Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pet Health Tip#36- Skin Tumors in Dogs

There are several types of skin tumors that affect dogs.  Most of these are benign.  However, there are also some malignant tumors that can affect dogs.
The benign tumors are usually slow growing, soft, and free moving; meaning that you can grasp them and move them around under the skin.  Benign tumors include: skin tags, warts, moles, and lipomas.  The skin tags, warts, and moles look similar to the ones we get.  They are unsightly, but harmless.  Lipomas are fatty tumors that are very slow growing and soft.  They are very common in older, overweight dogs.  They typically don’t cause any problems unless they are located in an area that restricts movement; such as under a front limb.
The most common malignant tumors that are found under the skin are Mast Cell Tumors and Osteosarcomas.  Both of these tumors are usually fast growing, hard, and attached to the tissue under the skin.
Mast Cell tumors are very common and can be found in all breeds.  However, Boxers, Beagles, and Boston Terriers are the breeds most commonly affected.  These tumors can be found anywhere on the body, but are often found on the limbs.  They can change shape and size very rapidly.  These tumors are made up of cells that the body uses to respond to inflammation and allergies.  These tumors can release high amounts of the cells into the dogs body and cause damage to the internal organs.  Some mast cells remain localized, but others can metastasize to other regions of the body.  It is very important to have these tumors removed and sent for a biopsy to determine the malignancy and risk to the dog’s overall health.
Osteosarcomas are bone tumors.  These tumors are highly malignant.  They are most commonly seen at the elbow, wrist, or shoulder.  However, any bone can be affected.  Limping on the affected limb is usually the first symptom.  However, often times the tumor isn’t noticed until it become visible.  At the point that it is visible, there is a 90% chance that it has already metastasized to another area of the body, usually the lungs.  Treatment of osteosarcoma is very aggressive and usually involves chemotherapy or radiation.
In conclusion, although there are many types of skin tumors that are benign, it is important to have all tumors examined by your veterinarian, so that treatment of malignant tumors can begin as soon as possible.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pet Health Tip #35- "Fatty Liver Disease in Cats"

Fatty liver, also known as hepatic lipidosis, is the most common liver disease in cats.  When the body is in starvation mode, it quickly shifts fat cells to the liver.  It does this so that the liver can convert the fat into lipoproteins for energy.  However, the cat’s liver is not very good at converting these fat cells.  So, the fat accumulates in the liver.  As the fat builds up, the liver starts to lose its ability to function. 
The liver has many jobs in the body.  These include: detoxification, protein synthesis, and the production of chemicals used in digestion.  The liver also helps break down red blood cells and produces clotting factors to aid in blood clotting.  Because of its many jobs, when the liver starts to fail, you will see several symptoms.
Hepatic lipidosis is usually caused by a cat’s loss of appetite.  This can be caused by illness (such as diabetes or kidney disease), stress, extreme diet restrictions by owners, or being lost.
The most obvious symptom is yellowing of the eyes and mucous membranes.  This is referred to as jaundice in people, but is referred to as icterus in animals.  Other symptoms include: anorexia, vomiting, lethargy, neurologic symptoms, and depression.
Treatment will often require hospitalization and includes: fluid therapy, diet changes, and mineral supplements.
The most important treatment is prevention by paying close attention to your cat’s eating habits.  If your cat loses its appetite, it is important to discover the underlying cause and get it treated before the liver starts to deteriorate.  Hepatic lipidosis can be life threatening, so the earlier treatment is started, the higher chance of your cat’s liver recovering.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pet Health Tip #34- Liver disease in dogs

There are a wide range of causes of liver disease in dogs.  The most common causes are:

Bacterial infection
Viral Infection- Most common in unvaccinated puppies
Toxins-Most common are insecticides and arsenic
Drugs- Most common are NSAIDS used to treat arthritis

Early symptoms of liver disease include: weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst.  In most cases, if the underlying cause of the liver damage is found and treated during this early stage, then the liver will heal and return to normal function.

Symptoms of liver failure include: icterus (yellowing of the eyes or gums), ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen), spontaneous bleeding, and neurologic symptoms (disorientation, head-pressing, dullness, and seizures).  Once the liver has advanced to the stage of liver failure, the chances of regaining liver function are very slim.  However, many dogs can survive with treatment, such as IV fluids, medications, and a special diet.

