Thursday, November 20, 2014

Adopt a Senior Pet Month: Snowball

With her unique appearance and gentle spirit, Snowball is a favorite among staff and volunteers here at Animal Friends. Snowball relishes in the attention from her adoring fans, hoping one of them will give her a home.

The future was uncertain for Snowball when she came to Animal Friends almost a year ago. When the children in her family developed allergies, Snowball and her sisters, Brownie and Shadow, came to Animal Friends for a second chance at a forever home. The three Lionhead rabbits quickly charmed their way into the hearts of many. Little did Snowball know, she would pioneer new programs at the shelter!

It was Snowball’s relaxed, quiet and mild-mannered nature that made her a perfect candidate to be Animal Friends’ very first Therapets rabbit.

Animal Friends’ Therapets program sends experienced volunteer teams to hospitals, nursing homes, residential treatment facilities, schools and libraries throughout Allegheny and Beaver Counties. On a recent Therapets trip to South Park Library, Snowball was calm and polite while children took turns petting her. She thrilled library patrons with her temperament and adorable looks.

Come speak with our Adoptions Team today and see how adopting a senior bunny can bring so much joy to your life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Adopt a Senior Pet Month: Izzy and Jellybean!

Guest Blogger: Beth Mauder, Adoption Counselor

I’ve always been a fan of the underdog and senior cats certainly fall into this category. 

There is something about a round chubby black cat that just makes me smile. If you are looking for someone to keep you company as the snow falls in front of your window, come in and meet the mellow lap cats Izzy and Jellybean.

Izzy is nine years old and has the best purr in the world. She sounds like a pigeon cooing in the park. 

Until recently Jellybean was residing in a cage where she acquired many fans among the dog walkers who she greeted cheerfully every day.  She recently moved into a staff member’s office where she is receiving visitors and enjoying lounging on a desk. 

Both ladies would love to be only pets and the center of someone’s world. If you have never adopted a senior pet, stop in and meet some of ours! They still have lots of love to give and we are sure you will fall in love after just a few minutes with these wonderful cats.

Mondays with Myrtle - The first in an occasional series

Today, we introduce you to Myrtle. We wanted to give you a behind-the-scenes look of an animals journey, start to finish.

Myrtle began her journey with Animal Friends on Oct. 11, 2014. She was transferred from another animal welfare agency.

Myrtle is estimated to be about 11-1/2-years old. For the first eight years of her life, Myrtle lived with her owner in an apartment.  

When Myrtle was about 8-years-old, her owner had to move in with her sister and left Myrtle alone. Once a week or so, she would stop in and provide food for Myrtle. This was the only human interaction Myrtle had for three years. The apartment was not heated or air-conditioned, there was no litter box and the only available water was from the toilet.  

Myrtle was severely matted when she was rescued, but acted in a friendly manner to her rescuers. Unfortunately, the veterinary care she required was uncomfortable and her behavior turned to distrust of humans. However,
resolution of her medical issues (such as hyperthyroidism and a urinary tract infection) may bring about a change for the better in Myrtle’s behaviors.

Prior to her admission, Myrtle lived in a foster home. Her foster mom stated that Myrtle would only eat food every other day. We think this stems from the rationing of food she was forced to use in her prior living situation. She overcame this and continues to eat well at Animal Friends.  

Myrtle is completely deaf and has some significant visual impairment so our Behavior Team is taking this into account while planning activities and enrichment games.  

Myrtle’s behavior change project will begin with trust and confidence building and will use a high-value reinforcement (we discovered she LOVES tuna!).  

Trainers will reward any desirable behaviors: eye blinks, ear movements, paw movements that are not swatting and changes in body position. Handing out some tuna when she exhibits these actions will reinforce them and help Myrtle learn that humans are here to help.

Myrtle is just one animal, of thousands, that has come through our doors with behavior and health issues. Because of our dedicated and talented staff, she has made progress already in her very short time at Animal Friends.

Please stay tuned and keep up with Myrtle's progress, hopefully sooner rather than later she'll be another happy tale in Animal Friends' book.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Adopt A Senior Pet Month: Why Adopt a Senior Pet?

Guest Blogger: Debbie Viducich

Having volunteered with various animal welfare organizations over the years, I am all too familiar with the incessant problems that plague those of us in animal rescue.   It was no different at the small, humane society in West Virginia where I was a volunteer and a member of the Board of Directors. 

In the spring of 2004, the shelter, in typical fashion, housed several cats and kittens awaiting adoption.  One of these cats, a huge, male Siamese mix with the most beautiful blue eyes, resided in a small kitchen that connected the dog and cat kennel areas.  His name was Bubby and he was 13-years-old.   


