly, some inspire me more than others.
                                Over the past 30 years, I have assisted multiple pets across “The Rainbow Bridge.”  Just when I think it can’t get more difficult for pet owners to “let go,” another heart-wrenching experience comes along.  Such was the case of Kelly and Dave Frost when they had to make the difficult, but necessary decision to say “good-bye” to “Jack,” their beloved, kind-hearted Golden Retriever, following  a 16 month battle with cancer.

                                “Jack” was infinitely blessed to be adopted by a family who loved him to the nth degree and always provided him with the best veterinary care possible.  Kelly and Dave also sent Jack to “military school” (a.k.a. obedience training) to help him be the best dog he could be.  He was gifted with a fellow Golden Retriever, “Riley,” to remind him he was a dog, followed by two lovely children to play with and watch over as they grew.  With a family he adored and frequent trips to the lake, Jack’s life truly was “golden.”

                                 I am forever inspired by how Kelly and Dave consistently give careful consideration to what is best for all of their dogs in their hour of need.   So, when Jack was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow), there was no question they would do whatever it would take to prolong a good quality life for him.  They made frequent, sometimes weekly, trips to Ohio State’s veterinary oncology department for evaluation and testing.  Jack’s test results were numbers that became all too familiar to them.
                                Gratefully, the Frosts experienced the joy of Jack’s cancer remission, then the fight to maintain it with multiple changes in his chemotherapy regimen.  But, at all points in time, they were ever mindful of what was best for Jack, as well as the fact that his battle would have to end.  Being certain that the fight was indeed over when the time came was of utmost concern for them.  So when a final trip to Ohio State made it clear that the end was near, Kelly and Dave brought Jack home to be with him in his final hour of need.

                                The common question for pet owners caring for end of life pets is always the same:  “Am I making the right decision to ‘let go?’” when given the choice.  Of course, this was the Frost’s debate as well.  I reassured them when the time came for Jack to leave us, their decision would be and was the greatest act of love of all. 

                                I know Jack’s family continues to struggle with his loss because he was more than a precious family pet.  In talking with them during many visits and phone calls, it was more than apparent that he was their “Heart Dog.” “Heart Dogs” dig in a little deeper and the loss is incredibly more painful.
                                I, too, have had a “Heart Dog.”  The pain associated with the loss seemed like it would never end.  But it did…several months later when my husband placed a new puppy in my lap.  Painful as it may seem, I hope you have a “Heart Dog,” too, because “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.”---A.A. Milne Winnie-the-Pooh                 

Thank you to the families of “Rusty” Becker, “Miss Lena Grace” Robinson, “Layla” Roach, “Kirby” Bowersock and, of course, “Jack” Frost.  You truly inspire me.
Author:  Dr. Bonnie Jones

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Helping the Liver to Deliver a Promise of Good Health

                        Most people know I am a strong advocate for routine pet wellness testing.  This testing serves many purposes including determination of normal baseline values and early detection of disease.  Wellness testing assesses health of internal organs and can lead to the diagnosis of metabolic disorders such as kidney disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, and liver failure.

                        The importance of wellness testing became personal when my own 11 year old Welsh Corgi, “Bunny,” showed a minor elevation of her liver function test.  The beauty of regular wellness testing is veterinarians not only obtain baseline “normals” for their patients, but they also watch for trends in serial tests that indicate early onset or progression of diseases.  Bunny had, of course, had multiple wellness tests prior to the revelation of her elevated liver value so I knew something was amiss.
                        After my initial “Oh no, not my little princess” reaction to this liver test abnormality, my first plan of action was to research the most recent information regarding liver health in pets.  I wanted to make certain I was privy to all of the latest advances as I already knew that the liver is the largest internal organ with numerous jobs.

                        The liver is responsible for approximately 1500 functions---digestion and conversion of nutrients, toxin removal, production of key blood components, and vitamin storage, to name a few.  I like to think of the liver as the body’s “filtration plant.”  All of the “good” and “bad” that enters a pet’s body passes through the liver via the blood stream.  It is then up to this important organ to properly assess, convert, digest, dispose of, and redirect what it encounters and produces to the appropriate area of the body.

                        With so many tasks that are so important, one can see why the diagnosis of an inefficient liver can be troubling to veterinarians. The more frustrating tidbit is that the specific causes of liver diseases can be difficult to identify.  Common causes include viral and bacterial infections, ingestion of toxic substances or drugs, heart disease, altered blood flow due to congenital abnormalities, and cancer. 

                        Breed related problems exist as well. West Highland and Bedlington Terriers may have problems excreting copper from their livers, and Siamese cats and Cocker Spaniels, in general, are more likely to develop liver diseases. If you own one of these breeds, ask your veterinarian to discuss appropriate routine testing for liver health.

