Sabal Chase Animal Clinic

Sabal Chase Animal Clinic
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pet Toys That Teach

If your furry friends have been good this year, and you plan to hang their stockings, consider asking Santa for toys that do more than simply entertain. As animal behaviorists learn more about the way our pets’ brains are wired, many of these experts are citing boredom as a reason for some of their unwanted behaviors. Most of us work throughout the day, leaving our pets to their own devices. It should come as no surprise when they amuse themselves by eating our socks, scratching our furniture, or nuisance barking.

When it comes to toys that teach, pet parents have a lot of choices. Food puzzles for both dogs and cats encourage pets to think and interact with a toy that dispenses food. If your pet is not particularly motivated by treats, consider a toy that encourages them to chase or play. A remote control mouse on a timer is irresistible to most cats, as it stimulates their natural instincts to hunt. A set of small squeak toys stuffed inside a larger toy will require a dog with a strong prey drive to “work” in order to get to the prize. And the viral video of the dachshund repeatedly loading tennis balls into an automated, pint-sized pitcher put The iFetch on every dog’s wish list. Whatever you put under the tree this year, remember -  the toys that teach are the gifts that keep on giving.

This food puzzle requires the dog to roll the ball in order to dispense the treats inside. Looks like somebody's got the hang of it. More treats please! Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Meet Josie, Our December Pet Of The Month!

Josie is a four-year-old Yorkshire Terrier who loves to snuggle! When she's not lounging in a lap, Josie enjoys frolicking at the beach, and going for long walks with her family.  When she's worn out from all the cuteness, her favorite place to recharge is in the laundry basket - with warm towels, fresh from the dryer, naturally!

Congratulations Josie, and share with all your friends - you're our Pet of the Month!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Introducing A New Cat To An Established Cat

A Tale Of Two Kitties:
Introducing A New Cat To An Established Cat

When bringing a new cat into a home where another cat resides, it’s important to make the introduction gradually. Throwing two cats together and expecting them to bond is an unreasonable expectation, and can lead to conflict down the road. For the first few days, the new cat should live in a single room of the house. Make the room as comfortable as possible, complete with toys, catnip, a bed, litter box, and scratching post. While the door will be kept closed, the two cats will still be aware of each other’s sounds and scents. This allows them to adjust to the idea of sharing their environment without unnecessary stress. Make sure you spend equal amounts of time with each cat. As you carry their scents back and forth, this too will allow them to slowly adjust to the new normal.

Throughout this process, feed both cats close to the closed door. Treats should be given in this manner as well. This exercise teaches them to associate each other’s presence with something predictable and positive - food!  After about three days, have the cats switch places. The established cat and all his possessions will move into the bedroom, while the new cat explores the rest of the house. Again, this gives each cat plenty of time to become acclimated to the other cat’s scent, and reduces the chance of either cat perceiving part of the house as his “turf.” Repeat the visiting and feeding rituals, making sure each cat gets plenty of TLC. After several days, your cats should be ready for supervised, face-to-face meetings. While the lead-up can be time-consuming, the reward of a drama-free household is well worth the extra effort.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Meet Ricky, Our November Pet Of The Month!

World, meet Ricky, our November Pet of the Month!

Ricky is a 14-year-old Maltese who's the apple of his mom's eye. Who could possible resist that sweet face and soulful gaze? Like a nice bottle of wine, Ricky just gets better as the years go by. He still loves attention and affection, and is utterly devoted to his family. So while some may use words like "mature" or "senior" to describe pets like Ricky, we think "vintage" is far more appropriate!

Congratulations, Ricky, and share with all your friends - you're our Pet of the Month!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Introducing A New Dog To An Established Dog

If you decide your dog needs a friend, remember the value of first impressions. What happens during the initial introductions can have lasting implications on their future friendship, so be sure to set them up for success from day one.