Through no fault of his own, Bubby had been a member of various households over the years. When he should have been living out his golden years in a nice home, he instead resided at a small shelter where, due to his advanced age, the odds of him finding a forever home were not favorable.  Did I mention he also had an eye infection that would result in the surgical removal of that eye?  For a senior, one-eyed cat, the chances of a forever home were slim.

My family and I, which at the time consisted of two adults, two young daughters, two dogs and two other cats, adopted Bubby, making him a permanent member of our family.  We had eight absolutely wonderful years with Bubby, before he passed away peacefully at the ripe old age of twenty-one years. He was quite possibly the most loving and laid-back cat we have ever known.  While some may lament that our time with him was relatively short, we were extremely grateful to have had those eight years.  

When we moved back to Pittsburgh, we adopted a senior Cocker Spaniel, named Fluffy, that had entered Animal Friends as a stray.   At the time, Animal Friends was in the process of moving from its location on Penn Avenue to its current location.  To ease her transition to the new facility, our family took her home, as a medical foster Shortly afterwards she too became a permanent member of our household.  

Fluffy with Debbie's daughters


Calvin, a now 14 ½- year-old Chihuahua joined our family 18 months ago. Just this week, we adopted Patches, now known as Cleo, a 13-year-old Toy Poodle mix.

Cleo - Photo by: Linda Mitzel

This is just the beginning of our desire to adopt senior pets.  My family’s philosophy is this:  we would rather have a few short years with our beloved animal companions than no years at all.   We like to think of our seniors as wise and gentle souls, not to be pitied but to be nurtured and loved for whatever time they have left on this earth.  

They give us so much more than we could ever give them, for they provide us their unwavering love and devotion in exchange for a gentle touch, a kind word, consistent meals, and a warm bed to lay their tired bodies.   As I write this, my fervent wish is that more people would consider opening their hearts and homes to senior animals. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Adopt A Senior Pet Month: Mahayla

Mahayla can seem like a dubious little kitty. She is shy and hides at first, but after some warming up she is truly loving and affectionate. She has never been around children and tends to hide when near them. Even so, she is used to a quiet yet occasionally noisy environment. 

When she trusts and knows you, she becomes very loving and enjoys spending time with you. She likes to lay on your lap, cuddle and sleep with you at night, and will follow you wherever you may go!

She is truly a lover of the peace and quiet. She is best for someone who is calm and nurturing. If this sounds like you, or the type of kitty you want to hang around with, come in and meet with Mahayla today!

 Animal Friends is celebrating Adopt a Senior Pet month all November long by highlighting some of our great senior pets!  Senior animals make wonderful companions.  A warm spot on the couch next to you and love is all they ask for.  If leisurely walks and afternoon naps are your thing, come visit any one of our senior pets today! 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Animal Friends Providing Treats, Not Tricks, for Residents

In light of the Halloween season, Animal Friends is providing enrichment for its shelter residents based on this ghoulish holiday. 

Some of the things going on through Halloween are:

• New holiday scents, maple and pumpkin, have been brought into rotation to be sprayed in the kennels every day.  (Even the humans enjoyed the maple scent. It was reported our kennels smelled like pancakes!)

For dogs:
- Pumpkins as a new toy.
- Pumpkinsicles for a unique seasonal treat.
- Filling the wading pool with new items, such as Halloween-rubber ducks in water and filling the entire pool with fallen leaves. 

- Squash bowling.
- Orange Nylabones.

• For cats:
- Feliway (an artificial pheromone that copies those that cats produce in their cheeks and use to mark their territory as safe) ghosts.
- Orange origami balls with jack-o-lantern faces.
- Orange pipe-cleaner pretzel twists.

• For rabbits:
- Pumpkin pies for a unique seasonal treat.
- Broomstick-hay tubes (paper towel tubes with a fringed end filled with hay).

The goal of enrichment is to provide a daily environment that is varied and stimulating and to allow the animals to engage in natural behaviors. Enrichment activities that engage all of the animals’ senses are beneficial to their physical and behavioral health. The activities provide opportunities to think and to explore space – therefore providing a sense of control to shelter animals. More importantly, stimulating their brains reduces stress and is fun! See the shelter animals enjoying these enrichment activities.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Pet Safety Tips

By the Staff at Petagogy

Halloween is just around the corner! While you’re gathering together your costume, stocking up on candy and transforming your yard into a graveyard, remember that holidays like Halloween can be stressful times for your pets. Pets don’t understand why their best two-legged pals are wearing funny masks, or why people keep ringing the doorbell over and over again.

To keep Halloween fun and safe for everyone in the family, consider the following pet safety tips:

• If you and your children are going to dress up in costume for Halloween, allow your dog and cat to see and sniff the costume before putting it on to prevent them from being frightened. 

• Keep candy, especially chocolate and gum, away from your pets––chocolate, candies containing Xylitol (a sugar-alcohol sweetener), wrappers and other ingredients can be poisonous and even fatal for pets if they ingest it. According to Petplan, a leading pet insurance company, pets are 140% more likely to suffer from chocolate-related poisonings during the week of Halloween than any other time of year.

