Doggone Orlando

News, views and reviews for Orlando pet parents from the mom of a menagerie of cats, dogs, birds, horses, fish, and guinea pigs who stays just one step ahead of the "Animal Hoarders" TV crew

BaneCat viral video takes internet by storm: Good thing he’s not in Hillsborough County

Unless you’re Amish or live in a cave, you’ve probably seen the viral BaneCat video, or you’ve at least heard of it and are studiously trying to avoid it. As the name implies, a cat owner dressed his feline up in head gear and a bomber jacket to act out a hilarious scene. Here’s the famous BaneCat clip, which has garnered over two million views over the past few days:

No matter what you think about the movie that spawned this satire, you have to agree with one thing: that’s one heck of a patient cat. I often dress my own felines in costumes that I get to review for my About.com Pet Supplies & Product Reviews column. Yes, I can usually get them into the cat clothes, but only after marveling at just how stiff they can make their normally supple bodies and how swiftly those normally sheathed claws can turn into deadly blood-letting weapons. Then, after the dress-up session, I have to deal with sulking and mournful “How could you do that to me?” expressions that are only erased by the liberal application of catnip.

Of course, if the owner of BaneCat lived here in Florida, or more specifically, in Hillsborough County, he’d be getting chased around by Bubba in a jail cell right now. Hillsborough takes the crime of cat dressing very seriously. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Checkers and Rally’s fast food chain. Once upon a time they had an advertising mascot named Rap Cat, but thanks to Hillsborough County Animal Control, he’s be relegated to the Advertising Animal Retirement Home, along with Joe Camel and the Taco Bell chihuahua.

If you don’t remember Rap Cat, perhaps the video below will refresh your memory:

Rap Cat turned into an internet sensation, and Checkers capitalized on his new-found fame by printing Rap Cat jersey bags. They encouraged customers to dress up their cats, then make videos of the result. Sounds harmless, right? Hillsborough County officials didn’t think so. They went so far as to state that the county attorney might even seek an injunction against Checkers for promoting animal abuse. If you don’t believe me, the 2007 news story is right here:

Sadly, that meant the end of Rap Cat, and I have to admit I still miss him and his catchy song.

cat1I’ll be the first to admit that animal abuse is an ugly thing and not something to be made light of. However, I just can’t see how dressing your cat in a paper bag can be put in the same category as the real atrocities that people commit on animals.

My cat SheiKra came from Hillsborough County, as I reported in this recent post. It seems to me that the animal control people out there should be a wee bit more worried about people tossing live kittens on the expressway than making them imitate a rapping puppet.

I’ll admit to forcing poor SheiKra to dress up, and in drag even, every now and then for photo shoots. Hopefully Hillsborough officials won’t use the accompanying photo as evidence to storm my house and confiscate him at gunpoint in an Elian Gonzalez-style raid.

If a cat doesn’t want to be dressed in a bag, I’m sure it can make its wishes known. Somehow I just don’t think the Rap Cat promotion was something that needed legal intervention.

Luckily, as far as I know, BaneCat is far from Hillsborough County’s jurisdiction, so he can wear his mask and jacket without putting his owner in jeopardy. In the meantime, I know that Rap Cat is gone for good, but that doesn’t stop me from humming a mournful “Meowma Meow Meow” whenever I pass a Checkers right-hand drive through.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I also do pet tweets from that account. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

And you thought dog fighting was bad: Tigers killed in China for entertainment

Dog fighting is one of the most shameful and disgusting “sports” possible. I can’t wrap my head around the appeal of watching two dogs fight to the death so bloodthirsty humans can bet on them. I thought the only thing worse was canned hunts, in which people shoot tame animals that are released from cages into enclosed areas solely for the purpose of being blown away by a spineless idiot pretending to be a real hunter.