Before you bring the newbie home, make sure the existing dog has burned a lot of energy by walking, playing, and enjoying his favorite form of exercise. When meeting a new housemate, pent up energy can present a problem, so make sure the established dog is as calm as possible. Have the two dogs meet at a neutral and unfamiliar location, such as a park or parking lot. The introduction should happen while another handler holds the new dog’s leash. The first introduction should never be face to face! This can be perceived as a challenge in any meeting scenario. Allow the existing dog to sniff the newcomer’s backside (it’s what they do!) for a maximum of three seconds. Then switch roles - new nose meets old butt. Repeat the exercise several times, then go for a walk together. Once they have walked as a pack and are somewhat tired, allow them to sniff nose to nose. Again, allow only three seconds, then walk away and repeat several times. This should  allow you to get  a feel for how the relationship is progressing. Our younger needs at least six three-second nose to nose greetings before he’s ready to play. Every dog is different, so patience is the key. And speaking of patience, cat parents, next month, we’ll talk about introducing new cats. Stay tuned!

Destined to be BFFs!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Meet Boris, Our October Pet Of The Month

World, meet Boris, our October Pet Of The Month!

Boris is an eight-year-old-tabby who genuinely enjoys coming to see us. No, really! We think his signature collection of bow-ties gives him the self-confidence of a boss. They certainly make him that much more adorable.

Congratulations, Boris, and share with all your friends - not only are you one dapper dude, you're our Pet Of The Month!

Boris is one fabulous feline!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hairballs Happen

Hairballs Happen
By Dr. Ian Kupkee

Mankind has been fascinated for thousands of years by the regal and dignified nature of domestic cats. Yet in spite of their mystique, many of our feline friends are plagued by the rather inelegant problem of hairballs. Hairballs happen when cats ingest too much hair during the self-grooming process. Allergies, skin diseases, stress, and external parasites are just a few reasons why cats may shed enough hair to present a problem. If your cat is losing weight, refusing food, or vomiting hair more than once a week, it’s time to see your veterinarian for a checkup.

Most of the time, however, hairballs can be controlled by making a few simple changes at home.  Daily brushing can greatly reduce the amount of hair your cat ingests. Adding omega-3 fatty acids to their diets can mitigate shedding, but supplements must be specifically labelled for use in cats. Products intended for humans often contain artificial sweeteners that are toxic to pets. Additionally, your kitty may respond to a diet that is higher in fiber, or one containing fewer potential allergens. Ask your veterinary healthcare team to recommend a suitable diet for your individual cat. Since hairballs can occasionally lead to life-threatening blockages which require a surgical fix, it’s best to intervene sooner rather than later.  Minor adjustments at the first sign of trouble are often the key to preventing a hairball horror.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Meet Gustava, Our September Pet Of The Month

World, meet Gustava, our September Pet of the Month!

When she's not playing the part of belle of the beach, you can find this fabulous Frenchie enjoying a moment of Zen. Her other other hobbies include improving the view, being spoiled, and posting on social media. You can follow her adventures on Instagram by searching for GustavaLaFrenchie, or check her out by clicking here

Congratulations, Gustava, and share with all your friends (and followers!) - you're our Pet of the Month!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Shaving Pets For The Summer

As we continue to slog through the dog days of summer, many pet owners have their pets shaved as a means of keeping them cool. It stands to reason that since humans require fewer layers of clothing, pets would be happier with less fur. Yet many pet parents are surprised to
learn that veterinarians do not generally recommend that summer shave.  

While it seems counterintuitive, your pet’s coat not only keeps him warm during the winter, but also cool during the summer. His coat is part of the body’s entire process of thermolregulation, and removing large quantities of hair interferes with said process. Additionally, shaving exposes the skin to allergens. Normally these might cling to the hair without causing discomfort for your pet. Without the protection of his coat, however, your pet may begin suffering from allergic dermatitis. Excess sun exposure can become a problem as well. A pet’s bare skin can burn quickly and severely in the absence of the protection that’s usually afforded by his fur. If your pet has an especially thick coat, ask your veterinarian what is best for your individual pet. Even if you get a green light for a shave, be sure to leave at least an inch of hair to keep sunburn and allergies at bay.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Meet Gato, Our August Pet of the Month

World, meet Gato, our August Pet of the Month!