• Raisins are becoming a popular alternative for trick-or-treaters; however, raisins are just as bad as chocolate for pets—even in small doses, raisins can cause kidney-failure and should be kept far away from your four-legged friends.

• Don’t bring your dogs trick or treating––the costumes, noise, music, yelling kids, lights and decorations can be frightening and stressful for many dogs. 

• Beware of outfitting your home or yard with decorations that can cause a hazard to your pets, such as corncobs and stalks, cobwebs, glowsticks and plastic decorations (which can look like toys but are a choking hazard). Also, be sure to cover and hide all electrical cords. 

• If you are giving out candy on Halloween night, consider keeping your pets blocked off from the front door by either putting a pet gate in the doorway or sequestering them in another room of the house. The constant doorbell ringing and kids yelling in costume might be stressful and cause a dog or cat to escape out the front door. Also, fear may trigger your normally friendly dog’s instinct to bark, possible scaring your young Halloween visitors. 

• Make sure your pets have proper identification, including tags and/or microchips, in case they do escape out of an open door so they can be safely returned home. 

• If you dress your pet in costume make sure it fits well enough to allow for breathing room, visibility and does not restrict movement. Also, be aware of loose or hanging parts that your pet can reach, chew and possibly choke on, including fringe, feathers, buttons and stuffing. Costumes can cause undue stress for pets, so if you decide to dress up your pet make sure he likes it first. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, try something simple like a festive bandana instead.

• Keep candles (free standing and those in pumpkins or luminaries) away from pets to prevent them burning themselves and/or starting a fire.  

Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies for dogs and cats. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Visit their website at

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Animal Friends Home-to-Home Adoption Program presents: Bella!

Bella is a 16-month-old American Stafford Terrier/Boxer/Afghan Hound mix (we’ve had her DNA tested).  

She weighs around 65 pounds.  We adopted her from a shelter when she was 4-months-old (we cannot return her to the shelter we adopted her from).  She has a reddish/tan, short coat and she doesn’t shed much.  

She has been spayed, is up to date on her shots and has been micro-chipped.  She has gone through obedience training with a private trainer in our home and is well trained on basic commands and leash walking.  

She is crate trained and house trained and does very well for long period of time without any accidents.  We have had no chewing problems and she demonstrates no destructive behavior.  She is a quiet dog that only barks on occasion or when stranger enter the house.  She has a medium energy level but is just as happy to lay at your feet after a walk.  When she is active, she is very athletic and would probably be good at agility training.  She is a very loyal dog who enjoys being around her people.

Unfortunately, we have to find a new home for her because she is very anxious, guarded and growls around young children under 6.  We have four children, with one being four-years-old, and live in a neighborhood full of children.  We have also experienced some guarding issues around food and moodiness. 

Given that we have worked with her for a year, with a variety of methods, without any improvement (it may even be worse), we have no choice but to re-home Bella.  She would make a great dog for a single person, couple or a family with older children.  Please help us find an equally wonderful home for this wonderful dog.

If you can help Bella find a forever home, please contact Frank at 412.306.0359

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Looking For A Home: Rickon

Guest Blogger: Lisa Bartel

All of the adoptable animals at Animal Friends are wonderful, potential pets for the right family. One of those dogs is Rickon: a dog who stole my heart. 

He came to Animal Friends as a puppy with two of his litter mates. They were each adopted, but Rickon was brought back due to his high energy. His family was growing and didn’t have the time to give Rickon the adequate amount of exercise he needed. Although not much is known about Rickon’s background, we can see that something has made him fearful.

You will fall in love with Rickon at first sight, but it may take a few slow meetings for him to fall in love with you. Once he does, he will love you forever. I am lucky to have the opportunity to spend time with Rickon each week as I volunteer at Animal Friends. I love to play with him in the play yards, do mental enrichment activities, walk around the campus and just snuggle and nap with him in his room or the backseat of my car. Oh, did I mention he loves car rides?!

After a year of being around Rickon, I knew that I – along with my husband and our dog – wanted to explore the option of fostering Rickon with the hopes of adopting. With the help of his other volunteer friends, we did meet-and-greets and walks together until everyone was comfortable. We brought Rickon home.

Upon bringing Rickon into our home, we learned very quickly that our dog needs to be the only dog in our home. Unfortunately, there was no way for us to adopt Rickon despite him being a wonderful dog in the home. He is very inquisitive and explorative. He also likes most other dogs. He enjoys one-on-one play and is a part of the weekly play groups at Animal Friends. He is smart and responsive to training with positive reinforcement.  Rickon is housebroken and will lead you to the door when he needs to go outside. Rickon has a healthy chewing habit but knows what and what not to chew. In my home, he only chewed the toys we gave him and never on anything else. He respected the boundaries we set up for him with baby gates and never tried to jump over them. Rickon really seemed to love my husband and this demonstrates his potential for making new friends. 

