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Every week, we get an expert to answer your pressing pet questions.
Photograph via Shutterstock.

Have a question you'd like to ask a vet? Send your query to pets@washingtonian.com with the subject line "Vet Q."

Q: We have an 18-year-old cat who seems distraught after the death of our 15-year-old golden retriever. The cat keeps walking around the house, looking in closets, going from room to room. We never had the sense they were all that close, but is this kind of seeming attachment between a cat and dog fairly common?

Dr. Chris Miller, AtlasVet DC: For years, science has told us that our pets do not have the ability to reason, to feel emotion, or have the ability to mourn. However, recent research has shown that animals can respond to familiar stimuli in ways much like humans can. And when their daily routine is altered, our pets notice. Many argue that animals like dolphins, elephants, dogs, and cats have feelings that parallel those of human emotion, and anyone who has owned a pet would agree that such things are possible. It is for these reasons that when your pet loses a longtime housemate that abnormal or new behavior may be noted.

That said, there are many other potential causes for behavior change, especially in an 18-year-old cat. Possible health problems such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and cognitive dysfunction are just a few diseases that affect geriatric cats that could explain behavior change. Any sudden behavior changes in your pet should be discussed with a veterinarian to help rule out possible illnesses.

In our experience, a pet that seems confused or even appears to be grieving after losing a companion is not uncommon. Much like humans in periods of sadness, you can help your four-legged friend by keeping the mind stimulated, increasing physical activity, and ensuring regular exposure to familiar faces. These may assist your pet in bouncing back from a loss.

Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 10/22/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
This week, meet readers' pets Moe, Daisy, Theodore, and Kennedy.

Want your pet to be featured on our website? E-mail your pet's name, location, a brief bio, and a photo to pets@washingtonian.com, and use the subject line "Reader Pets."

"This is SlowMoe Oczypok-Phillips (above). We call him Moe for short. He lives in North Bethesda and loves his memory-foam dog bed, getting lots of petting and love from every human he meets, and his mom and dad, Kate and Brad. His favorite pastimes include begging at meal times, licking ears, and overlooking his kingdom from his apartment balcony. Moe is a rescue from Lost Dog and Cat Rescue in Virginia."

"Daisy is an Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog who lives in Alexandria. She loves to go on walks, take long naps, play with other pups, and go to work with her mom. She also loves to play soccer, and is a pretty good defender! She might look like a tough girl, but she's really just a big mush."

"My name is Theodore George Fuss, and I live near Rock Creek Park in Chevy Chase, DC, where I am an avid bird-, squirrel-, and critter-watcher. I'm into napping, resting, relaxing, dreaming, and climbing pricey drapery. In my spare time, I enjoy car rides, belly rubs, and the music of Billy Joel."

"Meet Kennedy! Born in Baltimore on April 3, 2014, this Boston Terrier is a true native. She and her mom, Liz, live in Southwest DC and love it. Kennedy loves long walks on the National Mall, playing at the Southwest Dog Park close to her house, meeting new friends wherever she goes, and, of course, posting selfies on her Instagram (@kennedythebt)."

Posted at 04:00 PM/ET, 10/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Tell us who you trust with your pets.
Photograph via Shutterstock.

In an upcoming issue, Washingtonian will update its guide to pet care, which includes listings of the area’s best veterinarians, emergency clinics, groomers, pet-sitters, kennels, trainers, and more.

You can help us by taking a few minutes to fill out our survey, which asks whom you would trust with your pets. Answer as many questions as you can. Please take care to spell all business names correctly; otherwise, your answers may not be tabulated.

Thanks for your help! Click here for the survey.

Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 10/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Looking for a furry friend? One of these cuties—all available at Washington-area rescues—might be your match. By Marisa M. Kashino

Beaetta (above) is an adorable senior Border Terrier mix. She weighs about 15 pounds and is an ideal pup for apartment/condo living, since she's quiet—except when she tells you it's time for a walk—and she loves to cuddle. Beaetta is good with everyone, including other small dogs, but she would also be fine as the only dog if she gets lots of love. She is blind, but she doesn't know she has a handicap. She is available for adoption at Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.