The most important factor in liver disease is to prevent the underlying causes by having your puppy properly vaccinated, keeping your pet away from potential toxins, and using therapeutic drugs according to your veterinarian’s instructions.  Additionally, if you suspect that your pet has been exposed to toxins or has overdosed on NSAIDS, it is important to seek treatment as early as possible.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


For a limited time, my young adult western BOUNTY HUNTER: THE BEGINNING is only $0.99!


After his father’s tragic death, sixteen-year old Ben Sharp is living a life of solitude in a one room cabin in the woods.  He is lonely and restless but cannot see a way to change his situation.  His life takes an unexpected turn the day two horse thieves ride up leading a stolen stallion.  When the two outlaws attempt to rob him, Ben is able to turn the tables.  His successful capture of the men opens up his world to the life of the bounty hunter.  Ben sets out on a journey that will transform him from a boy into a man.  This coming of age tale is full of action, adventure, humor, and romance.

BOUNTY HUNTER: THE BEGINNING is the first book in the Bounty Hunter series.

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Pet Health Tip#33- Seizures

Seizures in pets can be caused by a number of underlying issues.  The most common causes are:

Idiopathic Epilepsy
Kidney Failure
Liver Failure
Toxins- Insecticides, chocolate, and antifreeze
Brain Tumors
Heat Stroke
Encephalitis- Inflammation of the brain usually caused by an infection such as Distemper

There are several types of seizures.  A grand mal seizure usually begins with a period of altered behavior such as staring, restlessness, and crying out.  This is followed by the symptoms we usually associate with seizures, such as loss of consciousness, paddling, urinating, and defecating.  This part of the seizure usually only lasts 1-2 minutes.  It is followed by a period of confusion and incoordination.
Seizures can also be localized in the brain and cause a more localized reaction such as muscle twitching, blinking, and chomping.

Diagnosis is often made based on historical information, such as exposure to toxins, age of the animals, recent illness, etc.  Blood work will also be done to check for liver function, kidney function, and blood sugar levels.
During the seizure, the first impulse is to reach out and comfort your pet by talking to him and petting him.  However, it is best to turn out the lights, keep quiet, and not to touch him.  Sensory input can prolong the seizure.  This includes the period of disorientation that follows the main part of the seizure.  Once the seizure has ended, it is important to get your pet to a veterinary for a diagnosis.
Treatment is usually based on treating the underlying problem.  For epilepsy, the treatment is based on the frequency and severity of the seizures.  It is important to keep track of when seizures occur and how long they last.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pet Health Tip #32- Diabetes Mellitus in Dogs

Diabetes mellitus, also known as sugar diabetes, affects all breeds of dogs.  However, the most commonly affected are Golden Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Poodles.  Obesity is a predisposing factor that contributes to the development of diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus is caused by the pancreas’s inadequate production of insulin.  This causes the cells to be unable to absorb glucose.  The glucose levels rise in the blood stream and will eventually spill over into the urine, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels and glucosuria.
Early symptoms of diabetes include increased appetite, increased thirst, and weight loss.  More severe symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, cataracts, and coma.
Most diabetic dogs will need to be treated with a combination of insulin and dietary changes.  The dose of insulin needed depends on the dog’s body’s reaction to it.  Dogs are started on an insulin regimen for about a week.  They will then need to come back into the vet clinic to have a glucose curve run to watch the body’s reaction to the insulin.  The dose will then be adjusted based on this reaction.  The dog will have to make regular visits to the vet clinic in order to monitor the blood glucose levels.  In addition, most dogs will need to be placed on a high fiber/high carbohydrate diet.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pet Health Tip-Holiday Hazards

Since we are moving into the holiday season, I thought I would write a post reminding everyone of the potential hazards for pets this time of year.
First, there are several potential dangers associated with the abundance of food we consume during the holiday season.  Chocolate, especially baker's chocolate, can be very dangerous.  It can cause a variety of neurologic signs.  For more details about the dangers of chocolate, see my previous post on chocolate toxicity.  Other foods like onions and grapes are also toxic to dogs.  Additionally, turkey bones can be very dangerous.  The bones can splinter and puncture the bowels leading to peritonitis or they can become lodged in the bowel and require surgery to remove.  Finally, dogs that are not accustomed to eating the high fat foods that we eat at the holidays are at risk of developing pancreatitis when they are fed the leftovers.  This is something that I saw quite frequently in practice.  Pancreatitis causes vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, and can be life threatening.  So, bottom line, DON'T let your dog join in the feasting!!!
Another danger that pets face during the holidays is the stress of so much activity going on around them.  This can be especially stressful for older pets.  High levels of stress most frequently causes "stress colitis". This is severe inflammation of the colon leading to bloody diarrhea.
Finally, for cats the most dangerous part of the holiday is the Christmas tree.  Cats love shiny objects, especially tinsel.  They have a tendency to swallow these objects.  This can lead to the tinsel becoming trapped in the intestines.  It usually requires surgery to remove the tinsel. 
Final thoughts, the holiday season is an exciting time of the year for everyone, including out pets.  With just a few precautions, you can ensure that it is also a safe time of the year.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Critique de Book's 5 Star Review of THE RESCUE TEAM