Rickon responded well to a daily schedule that included a walk, outside time, mental enrichment, training, naptime, and just being around us when we watched TV – Rickon snores when he sleeps and it’s adorable!

We know that Rickon will need to be in an adult-only home, possibly with another dog. This home must be patient and provide the mental and physical exercise and positive reinforcement that he requires. Rickon has some fear issues but once you get to know him you will be able to read his body language to know when he is feeling stressed and can help him to remain calm. 

The volunteers at Animal Friends have been worked tirelessly with Rickon on coping mechanisms to help with his anxiety and fear, loose-leash walking and how to go to his mat. All of these activities, as well as the mental enrichment games Rickon enjoys, can be shown to you when you meet Rickon.  We encourage you to continue these activities at home. 

If you have a patient, loving, adult-only home with time to give, please come meet Rickon. If you are looking for a companion that will love you unconditionally, consider making Rickon a part of your family. 

I look forward to each and every time that I see him. I wish I could have adopted him because he holds a special place in my heart.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Animal Friends Home-to-Home Adoption Program presents: Abby!

Abby is a beautiful one-year-old Tortie who had a rough start in life.  She was found as a stray, emaciated and with an enormous gaping wound on her side.  She has recovered well and turned into a friendly, playful cat. 

 She loves the cat teaser and to look out the window and cuddle in bed.  She tolerates my friendly dog. However she does not like other cats and would need a home where she would be the only feline.  She would probably do best in a home with older children.  

Abby is spayed, FIV and feline leukemia negative, and up-to-date on all of her shots.  Please contact Meg at for more information.  

Animal Friends' Home-to-Home Adoption Program presents: Cooper

Cooper is a wonderful, 4 year old Beagle who is looking for a forever home. He would prefer to be with older children and adults

Somewhere with lots of room to run and just be a Beagle would be awesome!
As you can see from his photo he loves to ride in the car!  He is also a bit of a lap dog and loves to be with his "person". 

I will miss him terribly, but our home is just not the best place right now with small children.  He does socialize well with other dogs and likes to go to the dog park, but will most likely chase your cat if you have one.  

He really is a sweetheart and I know whomever ends up adopting him will love him just as much as I do.

If you can help Cooper find a forever home, please contact Jennifer at

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Animal Friends Offers Free Straw for Outdoor Pets and Feral Cats

To prepare for falling temperatures, Animal Friends is hosting its annual Straw Drop; during which free bags of straw are offered to anyone who owns or cares for outdoor animals – including feral cats.

While Animal Friends encourages pet owners to make pets part of the family and keep them inside the home, we recognize that in reality many animals live outside. Animal Friends urges those caretakers to obey the law by ensuring that outdoor animals have access to proper food and warm, dry shelters. Blankets, towels and pillows can retain moisture and freeze, which is why straw is the best insulation against the cold and wet weather conditions.

In addition to keeping outdoor animals’ living spaces insulated, there are other best practices pet owners should abide by, including:

• Using a car mat or rug as a flap over a doghouse door to keep the inside free of wind, snow and rain.
• Examining shelters carefully – and often – to ensure that there are no cracks or holes that will prevent the structure from keeping the animal safe.
• Taking extra care to provide adequate amounts of drinkable water and food at all times during freezing temperatures.
• Inspecting your pet's paws, ears and tail frequently for signs of frostbite – a very common occurrence. If you suspect frostbite, your pet will need to see a veterinarian immediately.
• Monitoring your dog's tether to ensure it is not frozen to the ground or tangled. A tangled, too-short chain can cost your pet his or her life in bad weather.

Animal Friends is located at 562 Camp Horne Rd. in the North Hills – just a half of a mile west of Exit 8 off of Interstate 279. Free bags of straw can be picked up at Animal Friends seven days a week. On a limited basis, straw delivery may be available for those without transportation. For more information, call Animal Friends at 412.847.7000 or visit

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-to-Home Adoption Program presents: Sidney

Unfortunately, we need to re-home this beautiful cat, Sidney. He cam to our family when my Mother-in-Law passed away suddenly in September 2013.  She raised him as an only cat with a Golden Retriever mix so he is too rough for our kitties.  He gets along great with our 3-year-old daughter, (who can also be a little rough sometimes!)

Sidney is 5-years-old, neutered, has perfect litter box manners and is in good health. We flea treated him and gave him a "lion" haircut for his comfort.

We tried to wait so the kitties could work out their differences, but they cannot.  He deserves to be happy again. We will wait for his perfect family as an only kitty with an indoor only situation.