Charmin and Gloria are a beautiful, bonded pair. He is a Flamepoint Siamese, and she is a Himalayan mix. He is very playful; she is more laid-back. Both are around two years old and are available for adoption through Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.

Pumpkin Spice is a handsome and charming ten-month-old guy. He is always down to play and go on adventures, and he loves to snuggle up next to you when he’s tired. Pumpkin Spice is smart, too, and has learned many commands in a short amount of time, including "sit," “down,” and "focus." You can meet him at the Washington Humane Society's New York Avenue shelter.

Kayla is a gorgeous, two-year-old, long-haired cat whose owner gave her up because of landlord issues. She is friendly, playful, gentle, and affectionate. Kayla enjoys her scratching post and toys that squeak. And when she’s done playing, she likes nothing better than to curl up in your lap for some quality time. Stop by the Washington Animal Rescue League to meet her.

Kohana is an adorable two-month-old, hound-mix puppy. She's friendly, playful, curious, energetic, and always up for a good time. Kohana is one of almost 20 puppies currently available at the Washington Animal Rescue League. So if you are interested in adopting a puppy, now is the time!

Marshmallow is a sweet four-year-old Mini Rex rabbit. He is gentle and loves to play and be petted. Marshmallow is available for adoption through the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, but you can currently visit him at Pet Supplies Plus in Falls Church, where he is helping to educate people about the wonderful bunnies available for adoption at the shelter. He was given up because the children in his previous family were not caring for him. With that in mind, a quick disclaimer: Though wonderful pets, rabbits are not low-maintenance and children younger than teens should not be expected to manage their care.

Palm and Beach are a pair of three-year-old blue and white Budgies. They're both girls and are good friends. You can find them at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

Posted at 09:48 AM/ET, 10/17/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
We asked for your cute pet photos, and boy, did you deliver. In our inaugural post, we meet Gus, Tom, Brinkley, and Mischief.

Want your pet to be featured on our website? E-mail your pet's name, location, a brief bio, and a photo to pets@washingtonian.com, and use the subject line "Reader Pets."

"Meet my cat, Tom Michael (above). He goes by his formal name, Thomas William Michael. He was adopted in Frederick and now lives in Glover Park. Tom is overweight, extremely lazy, and a picky eater. He loves to cuddle (but on his own terms) and enjoys visits from family and friends, especially his Nana. His favorite toy is his catnip rainbow. I'd tell you his favorite game, but he doesn't have one. He's doesn't like fun. This is a candid photo of Thomas saying, 'Hey, ladies!'"

"Gus, a French mastiff puppy (four months), lives in Bethesda. His favorite place to sleep is on a glass coffee table. Once he grows to full size—160 pounds—that won't be possible. He makes frequent appearances at Quartermaine Coffee and Olazzo in Bethesda."

"Brinkley is a very happy, energetic four-year-old chocolate Lab residing in NoMa. She loves anything that involves a tennis ball (ideally at the beach) and enjoys every type of food (especially baked goods left cooling on the counter). When she's not chasing squirrels, eating, or fetching, she can be found snoring on the couch with her legs up in the air."

"Mischief cheated death twice: first when she was rescued from a high-kill shelter in North Carolina, and then when she contracted distemper when she was two months old. She just celebrated her first birthday, and is the happiest and most playful cat. She runs around our apartment in Alexandria carrying her favorite toy mice in her mouth and begs for attention in ways that make it seem like she thinks she is a dog. Another favorite past time of Mischief's is drinking milkshakes."

Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 10/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A veterinarian will answer a different question on Washingtonian.com every week, so send your queries our way.
Photograph via Shutterstock.