Title: The Rescue Team
Author: Billi Tiner
Genre: YA/Animal Fiction
Publisher: Self (July 26, 2012)
Available: $2.99 at Amazon
Rating: 5+ stars
Rater: Lauri

From the publisher:

Ellie is shocked and confused when her owners leave her at the animal shelter. Feeling abandoned and unloved, Ellie spends her days staring vacantly through the gate of her pen. Ellie’s life changes when she is finally adopted by a compassionate woman named Anne. Ellie and Anne form an unbreakable bond of love and friendship. A thunderstorm drives Toby, a young frightened kitten, to Anne’s porch. Anne and Ellie immediately welcome him into their family. One night, they hear an emergency broadcast announcement that a little girl is missing in the woods near their home. Anne, Ellie, and Toby join in the search to find her, and an incredible rescue team is formed. The team will be called upon again when a tornado tears through their town. Will they find any survivors?

What I liked: This is a book that should be on every child’s bookshelf. In it, a child can explore some tough and scary situations inside the safe medium of a story, and her parents can be certain the story tells her the right things. In these pages, a couple of abandoned animals find their way to Anne, whose heart is as big as the world. Sometimes things are hard, but this adoptive family learns to stick together, and their love truly saves the day. (And best of all, my son loves this story.)

What I didn’t like: Not one thing.

In sum: Buy this for your kids - today. It’s a must-have. And if you read my reviews, you know I almost never say that.

Visit Critique de Book:

Friday, November 16, 2012

4 Middle-grade books by Billi Tiner

Welcome Home

5 stars-"Welcome Home is a well-written animal story that young readers will enjoy... Welcome Home will be loved and remembered and reported upon by many young pre-teen readers"-Alice D. for Readers Favorite

"Young readers who like animal stories will appreciate this warm canine tale."- Kirkus Reviews

"Welcome Home is a charming story of what a dog wants out of life..."- Midwest Book Review

Welcome Home is the story of Jake, a black Labrador Retriever mix. For as long as Jake can remember, he has been having the same dream. In his dream, he lives with a wonderful man in a beautiful home. He has never seen the face of the man in the dream, but he knows his voice and is certain that they are meant to be together. When the day comes for Jake to be given away to his new home, he believes that he will finally get to meet the man from his dreams. However, when he is chosen, it is definitely not by the man from his dream! He is taken to a home where he is terribly mistreated. After suffering years of abuse, Jake finally escapes and is able to begin the search for the man he has been dreaming of his entire life. Along the way, Jake meets some interesting characters, survives amazing adventures, and forms life-long friendships. Join Jake on his incredible journey home.

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Friends for Life

"Tiner manages to breathe life into the book's four main characters...An entertaining read..."- Kirkus Reviews

5 star-"Friends for Life" is so much more than just your ordinary dog story...It is such a feel good tale that you will want to mark this as one that will be a classic..."Reviewed by Lorraine Carey for Readers Favorite

"Friends for Life" is a strong pick for youth readers who enjoy a dog-driven tale."- The Midwest Book Review

Bo and Rico are two puppies who meet at a pet store. The puppies are dognapped from the pet store by two goons. Realizing they are in danger, Bo and Rico must work together to escape the dognappers. After their escape, Bo and Rico find themselves scared and alone on the mean city streets. They are rescued by a streetwise stray named Tank. Tank takes the puppies under his wing and teaches them how to survive on the streets. Bo and Rico embark on several adventures including avoiding the local Animal Control officer, Jimmy; several run-ins with a pack of dogs led by a stray named Mongrel; and rescuing a beautiful lost Poodle named Pearl. Through it all, Bo and Rico form an incredible friendship that will last a lifetime.