If you can help Sidney find a forever home, please contact Danielle at

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-to-Home Adoptions Program presents: Olivia and Tucker!

Olivia is 9-10 years old, weighs 70 lbs and is a Rhodesian Ridgeback Mix. Olivia is spayed.

Tucker is 6 years old, weighs 70 lbs and is a Shepherd/Boxer mix. Tucker is neutered.

Olivia has had quite the troubled past, but as we say "has nine lives." By the time she came into the home at the age of 2, she had been adopted and surrendered back to the shelter twice. We believe that she was abused by an older gentleman and those memories still haunt her today. She still cowers when a hand is lifted and still is leery of older men. It was decided she needed a friend, so Tucker was adopted. She still holds on to her submissive personality. As if her puppyhood wasn't traumatic enough, she started suffering with anal gland problems. The vet had tried everything he could think of, medicine, injections and exhausted all treatments. The only option left was to put Olivia down. The papers were signed and goodbyes said... then the vet offered one last experimental option. He offered no promises and had no experience with the surgery, but offered to try to remove her anal glands. There was nothing to lose, so the go-ahead was given. She has since recovered and is no longer under treatment. She licks obsessively, your hand, a part of your back exposed from a lifted shirt, the air, anything and everything. Olivia is happy to go for a ride in the car, doesn't have the energy of her brother, but keeps up on walks, loves to chew a good bone or lounge in the shade.  She doesn't pay too much attention to toys unless she is trying to steal it from her brother and taunt him with it. She will do anything for food, but knows better than to beg for food from us. She has struggled to contain her excitement and often jumps on us and guests. While she is 9-10 and has slowed down, she is absolutely determined and can keep up when she wants to.

Tucker was added to the house to keep Olivia company. He was adopted as a puppy. His pretty eyes and big ears made it impossible to leave him at the shelter. Tucker is the energizer bunny, you can walk him for 4 miles, bring him home and he still wants to run and play. This energy hasn't always been his friend... while wrestling with his new sister, she jumped on him and he broke his leg. He didn't let the huge cast slow him down. Six years later, he still is as active as ever...clumsy too. Somehow he cut his tail and he couldn't stop wagging it long enough for it to heal. As soon as it looked like it was improving, he would whack it off of something else and split it back open. It got to the point where he needed surgery to cut a few inches off. Still to this day, he can't seem to stop his tail from wagging uncontrollably. Tucker is very high energy and very anxious. It takes awhile to convince him to sit still or relax and he is always worried that he might miss out on some of the action. He always has a toy hanging from his mouth... it seems to serve as his security blanket. He loves catching ball, but struggles with the concept of bringing it back.  He is happiest riding in the car, chewing on bones, running around and playing. He is quite known to pick on his sister and will whack her in the face when she is minding her own business... no worries, she always retaliates. He is less motivated by food and easily distracted. While it is very rare to hear him bark, he is very well known for talking. He whines and huffs and puffs and grumbles like an old man when he doesn't get his way or wants your attention. He also suffers from "selective hearing" even with his enormous ears. 

We are looking to find a new home where they can stay together. They both take Prozac daily to help with their anxiety and high energy. In the right home, with room to run/play and enough exercise, we believe they could be taken off of Prozac. 

So why do they need a new home? Up until recently, the dogs were able to go to a relative’s house during the day, but that relative is no longer physically able to watch them anymore. My allergies prevent them from having access to the majority of the house.  They have limited access to the game room which has to be vacuumed daily to keep the allergens at a minimum.  With the loss of day time care and my inability to be around them, my boyfriend has ended up being their sole caregiver.  The dogs end up spending the majority of their days in "their room" aka part of the garage. Their lifestyle has changed drastically and it is to the point where it isn't really fair to anybody to keep them. They don't get the time, exercise or attention that they need and we haven’t been able to find a way to make my allergies tolerable with them in the house. 

If you can help Olivia and Tucker find a new home, please contact Katie at

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Volunteering at Animal Friends: Rebecca

Guest Blogger: Rebecca Torchia

When I was 13, the only present I wanted for my birthday was to volunteer at Animal Friends.  By the time I was 17, I was only signing up to volunteer because I needed hours for National Honors Society.  Once I finished training and started to collect my desperately needed hours, I began to remember why I’d wanted to volunteer so badly as a 13 year old. You get to sit in a room full of cats and call it community service. To me, it’s more like therapy.

Many people today live very stress-filled lives.  There is a lot of pressure to do many different things, and be successful at all of them. We have different stressors in our lives.  They may come from school, work or even our personal lives.  The stress itself is not always the problem, but rather the way in which we handle it.  While some people spend hours staring at a computer or television screen to forget their stress, it is not always the healthiest coping method.  Some people go to the gym. Some people go to a therapist.  I play with cats.