Now I’ve discovered something that’s even worse than dog fights and canned hunts: killing tigers purely for entertainment. Apparently that’s a thing in China, according to the Washington Times.

b42Ten tigers have died recently as Chinese businessmen show off their wealth by having the magnificent creatures slaughtered in front of their friends. Then the carcass is butchered, and its parts are sold to other businessmen who use them as grisly gifts to officials. In China, the tiger meat, bones, and other parts are prized for their use in traditional medicine.

The businessmen themselves don’t kill the tigers, but a quick bullet to the head would surely be more humane than the typical method. A video of one of the killings shows a tiger being electrocuted over a painful period of 10 seconds with an electrified iron mass shoved in its mouth with a stick.

In theory, killing tigers has been against the law in China in 1993. In practice, the animals used for this barbaric spectacle are likely smuggled in from Vietnam. The fact that their parts are gifted to officials shows that there’s little interest among some of those in power in getting the slaughter stopped.

I don’t understand how anyone can be impressed by seeing a beautiful animal killed purely for enjoyment. As you can see in the photo accompanying this article, I prefer to see my tigers live, unharmed, and happy, like this cute little cub I met at Dade City’s Wild Things a few years back.

Granted, we’ve got people who like to show off by killing endangered species right here in America, as you know if you read my recent post on the Dallas Safari Club and the endangered rhino killing permit that they’re holding hostage until they get assurances that they can bring the corpse back to the United States. But one good thing about that is that it’s got so many people outraged. In China, apparently, outrage is replaced by admiration, and the gorgeous big cats pay the price.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I also do pet tweets from that account. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Goodbye Mr. Stenchpuss

b8Tonight was a momentous and sorrowful occasion in my household. It was the night we laid Mr. Stenchpuss to rest. Like Phineas and Ferb, we had a household platypus, although he wasn’t a secret agent as far as I could tell. Instead, he was my dog Bolt’s favorite toy. He adopted the furry pink platypus on the very same day that I adopted him.

I got Bolt from Animal Control back in August, and little did he know that he was coming into a dog’s dream home. I write the Pet Supplies & Product Reviews site for About.com, so I almost always have a wide rang of dog toys, treats, and whatnot on hand to review. In the past, I gave them to various volunteer test dogs to gather their opinions. It just so happened that I’d recently gotten some toys from my friends at Quaker Pet Group, and they were out in a box on the family room floor.

That very first day, Bolt found the box and chose a fuzzy pink platypus from the Go Dog line. He immediately decided that it was the very best dog toy in the world, much like Linus and his blanket. Granted, he didn’t have the toy with him 24/7, and he did choose other stuffed toys to play with, but he always went back to the platypus eventually.

b7The poor platypus got pretty battered and bruised, and eventually we named him Mr. Stenchpuss because of his bedraggled state. The messier and more drooly he got, the more Bolt seemed to love him. I was amazed at how long he lasted, given that Bolt is a small dog with the chewing capacity of a Rottweiler. I lost count of the number of toys that came and went over the past seven months, while Mr. Stenchpuss remained steadfast. They all developed tears from one too many tug-of-war games or a spirited chewing session. The pink platypus got more abuse than any of the others, yet he somehow managed to stay intact.

All that changed this morning when Bolt brought Mr. Stenchpuss to me for a game of fetch. Just as I prepared to toss him, I noticed that one of his little legs was coming off and bleeding stuffing. I thought briefly about sewing it back on, but given his age and ramshackle condition, coupled by the fact that Bolt as a toy box that any dog would envy, made me decide to send the poor pink critter to his final resting place.

I got Bolt all tuckered out with a rousing game of fetch, then did the dirty deed and tossed the toy in the trash can when he was distracted.I don’t think he’s figured out that Mr. Stenchpuss is gone yet. I’ll know he has when he takes all the other toys out of his box. He does that when he’s looking for a particular plaything, so I suspect that will happen in a day or two.

b9Hopefully, with all his other toys, he won’t mourn for long, but I’ll still have sympathy for him. I still remember my very first favorite toy, a stuffed Lassie dog with a rubber face. I loved that thing to pieces, both figuratively and literally. I got it when I was a baby, so I chewed the nose to the point where a lot of the black color was gone. Given that it was the 1960s, goodness only knows what was in the paint, but in those days whatever didn’t kill you just made you tougher. I know poor Lassie got sewed up more than a few times, too.