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Heart of a Hero

"Heart of a Hero is a treasure for dog lovers."- Midwest Book Review

5 stars-"If you are looking for a good read for your child or teen, I highly recommend you grab "Heart of a Hero" by Billi J. Tiner for them. This is a truly awesome book for those who love dogs."-Joy H. for Readers Favorite

Lady, an Irish Setter puppy, is leading a simple life on a farm in Ohio during the 1940’s. Lady’s biggest desire is to become an expert hunting dog like her mother. She has no idea that her life is going to take her down a path where she will find herself in the middle of incredibly dangerous situations, including a world war. On several occasions, Lady will have to find the courage to risk her life in order to save someone she loves. The loyalty and bravery that Lady shows throughout her lifetime illustrate what it truly means to have the heart of a hero.

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The Rescue Team

5 Stars- "I recommend this wonderful little story strongly for anyone old enough to read. I give it 5 barks!"- Reviewed by Lee Ashford for Readers Favorite

Ellie is shocked and confused when her owners leave her at the animal shelter. Feeling abandoned and unloved, Ellie spends her days staring vacantly through the gate of her pen. Ellie’s life changes when she is finally adopted by a compassionate woman named Anne. Ellie and Anne form an unbreakable bond of love and friendship. A thunderstorm drives Toby, a young frightened kitten, to Anne’s porch. Anne and Ellie immediately welcome him into their family. One night, they hear an emergency broadcast announcement that a little girl is missing in the woods near their home. Anne, Ellie, and Toby join in the search to find her, and an incredible rescue team is formed. The team will be called upon again when a tornado tears through their town. Will they find any survivors?

click image to buy now!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pet Health Tip #31- Feline Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus affects approximately 1 in 400 cats.  Obesity is the number one contributing factor to feline diabetes.  However, not all cats that develop diabetes will be overweight.  Early symptoms of diabetes include: increased appetite, increased urination, increased drinking, and unexplained weight loss.  Advanced symptoms include: loss of appetite, vomiting, ketone breath (sweet odor), and diabetic coma. 

Diagnosis of feline diabetes mellitus is based on symptoms, elevated blood sugar levels, and glucose in the urine.  When the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin or the cells fail to respond properly to insulin, the body cannot properly handle blood sugar.  This leads to the elevated glucose in the blood and this spills over into the urine.  The inability to properly use blood glucose can lead to an increased level of ketones.  Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition caused by elevated ketones in the blood. 

There are three types of diabetes mellitus in cats.  Type I diabetic cats are insulin dependent, meaning their pancreas is not producing enough insulin.  These cats will need to receive regular insulin injections.  In cats with type II diabetes, the cat’s pancreas may make enough insulin but the cat’s body does not use it properly.  This is the most common type of feline diabetes.  Often, these cats will respond to oral medications and dietary restrictions. 

There are some cats that are Type II, but need initially need insulin injections.  However, eventually, their system re-regulates and they can go off insulin.  These cats will still require a special diet.

Treating diabetic cats can be an expensive and frustrating endeavor.  The best treatment is prevention.  By maintaining your cat at a healthy body weight, you will significantly reduce the chances of the cat developing diabetes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pet Health #30- Hyperthyroidism in cats

Hyperthyroidism is an issue that primarily affects cats.  The thyroid gland becomes hyperactive and gives off too much thyroid hormone.  Hyperthyroidism in cats often goes undiagnosed.  However, in severe cases, the most common symptom the owner sees is a cat who has a voracious appetite, but is losing weight.  Often times they will have an unkempt hair coat.  They also have a very rapid heart rate.  Other possible symptoms included: increased urination, vomiting, restlessness, and diarrhea. 

The thyroid gland sits in the throat.  A normal thyroid gland should not be big enough to feel.  However, an enlarge thyroid gland will be palpable.  It will feel like two small peas on either side of the trachea (throat). 

Treatment for hyperthyroidism includes daily medication.  However, as most cat owners know, pilling a cat can be a very difficult job.  Some cats will take the pills if they are hidden in food (i.e. hot dog, bread, cheese).  Another good way to pill a cat is to put it in the back of the throat and then squirt water in the cats mouth.  This accomplishes two thing.  First, the cat will be forced to swallow; and second, the water will help the pill down the cats throat making it more comfortable for the cat. 