Animals are renowned for being therapeutic.  For many years, dogs and cats have been taken to hospitals in order to help patients relax and recover.  The good news is that you don’t need to be hospitalized in order to receive a little TLC from a furry friend.  By volunteering at Animal Friends, you can find all the relaxation you need.  

Now that I’m in college, I no longer need to do community service.  No one is keeping track of how many hours I spend petting cats, however I still find myself making the trip down to Camp Horne Road whenever I have the time.  Volunteering with the cats there – petting them, playing with them, even cleaning up after them – allows me to relax and helps me deal with whatever may be stressing me out.  My 17 year old self may be shocked at my willingness to volunteer so often, but 13 year old me would be proud. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Many Wonders of Coconut Oil

By the staff at Petagogy

Coconut oil has many uses—as a cooking oil, skin moisturizer, hair conditioner, the list goes on and on—but did you know that it can also be beneficial for your pets? 

Most people know that adding fish oils, like salmon, sardine and Pollock, to your pet’s food is beneficial for your pet’s coat, skin and joints. However, incorporating coconut oil, both topically and orally, can offer even more health benefits ranging from skin and coat health to preventing yeast infections to boosting your pet’s immune system. 

Coconut oil is comprised of mostly saturated fats, specifically Medium Chain Triglycerides.  The fats in coconut oil are easily used by your pet’s body for fuel and energy, so ingesting these beneficial fats can boost performance and help promote weight loss. In dogs, coconut oil helps balance the thyroid, which can help overweight dogs lose weight and help sedentary dogs feel energetic. Coconut oil also has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. If that’s not enough, coconut oil improves skin and coat, improves digestion and nutrient absorption and reduces allergic reactions.

The wonders of coconut oil are many:

Healthy Skin
•    Helps soothe itchy skin
•    Promotes a shiny, smooth coat
•    Can prevent matting by combing it through fur
•    Treats and prevents yeast infections
•    Disinfects and promotes quick healing with cuts, hot spots, bites and stings

Healthy Belly
•    Helps alleviate bad breath
•    Helps prevent hairballs
•    Aids in overall digestive health

Healthy body
•    Anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties help prevent infections and illness
•    Increases energy and aids in weight loss
•    Promotes healthy thyroid function
•    Lessens inflammation from arthritis and similar ailments
•    Helps control diabetes

With so many potential benefits, try incorporating coconut oil into your pet’s health and food regimen. You can simply add virgin coconut oil to your pet’s meals. The recommended amount to give your pets is 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs of body weight, or 1 tablespoon per 30 lbs of body weight. Too much coconut oil can actually damage your pet’s pancreas, so it’s best to give it in small doses (about a quarter of the recommended amount), gradually building up your pet’s tolerance overtime.

Any virgin coconut oil from a health food store can be fed to pets, but we love Organic Virgin Coconut Oil by both CocoTherapy and K9 Granola Factory. Both also have chips that can be given to pets as treats or sprinkled over food. Additionally, Cocolicious by Party Animal is a wet canned dog food that features coconut oil as a main ingredient, making it easy to incorporate into your dog’s diet. 

Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Learn more at

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Service, Comfort or Therapy: What's The Difference?

By: Kaitlin Hilinski, Therapeutic Services Program Assistant

You’ve probably seen a dog at work out in the world – the grocery store, library, or maybe in an office building or school.  These dogs provide vital assistance to the humans around them, but how can you tell what kind of work the dog is doing?  The truth is, there’s no easy answer.  There are dozens of jobs that a dog may be doing.  For the purpose of this blog post, let’s focus on the three most common;

Service Dogs
A service dog has been trained to perform at least one major task for people with physical disabilities or psychiatric diagnosis.  There are a wide variety of service dogs, including but not limited to; seeing-eye dogs, hearing assistance, seizure alert, insulin or allergy detection, autism spectrum support, and balance or mobility aid.  When a service dog is with his or her person, the dog is working and should not be interrupted.  Many of them will wear a vest or harness that says something along the lines of “Please don’t pet me, I am working.”

These dogs are entitled to accompany their human anywhere that a non-disabled person can go.  They are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The dogs are essential for their person’s safety and wellbeing, just like a wheelchair or hearing aid. Currently, only dogs are covered by the ADA’s legal protections.

Emotional Support or Comfort Animals
A doctor may prescribe an animal for an individual who suffers from conditions such as depression or anxiety.  Sometimes these animals are helpful only in certain triggering situations, like travel or in crowds.  In other cases, the animals are simply pets in the home who help their owners cope with the stressors of life. It’s important to note that a comfort animal does not have to be a dog.  Cats, rabbits, birds, and even pigs have been recorded as comfort animals.  

It is also important to note that comfort animals do not have the same legal protections as service animals.  Restaurants and public buildings are not required to allow a comfort animal onto the premises.  However, under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, a rental property can be required to lift a “no pets” policy in the cases of comfort animals (and service animals too, of course).  Usually, all it takes is a letter from a doctor stating that the human has a medical condition for which the animal is a prescription aide.