                        Cats, especially those that are obese, are unique in that they may develop a life-threatening liver condition called Hepatic Lipidosis simply by not eating for two or more days.  This condition occurs when excessive amounts of fat accumulate in the liver and begin to overwhelm its ability to function properly.  If you own a cat that is considerably overweight and it stops eating for even one day, contact your veterinarian.

                        While many diseases affecting the liver are initially symptom-free, as the condition progresses the pet may develop anorexia, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), increased thirst, orange to coffee-colored urine, abdominal bloating due to fluid build-up, and pale gums.  See your veterinarian immediately if your pet displays any of these symptoms as early intervention is a must.

                        If your pet is diagnosed with a liver ailment, your veterinarian may prescribe a diet with highly digestible proteins, carbohydrates and fats to reduce the workload of the liver and facilitate a more rapid recovery. Gratefully, unlike most other organs in the body, the liver has a large reserve capacity, giving it the ability to regenerate after injury or illness. If the underlying cause is properly identified and eliminated, and proper nutrition is initiated, chances for recovery from liver disease are good.

                        Additional therapies prescribed for patients with liver disease may include antibiotics and vitamin supplements, especially vitamins E and B.  Your veterinarian may also recommend veterinary liver support products (Denosyl, Marin and Denamarin) that contain antioxidants such as SAMe and milk thistle extracts.  These antioxidants can assist the liver in its detoxification role, stimulate bile flow through the liver, and aid liver cell repair and regeneration.

                         As for Bunny…after a course of antibiotics and serial wellness tests, her liver test elevation remains minor and stable.  She receives a Denamarin tablet daily and still enjoys her “part-time employment” as my model patient at school visits and career presentations.

Author:  Dr. Bonnie Jones, April 2009


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dreams Can Come True

                        Today’s column is brought to you through the magic of plagiarism.  Yes, that’s right, I stole it.  Completely.  This is a Paul Harvey “Rest of the Story” story that I heard on the radio last year, and it stuck with me.  If you have heard it before, I apologize. But, it is a nice tale, and worth repeating.  “Now the rest of the story”… to the best of my recollection.

                        “Eli” and his companion were traveling down a country road in Eli’s old, run-down car when they came upon the edge of a woods.  Eli stopped the car, slowly got out, and walked behind the car over to the passenger side.  He quietly opened the door, gently scooped up his little rider, and carried him to the woods where he set the tiny creature down beside a pile of leaves.  “Good-bye, my little friend. I’m sorry, but I can no longer afford to feed you.  I can barely take care of myself.  You’ll be safe here.”  With that, Eli got back in his car and drove away.

                        Eli was a young and poor advertising man who rented a dirty, beat up, second story office above a dilapidated, old grocery store.  One day while eating his lunch, which usually consisted of a cheese sandwich, at his desk, he noticed a tiny pair of eyes peering at him through a crack in the wall.  “What? Do you want to share lunch with me?”  Eli broke off a small bit of cheese and placed it on the floor beside the crack.  In a few moments, a tiny gray mouse appeared, snatched up the cheese and ran back into the wall.

                        This soon became a lunchtime ritual, with Eli gradually placing the cheese farther and farther from the wall, and closer to his desk.  One day the little mouse came all the way over to the desk, crawled right up on top, and took the little piece of cheese from Eli’s hand.  After a few days, he even crawled into the palm of Eli’s hand.  Eeeek! (Sorry that was me!)

                        They became such good friends that Eli even built a little bed in one of his desk drawers for the mouse.

                        But, sadly, their friendship could not last forever.  Eli’s business was not very successful, and as the months passed that became very evident.  The sleeves of his shirts became tattered, his pants threadbare, and Eli himself had taken on a gaunt, pale appearance.  He could no longer even afford the cheese for his small friend.  Afraid that the little mouse might wander down into the grocery store looking for food and meet a grim demise, Eli made the decision that begat the fated journey to the woods.

                        Seasons passed, and life took a turn for the better for Eli.  He had moved up to better jobs, and he had even gotten married.  At this time, he found himself in the animation business, and was working on a new cartoon.

                        Eli never forgot the little mouse that befriended him, and decided to name the title character “Mortimer,” as a memorial to him.  But, his new wife hated that name.  So “Eli,” Walter Elias Disney, being a good and smart husband, changed the name of his little character to “Mickey.”  “And now you know the rest of the story.”  Now that’s a mouse even I can like!