Like so many of South Florida's fabulous felines, Gato was a rescue with an uncertain future. For a long time, chronic skin problems and a malformed front paw stood between this sweet boy and a loving forever home. But that changed when his awesome cat daddy looked past his exceptionalities and saw a grateful heart and a new best friend.

These days, Gato spends his time watching the world go by from the comfort of a sunny window sill. And when that gets boring, he hangs out in the wall-mounted kitty condo his dad made especially for him!

Congratulations, Gato, and share with all your friends - not only did you hit the adoption jackpot, you're our Pet of the Month!

Just enjoying the view...

Chillaxin' on the top floor of the kitty condo loft!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Preventing Pet Theft

South Florida residents are forever being warned about the prevalence of property theft. Generally speaking, our local miscreants are looking for cash, electronics, jewelry, and cars. Whilst victims of burglary often report feeling angry and vulnerable, many are quick to add that their possessions are merely "things".  And things can be replaced. Sadly, however, more and more families are arriving home to find that their irreplaceable pets have been stolen as well.

Small, purebred dogs are common targets for pet thieves. Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas and Malteses are especially vulnerable. French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers are hot commodities, and the popularity of Labradors and Labradoodles has caused a coinciding spike in thefts of these breeds as well. Finally, dog-nappers single out breeds with reputations for guarding and fighting. This puts German Shepherds, Pit bull type dogs, Rottweilers and Dobermans squarely in the sights of dog thieves.

The best way to protect your pets from theft is to keep them under your supervision at all times.  Keep them indoors when you are not at home, and secure your home to the best of your ability.  Unless your large breed dogs have been trained to protect your home, do not leave them outdoors unattended. Dog thieves are not easily intimidated, are many are very good at making friends with so-called "guard dogs." Finally, even if the air conditioner is running, do not leave a dog unattended in a car. Cars can be stolen in the time it takes us to blink, and a canine passenger is an added bonus to a car thief. Make sure your pets are micro-chipped, as this tiny device can provide proof of legal ownership if your pet is recovered and claimed by another party.

Sadly, we live in a time and space where too many humans fail to see animals as anything other than commodities. If we apply the same principles of vigilance towards our pets as we do to our inanimate possessions, we can offer our companion animals a measure of protection from the unthinkable.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Meet Misty Mae, Our July Pet Of The Month!

This month, our featured pet is Misty Mae! Misty Mae is a seven-year-old Maltese who's got her humans wrapped around her proverbial little finger. When she's not melting hearts with those  big brown eyes, Misty can be found trailing her human brother in the hopes he might drop something interesting - like a pacifier!

Don't be fooled by the posh purebred routine - there's never a dull moment when this gal is in the house. She's the perfect balance of sweetness and spunk. And Dr. Kupkee has been caught fawning over her on more than one occasion!

Congratulations, Misty Mae, and share with all your friends - you're our Pet Of The Month!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fighting Felines: Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

One of the most common problems cat owners face is that of cats who share the same space, but can’t seem to get along. When a new cat is brought into a home with an established, resident cat, the transition does not always go smoothly. New cats should always be introduced gradually. Start by limiting the newcomer’s range to certain rooms in your home. The established cat will know there is a new cat in the house, but neither will have to be in the other’s space at first. Let the established cat smell anything with which the new cat has had contact, and leave the item in a communal area. This will let the established cat know that eventually, this will be a shared space. Face to face meetings should be brief at first, and must always end on a good note. Reward both cats for their good behavior with treats, play activities, and praise.