I don’t remember what happened to Lassie, but I still think of that toy fondly every now and then. I even look at the vintage dopplegangers on eBay, like the one in the photo, and briefly toy with the idea of getting one, but I just wouldn’t be the same. A newly bought Lassie might have ragged, drooping ears, worn fur, and a half-faded nose, but it wouldn’t be from my childhood hugs and “love chews.”

I know I can get Bolt another pink platypus, as I saw plenty of twins for Mr. Stenchpuss at Global Pet Expo. He’s a popular part of the Go Dog line, and hopefully Bolt would take to a duplicate, but I’ll always cherish my memories and photos of the original. He was the toy that won my new pup’s heart on day one and the catalyst for those very first moments of playing together with my little adopted Chiweenie. I had my Lassie and Bolt had his Mr. Stenchpuss, and they’ll always occupy that special “first toy” realm.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I also do pet tweets from that account. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Killing an endangered rhino isn’t enough: Dallas club won’t pay if it doesn’t get carcass

You’d think that when a species in endangered, especially to the point of the black rhino, no one would be allowed to hunt them, right? After all, according to the World Wildlife Fund, there were less than 5000 left as of last year.

b7Unfortunately, that assumption is wrong. If you have enough money, you can do what hunting guide Corey Knowlton recently did and pony up big bucks for a special permit to slaughter a selected animal. The Dallas Safari Club auctioned off the black rhino permit recently, defending the killing of a critically endangered animal by pointing out that the money will go for conservation.

The group claims the rhino will be killed by the African government anyway, since it’s old and no longer suitable for breeding, so why not allow a wealthy American’s vanity to turn it into a big game hunting spectacle in exchange for conservation cash?

Now the Dallas Safari Club is showing that it doesn’t give a rat’s butt about helping animals unless there’s a trophy involved by withholding its $350,000 “donation” to the Namibian government unless it gets permission to import the dead creature back into the United States, according to The Dodo.

Understandably, bringing endangered animal corpses into the U.S. is strictly forbidden, but the club wants the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make an exception. If it does, that will set a handy-dandy precedent that allows hunters to pay large sums for permits to mow down other endangered animals and bring home the bloody proof. After all, you can’t prove just how big and brave you are if you don’t have something dead to show for it.

If the Dallas Safari Club is so gung-ho about conservation, why not wire the money and let photos stand as proof of Knowlton’s manliness at being able to shoot an elderly creature to death? But no, their motto is apparently “corpse or it didn’t happen.”

Personally, I prefer to see wild animals alive and well at places like Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Busch Gardens Tampa, where you can see the lovely rhino in the photo accompanying this article for yourself. Busch Gardens has several behind the scenes tours, which is how I got close to this lovely animal, who doesn’t have to worry about being a stuffed vanity piece for someone who’s probably “compensating for something,” as Shrek would say.

Those two parks also support conservation of various endangered species, and they’re somehow able to do that without having a trophy kill involved.

For another animal killing travesty, check out my article on the slaughter of four healthy lions, including two cubs, at the same Denmark zoo that killed a young giraffe just weeks ago and publicly cut him up and fed his remains to the lions.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I also do pet tweets from that account. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Siegfried and Roy mourn death of white tiger Mantecore

Most people know Mantecore as the white tiger who severely mauled Roy Horn back in October, 2003, during a Las Vegas show. The big cat is reported to have grabbed him by the neck and dragged him offstage, although there’s long been controversy over whether Mantecore meant to hurt him or was being protective. Although the injury effectively meant the end of Siegfried and Roy’s famous magic act, Horn made an amazing recovery and actually returned to the stage in 2010 for a farewell performance.

b17Now the duo is mourning the death of Mantecore, who died at the ripe old age of 17. According to the Animal Time website, white tigers generally live about 10 years in the wild, so Mantecore enjoyed a very full lifespan. After the incident that left Horn partially paralyzed, the big cat went to live in the Secret Garden habitat at the Mirage. You can visit white tigers there, in a habitat that Siegfried describes as “a safe home for these animals where you can come and see them up close; to do so will touch your heart. Roy and I believe that when any species vanishes from this earth, all of us are in some way diminished.”