Comfort animals are rarely trained as a service animal. However, they may be considered to be “working” when in public with their owner.   As with any unknown animal, the best course of action is to ask the owner for permission before petting or interacting with the animal in any way.

Therapy Animals
A therapy animal has been assessed and deemed to be exceptionally friendly, engaging, and tolerant.  They have been trained to have excellent obedience skills, and are almost always accompanied by a handler who facilitates their work with the public.  There are several different ways that therapy animals work, but most visits places like hospitals, nursing homes, college campuses, schools, and other facilities to lift spirits and help humans de-stress.  Occasionally an animal may live in a facility to provide comfort to the patients and staff or volunteers.

While these animals also fulfill an important and heart-warming role in the community, they are offered no legal protections.  Your therapy dog may not be allowed into the post office or bank with you, despite their training and certification. 

Here at Animal Friends, we offer the Therapets certification program to identify, train, and certify therapy dogs, cats, and rabbits.  We’re working on expanding to other animals in the future too!

If you think your pet has the potential to be a therapy animal, please contact us at 412.847.7081 or fill out this questionnaire: Pre-Interview Questionnaire
Our next round of dog classes begins at the end of August, but cat and rabbit assessments can be scheduled individually.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post – please consider sharing it so more people can learn the difference between service, comfort, and therapy animals.
More information about these distinctions can be found online at the National Service Animal Registry 

I’d also like to thank one of our fabulous trainers and volunteers, Anita DeBiase for doing the initial research that inspired this writing! 

Do you have experience with a service, comfort, or therapy animal?  Please tell us about it in the comments!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Petagogy Blog: Pet Foods for All Ages and Stages

By the Staff at Petagogy

 I have a 10-pound miniature poodle puppy and a 60-pound lab that’s 5 years old. Can I feed them the same food?

My cat just turned 9. Do I need to switch him to a senior food?

My dog is overweight. Should she eat a “diet” food?

We get questions like these every day! There are so many pet food choices out there and the differences are not just the types of protein used. Some foods are good for puppies, some for seniors, so what is the difference between puppy or kitten, adult, senior, small or large breed, weight control, etc. pet foods? 

Let’s start by looking at foods labeled puppy or kitten, adult and “all life stages.” These foods labels are determined by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), a private advisory board made up of representatives from state, federal and foreign government agencies who regulate animal feeds in the US and develop uniform definitions for pet food ingredients and labeling. Pet foods that follow AAFCO guidelines can call their foods “complete and balanced.” There are currently only two standard nutrition profiles AAFCO uses to label pet food: (1) “Growth and Reproduction,” for puppies/kittens and pregnant or nursing females; and (2) “Adult Maintenance,” for adult, or fully grown, animals. On each bag or can of food there is an AAFCO statement that tells consumers which profile the food meets. If the food is labeled “All Life Stages” it means it meets the stricter guidelines for “Growth and Reproduction” and can be fed to pets of any age. 

How Does AAFCO Determine Food Ratings?
There are two ways pet foods can get their AAFCO rating: (1) a food analysis, which is a lab test to ensure the food contains the 36 essential nutrients that AAFCO considers to be essential for “complete and balanced” nutrition (although these tests do not evaluate the quality of the nutrients); and (2) a food trial, which consists of feeding the food to a certain number of animals (sometimes as few as eight animals) for 26 weeks and monitoring the animals’ health before, during and after the trial. Foods that do not meet AAFCO requirements are labeled “supplemental” or for “intermittent feeding.” 

What about the Other Categories?

There are no regulations or guidelines for large breed, small breed, senior or weight control foods. Large breed foods tend to have less protein and fat to help balance the calcium to phosphorus levels. The correct ratio will help with proper bone growth and body weight, because if a large breed puppy grows to fast it may result in abnormal joint development, which can lead to arthritis. Small breed dogs have a high metabolic rate and burn through food rather quickly. Couple that with their tiny little bellies, they tend to need a calorie-dense food to get the fuel their bodies need.

Senior dogs tend to be less active so their foods are often lower in calories and higher in fiber than the adult varieties. However, if your senior dog or cat still loves his walks or playtime, there is no need to switch to a food labeled for “senior” animals. Some brands also advertise glucosamine, Omega 3s, probiotics or other supplements to boost the food’s nutrients--just be aware that the amount added is usually too minimal to do any good, so additional supplementation is needed for joint, skin and digestive health. 

So What Does this All Mean?
“The food says it’s ‘complete and balanced’ for my pet, so that’s all I need to know, right?” Unfortunately no. The AAFCO statement that the food is “complete and balanced” has led some pet owners to believe that they can feed the same food for the lifetime of their pet. Unfortunately, this is a common way some animals develop food allergies. Ideally, pet owners should rotate both proteins and brands in order to give their pets a fuller nutritional experience.