If one of the cats is bullying the other, you may need to seek help from a trainer or behaviorist. Many Certified Professional Dog Trainers are also great with cats, so don’t give up if a Google search for cat behaviorists is fruitless. As a short term solution, make sure the cat who is being bullied has access to a high shelf, cat tree, or kitty condo. Height provides cats with feelings of both confidence and safety, and a cat who is not feeling stressed is less likely to develop health and behavioral problems. Additionally, the bully cat should wear a collar with a bell attached. The sound of the bell will alert the other cat to the movements of the bully. This prevents the target from being ambushed or stalked, and gives him plenty of time to escape to higher ground. Make sure the collar is labelled for cats, and will safely break apart if it gets caught. This trick alone tends to even the field, and should help keep the peace until a the behaviorist arrives.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Meet Chiquita, our June Pet of the Month!

World, meet Chiquita, our June Pet of the Month! Chiquita is a 12-year-old Miniature Pinscher who loves sunbathing and being spoiled. And who can resist spoiling that face? Despite the adulation, Chiquita's sweet and laid back temperament made her an instant hit with our team. Even when she's waiting for Santa with her four-legged companions, she still keeps her cool.

Congratulations, Chiquita, and share with all your friends - you're our Pet of the Month!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Hype About Flu

The Hype About Flu!
What You Need To Know About H3N2!

The recent H3N2 outbreak in Central Florida has alarmed many pet owners. Here is some information on what you should know.

  • Ace recovering from an upper respiratory infection.
    The H3N2 virus was first discovered in Chicago, Illinois in 2015. Since then the virus has been found in more than 30 states, including Florida.
  • In December 2015, Merck released the first H3N2 vaccine.
  • PLEASE NOTE: the H3N8 vaccine, either from Merck or Zoetis, does NOT offer cross protection against the H3N2 virus. It is a different strain altogether.
  • The vaccine may not 100% prevent the virus, but it will offer more protection than not vaccinating at all. If a vaccinated dog contracts H3N2, it will not last as long and the symptoms will not be as serious.
  • The virus can survive in the environment for up to 24 hours but is easily killed with soap and water.
  • The best way to prevent your dog from getting the virus would be to vaccinate against the H3N2 virus AND to limit your dog’s exposure to areas that they may socialize with other dogs like dog parks, day care, shelters, pet stores, dog shows, social events, etc.  
  • Testing is available if your dog shows signs of coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, decreased appetite, and lethargy. PLEASE avoid contact with other pets if your dog shows these symptoms.
  • The H3N2 virus can infect cats, but not humans. There is currently no vaccine for cats.
  • Treatment involves supportive care, cough suppressants and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection. Some dogs contract pneumonia secondary to H3N2 and require hospitalization.

The University of Florida has detailed information for pet owners here.

Here at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic, we have been offering the H3N2 vaccine since it first came out in 2015. At that time, we made it a mandatory vaccine for all of our boarders.

If you wish to schedule an appointment to get your dog vaccinated for H3N2, please call us as soon as possible so we can accommodate you. If this is the first time your dog has received this vaccine (or if your dog was not previously boostered), they will need to return in 2-3 weeks for a 2nd vaccination.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dogs And Kids: Don't Punish The Growl

Don't Punish The Growl

Every year, roughly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs. Nearly half of the victims of said bites are children between the ages of five and nine.  Throughout my career, I have seen these statistics manifested in the form of traumatized children and surrendered pets. Veterinary professionals are forever telling parents to closely watch interactions between dogs and children. Yet we often fall short when it comes to telling them what they should be watching for.

Perhaps the most telling sign of impending trouble between dogs and kids is the growl. When asked by researchers how they would react if they caught their dog growling at their child, the response of most parents was that they would punish the dog - severely. After all, they would want to be sure it never happened again. Dogs, however, are cause-and-effect thinkers. To a dog, a growl is a warning. She is saying, “Back off, or I will bite you.” When this behavior is punished, she learns that giving a warning leads to unpleasant consequences. The result is a dog who skips the warning, and goes straight to the bite. Should you catch your dog growling at your child, calmly separate the pair, and seek immediate assistance from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. These caring professionals can help both dogs and families to safely  enjoy the human-animal bond.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Meet Agatha, our May Pet of the Month!