Wondering something about your pet's health? Considering adding a furry friend to the family, but need answers first? If you've got a question you're dying to ask a veterinarian, send it our way. Starting next week, the experts at AtlasVet in Northeast DC will weigh in on a different reader query every Wednesday right here on Open House.

Send your questions to pets@washingtonian.com with the subject line: Vet Q.

(And this probably goes without saying, but if you have a pressing concern about your pet's health, visit or call your own vet right away!)

Posted at 09:41 AM/ET, 10/13/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Looking for a furry friend? One of these cuties—all available at Washington-area rescues—might be your match. By Marisa M. Kashino

Welcome to a new feature of Washingtonian.com! Each week we'll introduce you to some of the adorable pets available for adoption in the Washington area.

Treble (above) is a two-month-old Beagle-mix puppy. He's playful, curious, and loves to sniff at everything! You can meet him at the Washington Animal Rescue League.

Dorrit, a seven-year-old beagle, was rescued from a hoarding situation. She is loving and gentle, plus she's already house-trained! She loves other dogs, and has lived with young children. You'll find her at Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.

Olivia is approximately five years old. She's very gentle and loves everyone, including other cats and dogs. She was found abandoned in a carrier, with sores and matted fur, but now she loves to play. You'll find her at Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.

Niko is a one-year-old beagle/Jack Russell terrier mix. He's affectionate and quiet, but also friendly and playful. You'll find him at City Dogs Rescue.

London is a ten-month-old Lab/Pit mix. She's loyal, smart, energetic, and loves to snuggle. You'll find her at City Dogs Rescue.

Freya is a one-and-half-year-old rabbit who has been staying at the Washington Humane Society since April. She can be shy at first but, with a little time, will become your good friend. She loves being groomed and snacking on kale, and you can find her at WHS's Georgia Avenue shelter.

Aisha is a one-year-old old American Staffordshire Terrier-mix. She was rescued in June after she was found with duct tape wrapped around her head. Despite her rough start, she is sweet, athletic, full of energy, and loves to play. She's available at the Washington Humane Society's Georgia Avenue shelter.

Cari, a domestic short-hair, has a heart-tugging story. One of her elderly guardians passed away, and with the other in declining health, they thought it was wise to surrender her to the Washington Animal Rescue League. The good news: As an eight year-old, Cari qualifies for WARL’s Boomers’ Buddies program. Under the program, adoption fees are waived for any adopter over the age of 50 who adopts a pet over the age of five.

Posted at 02:16 PM/ET, 10/09/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Your furry (or scaly, or feathery) friend could be featured on Washingtonian.com.
Photograph via Shutterstock.

If you're anything like us, you show off your adorable pet photos to friends and family every chance you get. Well, here's your chance to share them with Washingtonian's readers, too.

Every week, we'll pick pets to feature right here on Open House. All we need now are your great photos. Here's what to do:

  • Send a photo of your pet with a brief description to pets@washingtonian.com.
  • Please keep your descriptions to a paragraph or less, and include your pet's name, where he/she lives in the Washington area, and a detail or two about what makes your pet special.
  • Write "Reader Pets" in the subject line.
  • Check Washingtonian's website each Tuesday to see if your pet is featured!

Posted at 02:42 PM/ET, 10/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
My beagle, rescued from an animal testing lab a year ago, isn’t the only one who has undergone a transformation. By Melanie D.G. Kaplan
Six of the DC7 beagles—and two other dogs belonging to the families—during their reunion this summer. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Last summer, a beagle with a blue tattoo in his left ear dropped into my home as if from another planet. He was underweight, and when I lowered him onto a dog bed, it was clear he’d never, in his four years of life, encountered anything so squishy and soft. He clung to that bed as if it were a life raft.

Among the few things I knew about this creature: His vocal cords had been cut, and he had probably never seen stairs, so I didn’t bother blocking off the second level of my Capitol Hill rowhouse. When he dared to leave, he did so guardedly. Catching his reflection in the side of a car was enough to send him pulling me home, frantically. His anxiety drove him to several escape attempts, once maneuvering through my balcony railing onto a neighbor’s roof.