It’s apparent that Horn cared deeply for Mantecore, even after his devastating injury. I’ve always respected the fact that, as he was being taken away to the hospital, he kept repeating a plea not to hurt the cat. Yesterday he issued this public statement about Mantecore’s death:

The world has lost one of its most majestic creatures and I have lost a brother. I will forever believe it was his concern for my safety and well-being that caused him to act as he did on that night long ago. We spent many hours together and he never failed to bring me great joy and wonderment. It was my great honor to be beside him at the end. He is now playing with his siblings in White Tiger heaven.

You can see the pair with Mantecore in the photo accompanying this article, which the duo shared on their Facebook page. It’s apparent he was a gorgeous animal, and I’m sure that Siegfried and Roy miss him as much as any person who’s ever owned a beloved pet. Granted, their big cats are also a business, but the affection that shines through is genuine.

Personally I would never have the guts to raise white tigers and even let them roam in my house like the magician duo. Cats are enough of a handful for me, and they can turn into little tigers when they get enough catnip in them. I was reminded of that fact when I got a Scratch Lounger in the mail for the kitties to review today. I met the Scratch Lounger folks at Global Pet Expo, so they sent one over to see what my boys think.

b18Farquaad and SheiKra were all over the Scratch Lounger as soon as I opened it. The fact that it comes with a packet of catnip that acts as kitty crack added to the appeal. They were quickly fighting over it, in between sinking their claws into the cardboard, which is one of their favorite scratching surfaces. Farquaad might look innocent in the photo at left, but that’s only because he’s just chased poor SheiKra savagely away.

I’ll be doing a full review of the Scratch Lounger soon. In the meantime, you can find links to some of my Global Pet Expo product reviews in my About.com Pet Supplies & Product Reviews column.

It’s hard to find fault with the way Siegfried and Roy keep their big cats, even if you’re not fond of captivity. However, if you want a close look at the other side of the coin, check out my article on the Danish zoo that followed up its slaughter of a healthy young giraffe with the killing of four lions, including two cute little cubs.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I also do pet tweets from that account. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Denmark zoo that slaughtered young giraffe kills four healthy lions

b25My blog is called Doggone Orlando, but I love animals of all kinds. My personal menagerie includes a dog, cats, a bird, fish, guinea pigs, and a horse. Despite all the anti-captivity hoopla lately over Blackfish, I support zoos and aquariums that practice responsible stewardship of animals and that make conservation an integral part of their mission. That includes supporting SeaWorld, which you can read more about in my In the Shadow of the Mouse blog.

But I absolutely don’t support zoos that allow healthy animals to be born, then kill them for frivolous reasons, like the Danish zoo that recently used a bolt gun on a young male giraffe and promptly autopsied him in front of a audience that included young children.He was lured with rye bread, his favorite treat, and callously destroyed.

They killed two year old Marius simply because he didn’t fit into their breeding program, and after the surgical dismemberment they fed his remains to the resident lions. News of Marius’s death caused outrage in the United States, although apparently culling healthy animals for “management purposes” isn’t all that uncommon in some European zoos. Here’s a video from CNN that’s only mildly gory:

Why on earth would the zoo allow that giraffe to be born in the first place? They claim they don’t interfere with the natural mating of the animals, apparently considering it preferable to let them do what comes naturally, then publicly shatter the skulls of the result. Perhaps more scary than the dead giraffe is that the kids look fascinated rather than horrified. It’s probably a cultural thing, but I prefer seeing my giraffes the way I see them at a responsible park like Busch Gardens Tampa or Disney’s Animal Kingdom. That’s me in the photo at the top of this article, feeding a giraffe on the Busch Gardens safari, a great way to see their savannah up close.