Introducing Agatha, our May Pet of the Month! While the two-year-old tabby may look innocent and sweet, this feisty feline wears the Cone of Shame like a boss. She bravely did battle with a string of twine measuring five feet, four inches in length. And it wasn't enough to simply defeat the twine - she ate it!

All of it.

Thanks to her mom's quick thinking, Agatha is now recovering from a 90-minute surgical procedure in which Dr. Kupkee removed the twine from her intestines and stomach.

All of it.

She ate what?!

While she continues to flaunt her Cone of Shame, we've no doubt she'll be back to her spirited self as soon as her stitches are removed. In the meantime, she continues to heal like a champ - and what remains of the twine has been safely stashed out of her reach.

Congratulations, Agatha, and share with all of your friends - you're not only the Slayer of Twine, you're our Pet of the Month!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Leptospirosis and Pets

Leptospirosis and Pets
By Dr. Ian Kupkee

As South Florida temperatures begin to rise, the veterinary community is likely to see an uptick in cases of Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria which is spread through the urine of wild mammals. Although rats are the most common carriers, it is also spread by opossums, mice, skunks, squirrels, and raccoons. While cats are capable of contracting Leptospirosis, feline cases of the disease are extremely rare. Dogs, on the other hand, are always keen to explore the scents associated with wild animals. This common practice of “checking pee-mail” is often how our pets come into contact with this potentially deadly pathogen.

While Leptospirosis is found all over the United States, the bacteria thrives in warm, subtropical climates. It can survive for long periods of time in standing water, including pet bowls that are left outdoors. Humans are also at risk; Florida reported four human cases of Leptospirosis in 2015, one of which was here in Miami-Dade County. Left untreated, Leptospirosis attacks the liver, kidneys, and lungs. It is nearly always fatal. Thankfully, there is a canine vaccine to protect our pets from this nasty bug. It is often included in the Distemper combination vaccine, and has a one-year duration of immunity. If you are unsure as to whether or not your dog is protected, call your vet and find out if their vaccines are up to date. Your veterinary team can advise you on how to best defend your pet from this increasingly common, and deadly infectious disease.
Raccoons are some of the most common carriers of Leptospirosis

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Meet Weezer, our April Pet of the Month!

This April, our Pet of the Month is Weezer! Weezer is a two-year-old dachshund mix who was adopted from Miami Dade Animal Services. He may be small, but this guy fought a battle with Canine Distemper and won! He was also recently featured on CBS 4, during a segment on the current rabies alert in East Kendall. He was due for his rabies vaccine, and once again, he was very brave! Click here to check out the segment.

Despite his celebrity status, Weezer still loves hanging out at Wood Tavern in trendy Wynwood with his dad. While he was perfectly happy to stop by for a photo shoot, he had no time to sign "paw"-tographs. After all, it's Happy Hour somewhere!

Congratulations, Weezer, and share with all your friends - you're our Pet of the Month!

"Can we speed this up? My fans are waiting at Wynwood!"

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Community Cats

Community Cats

Many South Floridians share their lives with so-called community cats. Such cats are not members of any one particular household, but roam outdoors, sticking to familiar neighborhoods and feeding stations. They vary in temperament from truly feral cats who live like wild animals, to friendly strays who were likely abandoned by their owners. While many of us do not mind providing food and water for these special souls, there are a few essentials to keep in mind.