There is another treatment option that is safe and is actually a cure.  There are special clinics that will irradiate the thyroid gland.  It is a completely painless process.  The cat usually stays in the hospital for a few days in order to eliminate any radioactive waste.  Then they can go home and resume a normal life.  This treatment is the ideal treatment for hyperthyroidism.  However, it is also the most expensive and there are not that many clinics that are licensed to do it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chapter 1- Bounty Hunter: The Beginning; A YA Western

The stallion stood high on a ridge, his sleek black body glistening in the bright sunlight.  His position gave him a clear view of the valley below where his herd lazily grazed.  The thirty or so horses were confident he would alert them should any danger arise.  A soft wind blew across the stallion’s powerful body lifting his long black mane off of his heavily muscled neck.  He was all black except for a stripe of white hair running down the middle of his forehead between his dark intelligent eyes.  As he stood above the herd, his eyes alertly scanned the valley looking for any signs of danger.
     Suddenly, a billowing cloud of dust appeared in the distance.  As the cloud drew closer, the stallion’s keen gaze spotted its source.  The dust was being stirred up by the hooves of a large group of horses ridden by men intent on capturing his herd.  Alert to the danger, the powerful horse reared up on his hind legs and let out a cry of alarm.  As he thundered down the slope of the ridge toward his herd, he continued to sound his warning.
     The herd responded instantly.  The sound of thirty horses’ hooves pounding against the ground filled the air as they turned as one and followed their leader.  The stallion glanced over his shoulder.  The men on horseback were closer than they had first appeared.  He quickened his pace.  His muscles rippled with power as he led his herd away from their pursuers.
     They fled across the valley.  The men on horseback relentlessly followed.  The stallion turned the herd toward the canyon that ran to the east of the valley.  The canyon was full of twists and turns that were dangerous even for those who knew them well.
     Confident the men on horseback would not be able to keep up with them, the big horse led the herd quickly through the canyon.  This was their home.  They knew the twists and turns by heart.  He threw another glance over his shoulder.  His confidence grew as he noted that the men pursuing them were falling farther and farther behind them.
     As the herd rounded the next bend, the stallion slid to a sudden stop.  Six men on horseback sat in front of them blocking their path.  His nostrils flared in anger at the sudden appearance of the men.
     “There they are boys!” shouted one of the men.  “I told you they would come this way!”
     The big black reared up, showing his intimidating size.  Then he brought his front hooves down hard.  The sound of his hooves striking the ground echoed through the canyon.  He snorted his frustration.  He abruptly turned around and headed back into the canyon.
     The herd had only traveled a short distance, when they spotted another group of men moving toward them.  The stallion glanced back once more and saw the men behind them steadily advancing.
     He stopped.  The herd danced around him nervously, as they looked to their leader to tell them what to do next.  The stallion knew they were trapped.  As the men drew closer, he pawed at the ground stirring up dust in a show of aggression.  He flared his nostrils and snorted his warning.  His eyes flashed in anger.
     A big man astride a large buckskin moved to the front of the group and met the stallion’s eyes.  The man’s eyes reflected his confidence as he drew out a whip and cracked it with authority.  The big black took a quick glance at his herd.  Their sides heaved and their heads drooped in exhaustion.  Flecks of frothy sweat clung to their hides.  The run through the canyon had taken its toll.  He glanced back at the rider holding the whip.  He was confident he could force his way through the group of men, but he also knew his herd was too exhausted to follow him.
     The stallion’s eyes met the man with the whip’s eyes once more.  He saw the man’s challenge and wanted to meet it, but he knew it was not the best choice for his herd.  He dropped his gaze.  The man flashed a victorious grin and shouted, “Okay, boys, let’s turn ‘em toward home!”
     The men moved the herd out of the canyon and headed them west back across the valley.  They drove the herd for several miles.  By the time they reached the ranch, fatigue had slowed their pace to a walk.
     The sprawling ranch covered several hundred acres.  Pasture land filled with about one thousand head of cattle and a few hundred horses took up most of the acreage.  The main house sat at the ranch’s center.  It was an impressive two story white house with green shutters and a wraparound porch.  Several other buildings including two bunkhouses, two large barns, and the foreman’s cabin radiated out from the main house.
     The men moved the horses into a large corral.  The man who wielded the whip moved his horse to separate the stallion from the rest of the herd.  He moved him into a smaller corral adjacent to the larger one.  The big black trotted around the perimeter of the corral.  He snorted and tossed his head in agitation.
     “That sure is one beautiful horse,” declared one of the cowboys who had gathered to admire the stallion.  Several of the cowboys leaned against the corral fence watching the big black as he trotted past.
     “Yeah, Mr. Spencer is gonna love him,” replied Sam Baker, the ranch foreman, as he replaced his whip and exited the corral.  Then he added, “Better call it a night boys.  Tomorrow’s gonna be a long day.”