Now that very same place, the Copenhagen Zoo, has killed two healthy lion cubs and their parents, simply to make way for a new male lion, according to news reports. The zoo’s excuse is that new lion would have killed the male cub and that the slaughter was necessary to maintain the pride structure. Seems like it would be better just not to get the new lion, but oh well.

I’m not sure why European zoos can’t be more diligent about their population control rather than allowing animals to be born, only to cut their lives short because they’re deemed to be unneeded or surplus.

b23I remember a couple of years ago when I visited Lion County Safari out in Loxahatchee, Florida, and saw their gorgeous lion pride. You can see one of their lionesses in the photo at left. I can’t even imagine killing those majestic creatures in the name of “managing” them, and putting down healthy cubs is especially abhorrent.

If the Denmark zoo video depressed you, check out the Lion Country video below, which shows a quick overview of the drive-through. It’s a wonderful place with spacious, natural animal habitats for everything from the lions to rhinos to chimps and more, and I highly recommend visiting it if you get the chance. It the closest you’ll ever come to visiting an African veldt without actually taking the trip to another continent.

Lion Country even has giraffes, but instead of watching them be autopsied, kids can actually feed them in the Safari World area. I think that teaches them a lot more about compassion and how to treat animals than the Denmark debacle.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I also do pet tweets from that account. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Small dogs in Florida are alligator snacks

b44As I was walking my dog, Bolt, out along the lake this morning, I spotted what looked like a floating log out in the middle of the water. I’ve lived in Florida long enough to be suspicious of such things, so I kept a wary eye on it. When we go to the lake, I like to use a retractable leash and let Bolt run a bit. but I have to be on guard because alligators live in just about any body of water in Florida that’s larger than a puddle.

This time, I was fooled for a while. The object appeared lifeless and still, and I told myself, “You’re just paranoid. It’s a log.” Then it started sinking slowly, in the lazy way that gators have when they’re done enough surface-level dog spotting and decide to move to underwater stealth.

Gators are crafty creatures, but you can’t blame them for doing what comes naturally. They don’t just go for little yap dogs, either. Last summer, a gator in Jacksonville managed to devour an 80 pound husky named Simba as he lapped water on the edge of a creek.

I remember a news story a few years back about a woman whose dog became an alligator appetizer when she let it run leash-less around the retention pond behind her home. She was absolutely aghast that there were alligators in the Orlando area. She declared her intention to lobby for fencing around every body of water anywhere near human habitation where a scaly green poodle snatcher might lurk.

Good luck, lady. I’m sorry about the loss of your dog, as I know how much it hurts to lose a beloved pet, but let’s look at reality. You can’t throw a rock in any direction without a good chance of landing it in a pond, and guess what? There’s probably a gator, or two, or three, hanging out in any sizable body of water here. When I moved to Florida, I was given a paper entitled “Living With Alligators” as part of the closing papers. I thought it was a joke until a week or so later, when I was out strolling and saw a giant gator sunning himself next to a pond less than two blocks from my house. Now, gators are commonplace to me, and I snicker at the tourists who go crazy over the sight of one of the big, green reptiles live and in person.

For Floridians, gators are commonplace, as are the lizards that make out-of-towners squeal, poisonous snakes, horror-movie sized spiders, and mosquitoes and roaches so big you can saddle ’em up and ride ’em into town. It’s part of my adopted home state’s charm, and, as a pet owner, I simply observe some precautions.

b45Responsible dog owners don’t let their dogs run loose by busy expressways and other potentially dangerous places in any part of the country. In Florida, that rule simply extends to running around ponds and lakes, too. When I’m near water, I’m always on the alert for danger because Bolt’s too excited about birds and squirrels and the possibility that another dog might come by and want to play “sniff the butt” to worry about the swampy jaws of death.