Cats can begin reproducing as early as five months of age. They often become pregnant with their next litter while still nursing a current litter! It is therefore crucial to make sure all community cats are spayed or neutered. Miami-Dade Animal Services performs these procedures free of charge, so schedule the surgery before your visitor becomes a village!  If you share your home with indoor cats, place the community cat’s food and water bowls as far away from the house as possible. Your indoor kitty may perceive the newcomer as a threat, and resort to undesirable behaviors such as urinating outside the litter box to mark his or her territory. While community cats are happy to create their own outdoor restrooms, many will use a litter box. Not all of our neighbors appreciate community cats, especially if their yards are routinely fouled by our feline friends. This simple addition can go a long way towards keeping the peace, and ensuring community cats have as little negative impact as possible.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay Free Images

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Meet Rex, Our March Pet Of The Month!

World, meet Rex, our March Pet Of The Month!

Rex is a Yellow Lab who will be six years old on the 28th.  When he's not swimming, cuddling, and playing with his two-legged big brother, Rex can be found sitting upright on the sofa. That's the cue for his household humans to stop what they are doing, and bring on the belly rubs! With his birthday coming up, chances are he'll be getting lots and lots of them.

Congratulations, Rex, and Happy Birthday in advance. Be sure to share with all your friends - you're our Pet Of The Month!

Was Rex the cutest puppy ever or what?!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February is Pet Dental Health Month!

February is Pet Dental Health Month!

Every so often, a client will express a degree of surprise when I recommend routine dental cleanings, and home dental care for their pets. Folks my age, give or take a decade, were taught from a young age that while “doggie breath” was unpleasant, it was normal. Many of us (including me!)  were even told “a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s.”  While much of the folklore with which we grew up has withstood the tests of both time and science, we now know that dental disease is a genuine threat to the overall health of our pets.  The good news, however, is that it’s easily preventable.

Like their human counterparts, dogs and cats should receive regular, professional dental cleanings. The frequency of these cleanings will vary depending the pet’s species, breed, diet, and certain genetic factors. Home dental care can reduce the buildup of tartar and dental plaque, and decrease the number of professional cleanings needed.  Untreated dental disease can lead to cardiac problems, kidney failure, and systemic infections.  Ask your veterinarian what his or her recommendations may be for for keeping Fluffy’s teeth healthy and strong. Like many other aspects of pet health care, an ounce of dental disease prevention is often worth a pound of cure.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Meet Lucy, Our February Pet Of The Month!

World, meet Lucy, an eight-year-old sweetheart who's the object of her family's affection. When she's not wrapping her people around her proverbial little finger, Lucy enjoys sunshine, luxurious baths, and of course, posing for fabulous photos.

Congratulations, Lucy, and share with all your friends - you're our Pet Of The Month!

This gal *knows* she's a star!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Surviving Your Puppy's Adolescence

Surviving Your Puppy's Adolescence

It’s no secret that raising a puppy requires copious amounts of both time and patience.  Chewing, crying, destructiveness, demands for attention, and potty-training mishaps are all just par for the course.  But they’re sooooo cute! And the difficult phase only lasts few months, right? Wrong. Once your new edition is finished being a puppy, he enters a new, and often far more maddening phase of development: adolescence. Starting anywhere between nine and twelve months of age, that sweet little puppy will become - gasp! - a teenager.

Like human teenagers, adolescent dogs may test the resolve of their superiors. They often revert to the types of behaviors we thought they had long outgrown.  Like the rebellious, back-talking teen-aged child, teen-aged puppies often leave us scratching our heads, wondering where we went wrong. Obnoxious puppy behaviors such as play biting and jumping on guests may return with a vengeance. This is when behaviors such as growling, food guarding, and blatant disobedience of commands tend to appear seemingly out of nowhere. It is also when dogs are most commonly surrendered to shelters. Unaware of the existence of this challenging phase, many people assume they have either failed as dog owners, or are stuck with a “bad dog.”  These scenarios are rarely the case. The solution to the Terrible Teens is a combination of consistency, patience, and preparation. Do your research on canine adolescence as soon as you bring your puppy home. As with most other situations, you’ll be happy to have a plan when you need one.
Zohan at 14 months. He swears he wasn't eating the Halloween pumpkin, but note the debris field on the floor near his tail...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Goodbye, Tilikum

Goodbye, Tilikum
By Dr. Ian Kupkee

Last year, SeaWorld announced that Tilikum, the killer whale featured in the documentary “Blackfish”, was gravely ill.   A video statement was given by his veterinarian.  I was not in a place where I could turn up the volume, but it didn’t matter.  The look on his face said it all.  His patient was dying, and there was nothing he could do.  I’ve been there myself, and  I know that look.