                        Be kind to animals.  They will repay you a million times.  Or, as in the case of Mortimer, maybe even more.  Although, we don’t recommend that you leave your little friends in the woods.
                        My wife and I came to this area nearly twenty years ago.  I wanted to come here, in part, because the little towns around here reminded me of Walt Disney towns---real, all-American towns full of good, hard-working people.  After being here all these years, I now know that life is not always “Disney-esque,” but it’s pretty darn close.  Thank you to all who have made us feel welcome.

                        We have had a lot of clients over the years who have given excellent care to their pets and farm animals.  On behalf of all of our animal friends, I thank you.

                        Thank you also to Dr. Ed Laman and Dr. Ron McNutt for giving us our first jobs and great starts on our careers.  And, thank you to my good friend and neighbor, Tom Hiett, for making me think this was all possible.

                        P.S. Thank you to all who had kind words for my last column about soldiers, especially those of you who have served our country.  I really appreciated it.  Also, thank you to all who told me your favorite, scary rat stories after my Rodentophobia column…I really appreciated the extra nightmares!  And, I even received a “rat cake.”  Thank you, Holly!  “Good-day!”

Author:  Dr. John Jones
Image courtesy of Karen Shaw at

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Obese Pets

                        In an effort to stay abreast of new veterinary information to offer my clients, I read several professional journals in stolen moments of “free time.”  I recently read an article in the Veterinary Forum magazine that made me take pause. 

                         The title of the article was “Obesity in America.”  The premise of the article was that obesity is a rising epidemic among companion animals that is mirroring the same epidemic in humans.  While this may be our harsh reality, one fact stands out clearly in my mind:  we, as humans, are in control of every foodstuff that we put in our mouths, as well as every morsel that is placed in our beloved four-legged companions’ mouths.

                        My question to you then is “Are you your pet’s ‘obesity enabler’?”  That is, since pets can’t (perhaps I should say “shouldn’t be able to”) open their food and treat containers by themselves, are you aware that YOU are the one determining if your pet’s body weight will be healthy or not? 

                        To me, it seems like a no-brainer.  Pets should be fed a pre-determined amount of a quality pet food, with treats fed in moderation for good behavior. I realize that this thinking sounds simplistic, but simple as it may seem, pet owners have great difficulty adhering to this recommendation.

                        You see, we have this very strong association with our pets called the “human-animal bond.”  This intense love for our pets drives us to cater to their every desire and adorable behavior.  After all, who can say “No” to those begging brown eyes belonging to that hopelessly endearing pet that would love you ten times more if you would just share that last bite of pizza crust with them?

                        As a lifetime owner of pets and a veterinarian for over 20 years, I can tell you that if you “just say NO” to your pet’s begging behaviors, your pet will love you the very same as when you cave in to the bad habit of over-feeding. The biggest difference being that you will reap a huge benefit of not over-feeding your pet--- that human-animal bond will not only grow stronger, but it will also last longer as your pet’s lifespan will be greatly extended.

                        The other remarkable benefits of obesity prevention for pets include decreased risk for diabetes, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, and adverse anesthesia events.  As I tell my clients, if you truly love your pet (and I know that you all do!), the single most important thing you can do is to help your pet maintain a normal body weight through diet control and proper amounts of activity.  Let’s face it…your pet doesn’t put its food in its food bowl…you do.  And, your pet is only as active as you choose for it to be.

                        Here’s another huge benefit of proper diet and activity for your pet---if you focus on keeping your pet active by taking it on walks or playing with it in the house or outdoors, you will control your own weight as well. You will feel better and less stressed as the flood gates for your own “feel good endorphins” open up.  If you don’t have a pet, you can always “borrow” one from a family member or neighbor, or go to a local shelter to exercise those animals.  The end result will definitely be “win-win” for you and your active companion.

                        Our feline family members present an even greater challenge in the weight control department.  My best advice for cat owners is to be as proactive as possible!  Don’t allow your cat to become overweight as cats truly have a more difficult time losing excess weight. Diabetes is a common sequela to obesity in cats and, sadly, controlling diabetes in cats can be rather difficult.  Obese cats may also experience life-threatening fatty degeneration of their livers (hepatic lipidosis) if they experience a period of anorexia due to any cause.

                        So how do you increase activity in cats that are by nature true couch potatoes?  Cats are actually entertained by very simple household items.  Build a cat gym with split levels out of any stackables already found in your home.  Cats love to perch in and on paper bags and boxes.  These combined with a rolling ping pong ball, a feather on a fishing pole, or a laser pointer can provide much needed activity for bored house cats.

                        Lastly, purchase the highest quality pet food that your budget permits.  Your veterinarian can help you select the best pet food for your pet’s life cycle stage and he or she will guide you on feeding proper amounts.  Choose to be a “health enabler” for your pet that is addicted to your long lasting love.

 Author:  Dr. Bonnie Jones
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