More importantly, not all nutrients are created equal. A food that is labeled “complete and balanced” by AAFCO may meet the protein standard for Adult Maintenance foods by filling the food with proteins from cheaper plant sources, which are not as biologically appropriate for carnivorous animals like cats and dogs.

So What Should I Do?
You need to look at more than just the AAFCO statement, or the fact that the food is for puppies, seniors, etc., when choosing a pet food. Look at the ingredients list and the guaranteed analysis to make sure the food contains appropriate levels of animal proteins and no cheap filler ingredients (like corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or flavors, preservatives and byproducts). It’s also important to know where the pet food company manufactures its food and sources its ingredients from. Independent pet stores (like Petagogy) usually know a lot about the foods they carry and can help you choose a food that best suits your pet’s needs.

Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Learn more at

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reunited: Rusty and Julia

Guest Blogger: Julia S.

This was my dog, Rusty.

In November 2010, I was in Florida with my mom when my dad took Rusty to the Indiana County Animal Shelter and didn't tell me for almost a week. I visited him twice. Being a minor at the time, I couldn't save him.

Almost 4 years later, after endlessly searching Petfinder, I put an ad in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette saying that I lost my dog and that I knew he had been adopted from Animal Friends (thanks to Petfinder). 

Animal Friends called me and in two weeks it was confirmed that we knew where Rusty was! I was put in touch with his new mommy, Barb, and we decided to meet.

1,317 days after he was given away and 1,303 days since I last laid eyes on him, I got to meet him again. Rusty was always super hyper when he met new people. But when I fell on my knees after seeing him, he came up to me, sat down, and gently kissed my nose. He knew my voice. We all had a great day together. 

I just want to say thank you for helping me become a part of his life again. Rusty (now Quincy) means everything to me and I can never thank you and his new family enough.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Black Cats ARE Lucky: Zelda

By: Jeff Geissler

It was supposed to be a lighthearted story about black cats and why they're such a part of Halloween folklore. But the story soon grew serious, and I ended up writing the article more as a warning than entertainment.

I was working for a newspaper in Myrtle Beach S.C. We had a special Halloween section planned for the October 31st edition, including information on neighborhood gatherings, shopping specials, bar celebrations and a few stories about the history of the holiday. Even though I wasn't a cat lover at the time, I decided to take the black cat assignment. I thought it'd be easy, but it ended up changing my life.

For my first interview, I headed to the local Humane Society. I had a good relationship with them because I frequently photographed the weekly POWs (Pets of the Week) for the paper. Plus, I was a volunteer dog walker on my days off.

"Black cats? This time of year? No way," I remember the manager saying. 

"To be honest, we don't adopt them out all in October. And sadly, that's when people ask for them," she said slightly choked up. "Unfortunately, we have a hard time adopting them out any other time of the year. It's that bad luck stigma they carry."

When I asked why she didn't adopt them out in October, she said the police might have a better answer. I headed to the station and talked with a few officers who told me stories of the horrific scenes they had worked in the past. On more than a few occasions, they were called to spots in the woods where evidence of rituals, or other sick types of gatherings, had taken place. Sadly, the evidence usually included the remains of one or more black cats.

I even found some locals who had concerns about the holiday. I talked to a family who had 3 black cats that were very protective of their home and pets around Halloween.

So, I wrote the story, mostly as a warning to all who have black cats but also as encouragement to all who love cats to adopt a black cat.

Coincidentally, this came at a time when I was feeling rather lonely in my bachelor life. Being a news photographer provided hectic and unpredictable hours - no time for a dog. But my friends suggested that perhaps a cat might fit into my schedule a little better. 

So I went back to the Humane Society and asked for a black cat. They took me into the cat room and pointed into a kennel where a tiny black ball with large glowing yellow/green eyes was cowering in the corner. I reached in, pulled her out, and was promptly swatted in the face.

I immediately adopted her.

I rarely saw her for the first couple weeks as she hid under my couch. She soon warmed to me and began to venture out from the couch. Finally, one night while I was lying in bed, she jumped to my pillow and gave me The Head Butt. Any cat owner knows that's the ultimate gesture of friendship and love.

A year later, Zelda and I left Myrtle Beach for New York City. A few years after that, we traveled across country to live in San Francisco, then we trekked to live in Santa Fe. About three years ago, we moved back to my home town of Pittsburgh.

And after 17 years together, I had to say goodbye to my sweet pea a couple winters ago.

She was my best friend, my confidant, and a constant in my life. I could write a book about our adventures together. She was the perfect creature who brought me nothing but happiness and joy.

Was I lucky that I adopted a black cat? Absolutely, unequivocal, and with-out-a-doubt YES!