I was not going to write this piece.  It’s a sad story with a sad ending, but that wasn’t the cause of my reticence. I held back because, like most sad stories, Tilikum’s is complicated.  So too is the gamut of emotions that are stirred when the arc of such a story nears its end.

The outpouring of emotion on social media, however, was immediate and intense.  Amidst all the expressions of sorrow, anger, and heartache, one comment in particular caught my eye:

“Violent, savage monster.  Good riddance.”

Emboldened, another commentator chimed in, “Seriously. They’re called ‘killer’ whales for a reason.”

Perhaps it was a similar, latent sentiment that was causing me to drag my feet.  Tilikum was involved in the deaths of three people.  For the loved ones they left behind, those broken families, this news cycle will be especially painful.  We must not let our compassion for Tilikum displace empathy for our fellow man.

That being said, there is another broken family in this tragic tale. It’s a closely-knit family of sentient beings, swimming through Icelandic waters.  It’s a family that watched in agony as one its youngest was corralled into a net, and flown to the hell that is, for orcas, captivity.  Years later, the calf who cried for his mother would make headlines as the beast whose rage took the life of someone who loved him dearly. Such rage is the product of captivity. It is the bastard child of isolation from family, and crippling silence, conditions orcas were never meant to endure. Dawn Brancheau’s autopsy lists blunt force trauma and drowning as the official causes of her death.  But ultimately, it was captivity that killed her.  The silence took her, just as it took Tilikum the moment he was torn from the sea.

Some of Tilikum’s followers have vowed to meet him at the Rainbow Bridge someday.  For those of you who have never lost a pet, the Rainbow Bridge is a place in Heaven where the souls of the departed are reunited with the souls of the beloved pets who passed before us.  

Tilikum will not be there. He was not a pet, and while we may have taken him, he never belonged to us.  I pray his final performance will be to leap over the mythical Rainbow Bridge, and swim as far as possible from even the most sainted, and immortal human hands.  We destroyed him in this life.  May his life eternal be free of us at last.

“Violent, savage monster.  Good riddance.”

Perhaps, as he begins his journey, he is thinking the same of humanity.

As I struggled with how to end this piece, I asked my wife if she thought there was a Heaven for Tilikum.

“Um, yeah,” she scoffed, without missing a beat.  “It’s called the ocean.”

And there it is.

I found my final wishes for Tilikum in a book of ancient Celtic prayers:

“May the clarity of light be yours.
May the fluency of the ocean be yours.
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.”

Safe journey, Tilikum.  Don’t stop at the Bridge; we don’t deserve you. Peace and rest await you. Perhaps the silence has you still, but softly at first, you will start to hear the budding of eternal sound.  

Your ancestors call to you.  No man will follow.  The ocean’s vast embrace is yours again.

Only this time, it’s forever.

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic in Miami, Florida.

Orca image courtesy of Pixabay Free Images

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Meet Cookie, Our January Pet Of The Month!

This month, we're kicking off 2017 by naming Cookie our January Pet of the Month. Cookie is a thirteen-year-old brown tabby cat who was adopted from a shelter when she was eight years old. Senior cats are often left to languish in shelters while
prospective adopters search for kittens. While kittens are adorable, it's important to remember that these little buggers can be a lot of work. Their boundless energy and demands for attention can try the patience of busy pet owners. A senior cat may be the perfect fit, and adopting one is more likely to save a life. Cookie not only avoided an uncertain future, it appears she's hit the forever home jackpot!

Congratulations, Cookie, and share with all your friends - you're our Pet Of The Month!