Bolt gets occasional revenge on the gators in the form of dog treats. Whimzees makes dental chews in a variety of cute shapes, including an alligator. I spotted the gators at Petco and absolutely had to try them. They’re vegetarian and gluten free, and Bolt loves chewing them down to nothing in a bit of dog-on-gator revenge, as you can see in the photo at the beginning of this article.

I’ll continue to be diligent on my walks, both for my dog and myself. It’s not common for gators to go after people, but it’s not unheard of either. Well-intentioned people who feed them contribute to the problem, since the creatures quickly loose their fear of humans.

As I write this post, I’m reminded of my favorite scene from the Reno 911 movie. This is not how to handle an alligator in your swimming pool:

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I also do pet tweets from that account. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Dogs chew the darndest things: How to keep them safe

My dog Bolt has lots of toys and chews. I mean, he really, really has a lot of toys and chews. He belongs to a pet product reviewer, which means that he gets all sorts of new goodies to try. When he sees me come into the house with a box from the mail carrier or UPS, he automatically assumes that it’s something for him.

b40He seemed to know he hit the jackpot from the moment I first brought him in the house. At the time, I had several dog toys on hand to review. They were in a box on the floor, and he immediately homed in on a pink platypus that’s from the Quaker Pets Go Dog line. He likes other toys, but that stinky, battered platypus is the one he always comes back to, like a little kid with his security blanket.

With a toy box that’s full to the brim, and various rawhide sticks, bones, and other items “buried” around in his bed and around the house, you’d think he wouldn’t chew anything inappropriate. Most of the time that’s true; he did try to nosh on my shoes once, right after I first adopted him, but he soon realized that he’d lucked into a spoiled dog bonanza of toys and never bothered with a stinky flip-flop again.

Thus I was shocked and horrified when I came into the family room and heard him crunching on something that didn’t sound like a proper toy or chew. The little bugger had found a water bottle on the floor and gnawed it pretty viciously before turning his attention to the cap, which he’d managed to splinter. I don’t think he managed to swallow much, if any, but I’ve been keeping an eye on him just to make sure there’s no tummy trouble.

b41So how do you keep your dog from chewing potentially dangerous items? I’m already taking the most obvious step, which is giving him safe, appealing alternatives. You can even offer proper toys that take the place of attractive but forbidden options. For example, Bolt has Pet Qwerks Bottle Skins toys in which I safety stuff old water bottles. You can see him noshing on his stuffed fox in the photo at left. They’re completely encased in the toy, so they have that same mouth feel and make the crackling noise without any danger to the dog.

Next, you can offer some edible alternatives. Toys get boring after a while, but rawhide or alternatives, natural treats like pig ears, bully sticks, and cow esophaguses, synthetics like Nylabones, and the like will keep a canine’s interest for a much longer time. When I took the bottle away from Bolt, I diverted his attention with a chew stick and he instantly forgot the plastic in favor of the yummy treat.

Last, dog-proof your house by keeping anything potentially dangerous out of the reach of your pet. I made the mistake of setting the water bottle on the floor, and Bolt snatched it. Conceivably, he could even grab a bottle from one of the end tables by the couch, so I need to be as diligent as I would be with a toddler.

Dogs are simple creatures. If something looks appealing, they put it in their mouths. If you leave your shoes scattered around or put other items where your furry friend can reach them, you can really blame him if he gives into temptation, just like a little kid who can’t resist a package of cookies.