In a way, this dog did arrive from another world—one in which breeders send their puppies to laboratories to become testing animals, each identified by a tattooed tracking number. My beagle was rescued with six others from a Virginia lab by a nonprofit organization called the Beagle Freedom Project. On the day these hounds left the only life they’d known, it was clear that even the most basic canine experiences—walking on grass and touching humans—were alien.

Each of the DC7, as they became known, was named after a Founding Father. Six weeks after I began fostering Alexander Hamilton, his personality was still clouded by fear and I didn’t know how much he would change. After all, labs claim that these dogs—with their lack of exposure to the real world—don’t make suitable pets. Freeing them only draws public attention to the 70,000 dogs still in testing facilities (many of which are beagles, because they’re so docile). According to the Beagle Freedom Project, this is how labs justify killing them as standard practice, discarding Hamiltons as if they were test tubes.

I told Hammy that if I adopted him, every day would be an adventure. “You’ll have to be very brave,” I said. He looked at me with his quiet brown eyes. We struck a deal.

As summer turned to fall, Hammy relaxed enough to walk around the block. I remember the first time I saw his tail wag in his sleep, and I imagined his dreams about running free. His veterinarian told me that his vocal cords—which had been cut so lab techs wouldn’t be disturbed by howling—could grow back. Before long, he was barking at the mailman. My neighbor quipped, “He’s like Pinocchio! He’s turning into a real dog.”

Hammy wasn’t the only one who’d been transformed. Sitting with him for hours upon hours, trying to fill his early silences with comforting words, had changed me, too. I started to boycott products tested on animals, buying laundry detergent and mascara from “cruelty-free” companies such as Method and Lush. Uncharacteristically, I took on a cause, telling my beagle’s story to all who would listen and showing them the tattoo in his ear.

This past spring, Minnesota became the first state to require that dogs and cats in taxpayer-funded laboratories be made available for adoption after testing rather than put to death. Around the same time, Hammy went for a 50-mile ride in his bike trailer, camped, joined me on a standup paddleboard, and visited his 16th state.

This summer, the DC7 returned to Washington to celebrate a year of freedom. As the families and dogs walked around the Capitol grounds, tourists asked if a beagle convention was under way. I looked at all the wagging tails and marveled at the difference a year of love and patience can make.

These days, Hammy’s need for human touch is profound. When he’s sleeping, I watch little pffts of breath leak out of his cheeks. I run my hand over his soft face and floppy ears and wonder what they did to him on the other planet. He wakes, stretches, and looks at me with sleepy eyes. Then he paws me insistently, wanting affection. And I oblige.


The Dogs After Their Rescue in 2013


Washington writer Melanie D.G. Kaplan’s website is melaniedgkaplan.com. This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:00 AM/ET, 08/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The four-day event benefits the Lab Rescue volunteer group. By Paulina Kosturos
See 1,200 nationally ranked dogs compete at the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac Specialty Show. Image via Shutterstock.

Attention, Labrador lovers: The largest Lab show in the world—the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac Specialty Show—starts Tuesday in Frederick. The event runs through April 11 at the Francis Key Holiday Inn (5400 Holiday Dr., Frederick). Around 1,200 nationally ranked dogs will compete in the four-day sporting event, which is sanctioned by the American Kennel Club. In addition to competitions in obedience and appearance, the show also features seminars on Lab behavior, health exams for dogs conducted by canine cardiologists, and a silent auction. All proceeds will go to Lab Rescue of the LRCP, a volunteer group that has rescued and placed more than 1,000 dogs in new homes. Says Vicky Creamer, president of the LRCP: “In the Lab world, this annual show is our Super Bowl.” All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Labrador Retriever Club’s website.

Posted at 02:51 PM/ET, 04/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()