     The next morning, the cowboys gathered around the large corral eager to begin the day.  The sun was already beginning its climb into a cloudless sky.  It was going to be a great day for breaking horses.  The men’s faces shone with good humor and excitement.
     Two of the men stood a little apart from the rest of the group.
     “Look at that stallion, Jim.  He’s somethin’ ain’t he?”  The man who had spoken was tall and thin.  He wore a beat up old cowboy hat pushed back off his forehead revealing a shock of almost white hair.  His eyes were following the stallion as he pranced around his enclosure.
     “Yeah, Whitey, he’s somethin’ all right and I mean to make him mine,” answered Jim.  Jim stood a head shorter than Whitey.  He had coal black hair and a handlebar mustache.  The feature that set Jim apart was his eyes.  They were emerald green and they gleamed with an evil glint that made even the toughest of men give him a wide berth.
     “How you plannin’ to do that?” asked Whitey.  “You know Mr. Spencer’s gonna want him for his own.”
     “Mark my words.  That horse is mine,” replied Jim with a determined glint in his eyes.
     Whitey had been Jim’s partner since they pulled a bank job together as kids.  He knew that if Jim set his mind to having the stallion, then nothing was going to stand in his way.
     Just then, a tall broad shouldered man who carried himself with the air of a man accustomed to giving orders stepped up to the corral.
     “Okay, men,” the man said, addressing the group of cowboys gathered there.  “Go ahead and pick your mounts.  You can have any horse you can break, except for the big black.  He’s mine.”
     “Yes, sir, Mr. Spencer!” the men shouted.  Then they let out whoops of excitement as they clamored up to sit on the top rail of the corral.  Each man scanned the group of horses spotting the ones they hoped would still be available when their turn came around.  The men would choose their mounts based on seniority.
    Sam Baker stepped into the corral first.  He tossed his lariat around the neck of a big bay mare with four white stockings.  A murmur of approval went up from the men sitting on the fence.  The mare was a fine looking horse.
     Several men leaped into the corral to help Sam get the mare saddled.  One of the cowboys worked to get a rope halter around her head.  Another one threw a bandana over her eyes.  The two cowboys held her steady while the foreman threw a saddle on her back.
    The mare bucked and danced as the men worked to steady her.  After several minutes, they calmed her enough for Sam to vault onto her back.  As soon as his butt hit the saddle, the men jumped out of the way of the bucking horse.  The mare bunny hopped straight into the air and came down hard.  She immediately spun around and then kicked her back legs into the air.  The men shouted their excitement as they watched from their places on the fence.
     “Rider ‘er, Sam!” hollered one cowboy.
     “That’s it!  Keep ‘er movin’,” yelled another.
     Finally exhausted, the mare settled into a smooth trot.  The cowboys applauded the success of their foreman.
     “Okay, Jasper,” said Sam as he slid from the mare’s back.  “You’re up.”
     One by one the cowboys selected their mounts.  They spent the day breaking the horses.  Shouts of encouragement, grunts of pain, and dust filled the air as the horses kicked and bucked trying to dislodge the cowboys who rode them.  By the time darkness fell, both the men and the horses were exhausted.
     The stallion had relentlessly trotted around the corral throughout the day.  As the cowboys made their way into the bunkhouses, he finally came to an exhausted halt.  For several minutes, he stood in the middle of his small enclosure with his chest heaving from his exertion.  As the night grew darker, the stallion’s head dropped in sleep.
     “Now’s our chance, Whitey,” Jim whispered into the darkness.  “Crazy horse finally wore himself out.”
     Jim unlatched the corral gate.  He and Whitey crept slowly toward the big horse.  When they were within a few feet of him, the stallion suddenly jerked his head up.  Jim quickly tossed a rope around his neck as Whitey tossed a bag over his head.  The black stood frozen in terror by his sudden blindness.
     “We got ‘im, Jim!” Whitey exclaimed in excitement.
     “Shhh!” Jim responded angrily.  “You want to get us caught?”
     “Sorry, Jim.  I didn’t expect it to be so easy.  A stallion like this is usually a mean son-of-a-gun,” answered Whitey.
     “Let’s get ‘im outta here before someone hears us.”
     Jim led the big horse out of the corral.  As soon as they cleared the corral gate, Jim mounted his horse and tied the end of the rope holding the stallion to the pommel of his saddle.  Jim spurred his mount into a gallop as he and Whitey fled with the stallion in tow.
     With the bag over his head, the big black was helpless to do anything but run blindly alongside Jim’s horse.  Jim and Whitey rode through the night before finally slowing to a trot.  The sun was already high in the sky when they pulled to a stop at the edge of a small stream.  Jim reached over and pulled the bag off the stallion’s head.  He blinked rapidly as sunlight momentarily blinded him.
     “Hot dang, Jim!” exclaimed Whitey.  “We did it.  How long do you think it’ll be before Mr. Spencer comes lookin’ for us?”
     “I’m sure he’s discovered the horse’s missin’ by now.  He’s probably already after us,” replied Jim.  “The sooner we can find a buyer for this here stallion the better.  Now, the way I figure it, our best bet is to head toward Beacon.  I hear there’s some real money flowin’ through that town.  It’ll take us two days of hard ridin’ to get there, but I think it’s our best move.”
     “Okay, Jim.  You’re the brains of this outfit.  If that’s what you think, then I’m with ya,” replied Whitey.
     “All right, then, let’s water the horses and let ‘em catch their breath.  Then we better get goin’.  If Mr. Spencer catches us before we get rid of this stallion, he’ll hang us for sure,” said Jim.
     After a brief rest, Jim and Whitey remounted and spurred the horses back into a gallop.