You can up the anti-chewing ante if you need to by using a spray like Bitter Apple to deter your dog by assaulting his taste buds. Thankfully I don’t need to do that, as Bolt is good as long as he has proper alternatives on hand. Hopefully your dog will respond in the same way.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I also do pet tweets from that account. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Sad tale of dachshund abandoned by poor, elderly owners crumbles under close scrunity

Perhaps you saw the sad story a few days ago about an elderly dog abandoned outside a Los Angeles County animal shelter. Dumping a dog at a shelter happens thousands of times a day across the country, and sadly it’s not uncommon to leave animals when the facilities are closed. What made this case unusual was the note left along with the 13 year old dachshund, purportedly written by its poor, elderly owners.

According to the note, the people who left the dog were an elderly couple who had owned it for its entire life. It had been sick for a while, and they couldn’t afford medical treatment, so their hand-written missive asked the shelter to put it down.

Something felt off to me about this story from the moment I first read it. Too many heart-wrenching internet notes and tales of woe turn out to be manufactured for a less than honorable purpose. Remember the waitress who claimed she got a nasty note in place of a tip late last year because she was a lesbian? She collected a hefty sum in donations from sympathetic members of the public before the whole thing was revealed as a hoax when the diners came forward with proof she’d received a tip, not a note.

Then, just last month, a woman who claimed she rescued a puppy from a garbage can turned out to be the one who put it there in the first place. Her excuse was that she didn’t want to look bad when she dropped it off at a shelter.

Now it turns out that the abandoned dachshund’s owners are neither old nor poor, according to Ohmidog.com. They came forward when the story hit the news and a rescue called Leave No Paws Behind took in the unfortunate pup. The publicity meant a flood of donations from the public, and suddenly traveling ministers Chris and Christine Gonzales admitted that they were the owners of the dog, Harley.

Initially the rescue said it would return Harley to the Gonzales family. However, a little detective work by blogger Mary Cummins revealed that the couple has an income of $60,000 per year, according to online records. Even though they claimed to be sick in the note, online videos showed them working energetically in their ministry, performing purported healings and speaking in tongues. Interestingly, the videos have now been made private. In light of the revelations, the rescue isn’t giving the dog back to them, and they’re not pushing the issue.

So what does this mean to the average animal lover? While you might feel a tug on your heartstrings when you see a news story about an abandoned or mistreated animal, don’t immediately reach for your pocketbook. Yes, it might be legitimate, but sadly, there are plenty of people in this world who will take advantage of a dog or cat’s plight to line their own pockets. If you really want to help animals, find local groups that you can visit to see their work firsthand instead of giving handouts to unfamiliar individuals.

Many legitimate groups that help dogs and cats are scrambling for funds. Make sure that when you donate, it goes to a group that does good work, not the latest media darlings who may or may not be legitimate.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I also do pet tweets from that account. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Grumpy Cat toy recall makes frowning feline even grumpier

catIf you don’t know Grumpy Cat, you must be living in the bowels of the earth deep in the heart of Amish Country where the Internet has yet to be discovered. The Arizona feline with the perpetual frown in a darling of meme makers and head of his own fledgling industry. That includes everything from t-shirts to mugs to toys…or at least it did, until three of the toys got recalled.

Ontario-based toymaker Ganz announced the recall of three styles of Grumpy Cat plush toys because of a possible choking hazard to kids. The recall, which is happening in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Division, have eyes that could get detached and possibly be ingested, causing youngsters to choke. The three affected toy styles are the four-inch key clip, five-inch Grumpy Cat in a lying down position, and the eight-inch sitting Grumpy Cat. Look for a label with batch number 224861 or 86754. Call Ganz at 800-724-5902 for more information on how to return the toys.

I’m actually quite surprised that Grumpy Cat’s merchandising empire doesn’t include any dog or cat toys. I’m quite a fan of themed pet toys, as is my dog, Bolt. We got some Duck Dynasty toys and dog clothes last year, courtesy of my good friends at Quaker, and he had great fun noshing on toys shaped like Uncle Si and the rest of the game while dressing up in Duck Dynasty t-shirts, as you can see in the photo below. I’m sure he’d love to give a Grumpy Cat toy a good dachshund-style shaking. And I’m sure the cranky kitty would take that all in stride.

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