     The next evening, Jim and Whitey slowly picked their way through a thick forest.  Dusk had fallen casting a gray haze over everything.  Whitey kept twisting in his saddle to cast quick glances back and forth.
     “What are you doin’?” asked Jim in irritation.  “You’re drivin’ me nuts with all that fidgetin’.”
     “Sorry, Jim.  These woods are spooky.  I keep thinkin’ I’m seein’ things.”
     “Well, cut it out, will ya?  You’re makin’ me edgy.”
     “I’ll try,” responded Whitey as he took another quick glance around.
     Jim growled in agitation and Whitey snapped his head back to the front.  He recognized the threat in that growl.  In this mood, Jim was more dangerous than anything that could be lurking in the shadows.
     Just then, they stepped out of the trees into a clearing.  A small cabin sat about fifty yards in front of them.  A creek ran around the back side of the cabin.  A small tendril of smoke drifted up out of the chimney.  Lamplight illuminated the small windows on each side of the front door.  At the sight of the cabin, Jim pulled to an abrupt halt.
     “Let’s go around,” whispered Jim.  “I don’t want to have to answer a bunch of questions about how we got our hands on such a nice lookin’ stallion.”
     Whitey nodded in agreement.
     Jim started to turn as the door to the cabin flew open.  A shadowy figure holding a rifle filled the doorway.  “Who’s there?” the shadow called.
     Jim took a moment to answer, indecision clearly written on his face.  Finally, making up his mind, he called in a friendly tone, “Hello!”
     Jim spurred his horse into a walk and slowly approached the cabin.  Whitey did the same.
     As they stepped closer, they could see the person framed in the doorway was a boy.  He wore clothes that were much too small for his large frame.  He stood about six feet tall and had the muscular build of someone accustomed to hard work.  His dark blond hair fell past his collar.  Wariness swam in his blue eyes as he watched them approach.  The boy looked to be about 16 years old.  He stood with his feet spread wide, his hands tightly gripping his rifle.  He glanced quickly from Jim to Whitey and then back to Jim, his gaze finally coming to rest on the stallion.
     Wanting to draw the boy’s attention away from the horse, Jim asked, “Your ma or pa around?”
     The boy swung his gaze back to Jim and tightened his grip on his rifle.  “No,” he replied, his eyes narrowing with suspicion.  “I don’t want any trouble, so why don’t you two just move along.”
     “Who said anything about trouble?” replied Jim in a shocked tone.  He flashed a friendly smile and continued, “We’re just lookin’ for someplace to bed down for the night.  If it’s all the same to you, we’ll throw our bedrolls down over there by the creek.”  Jim gestured toward the small creek that ran along the back of the cabin.  Flashing another smile, he said, “See, we won’t be any trouble at all.”
     The boy hesitated.  He clearly didn’t like the idea of Jim and Whitey staying on his land.  Finally, he gave a curt nod.  “All right, but I expect you to be gone by mornin’.”  He turned back into the cabin and closed the door.  They could hear the sound of a board sliding into place barring the door.
     Whitey and Jim exchanged a look, and then with a shrug walked the horses toward the creek.
     “We ain’t gonna let this chance slip through our fingers are we, Jim?” asked Whitey as they untied their bedrolls.  “A kid alone, that’s easy pickin’s.  There’s bound to be somethin’ of value inside that cabin.”
     “We’ll catch a few hours rest and in the mornin’ we’ll have us another talk with the youngster” replied Jim with a sneer.
     Whitey snickered in response.  Then they threw their bedrolls on the ground and settled in for the night.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pet Health Tip #29- Hypothyroidism

Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Miniature Schnauzers are the breeds most commonly found to develop hypothyroidism.  The thyroid gland is found in the throat.  Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone.  Symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs are similar to those seen in people.  The dog will have excessive weight gain.  The skin will be dry and flaky.  The hair becomes brittle and falls out easily.  There may be areas of hair loss (alopecia), especially on chest, neck, and body.  Often times the dog will also have a very low energy level.
Diagnosis is through a blood tests that measure the level of thyroid hormone and function of the thyroid gland. 
Treatment includes hormone replacement therapy.  Dogs do very well on thyroid medication.  The dose of medication needed varies and your dog will need to have their thyroid levels checked regularly to ensure they are on the right dose of medication.  Once started on the medication, the dogs will do very well and can lead long and happy lives.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

5 star review of FRIENDS FOR LIFE by Beachbound Books

Friends for Life
~Written by Billi Tiner
Friends for Life by Billi Tiner is a touching tale of two puppies who are brought together by chance and vow to be friends forever.

When Bo, a bulldog, is sold to a pet store by his owner he is terrified and longs to be with his mother. But, as luck may have it Bo meets Rico, a Chihuahua puppy, and the two become fast friends. The puppies are excited about finding forever homes, however, their hopes are dashed when dognappers break into the pet store to steal Bo. Rico begins barking in order to save his friend and finds himself dognapped as well. Bo and Rico work together and are able to escape, but are far away from the comfort of the pet store. Now that the puppies are on their own they must learn how to survive all the dangers that await them. They soon learn that they can overcome any obstacles as long as they stick together.

Billi Tiner is a gifted story teller and her book Friends for Life does not disappoint.

Young readers will discover what it means to be a true friend as well as find humor in the crazy escapades of two young pups as they learn to survive on their own in this great big world.

I recommend reading Friends for Life as well as Welcome Home, the book in which Bo and Rico are first introduced.

Both books are available at

Pet Health Tip #28- Congestive Heart Failure

Blood flows into the right side of the heart.  The right side heart chamber then pumps the blood into the lungs where it picks up oxygen.  The blood then flows into the left side of the heart where it is pumped back out into the body.  As the blood flows into the different chambers of the heart, valves close behind it to ensure that the blood continues to flow in the correct direction when the heart pumps.  The sound that is heard when listening to the heart is the sound of the valves slamming shut.

If the valves do not operate properly, then some of the blood will be pushed backwards.  If the valve that closes behind the blood flowing into the right side of the heart fails, then blood will back up into the liver and abdomen and cause “ascites”.  If the valve that closes behind the blood flowing into the left side of the heart fails, then blood will back up into the lungs.

Congenital heart disease can occur in any size dog.  Typically, the heart valves do not form properly, leading to failure to function properly.  The valves don’t seal the openings and therefore, you can hear the blood leaking through the valve making a whooshing sound.  This sound is referred to as a murmur.  This can be diagnosed by using a stethoscope to listen to the heart.  Many dogs can live for years with a murmur without developing CHF.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is one of the most common diseases that affects dogs.  CHF can occur in both large and small breed dogs although the underlying causes vary significantly.  In small breed dogs, the most common cause is chronic dental disease.  The bacteria in the mouth set up residence on the heart valves.  Eventually, the valve begins to thicken and function improperly, leading to CHF.  In large breed dogs, the most common underlying cause is due to the heart being overworked.  This leads to thickening of the heart wall and the failure of the heart to properly pump the blood.  Severe heartworm infestations can lead to CHF in any sized dog.

Symptoms of CHF depend on which side of the heart that is affected.  Right sided CHF will lead to ascites.  If the blood is being backed up into the abdomen, then the belly will start to fill with fluid and become distended.  If the blood is being backed up into the liver, then you can start to see signs of liver failure (jaundice, vomiting, loss of appetite, etc).

Left sided CHF will lead to blood being backed up into the lung.  The dog can wheeze or cough.  The cough is often times productive, meaning that they cough up fluid.

With both types of CHF, the dog will have a decrease in energy and possibly a loss of appetite.

Treatment of CHF also depends on the underlying cause.  It can include medication to increase heart muscle contractions, diuretics to draw the extra fluid out of the lungs, liver, or abdomen, and a special diet.