This Halloween Celebrate the Beautiful Black Cat

Since this is Halloween week, I want to take a moment to honor the beautiful black cat.  
lucy stripesDisregard any person that tries to tell you that black cats are bad luck because that just breaks my heart.  In fact, many shelters won’t even adopt black cats out during the month of October because of the threat to the innocent cat’s well-being.  I’m also told that black dogs are the last to be adopted as well. Well, I’m here to tell you that honoring our daughter’s request to rescue a black cat from the shelter 1 1/2 years ago has been nothing short of wonderful.  

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Pet Product Packaging Pros & Cons

First of all, Freebie Friday will be back next week, so good luck!  Now for all of you pet lovers who have probably spent a pretty penny on your pampered pets, check out the segment I did on the Channel 3 “Your Life A to Z” KTVK morning show this week.  My pet pal panel and I put several dog and cat products to the test and we found some great items that are truly beneficial for your furry family members.  We also show a couple of items that aren’t worth buying, so take a look…


Skin Cancer In Canines & In Cats

Arizona has the second highest cases of skin cancer in the world.  Australia is the #1 place for the disease. With this knowledge I regularly see a dermatologist to have my moles and my kids’ moles checked, but I hadn’t thought about our pets.  When our writer, Lisa Walton asked me if she could write about this and share her own dog’s story, I was very appreciative that she wanted to share to make us all aware of what to look out for when it comes to skin cancer and our beloved pets.  Lisa’s dog, Geo is doing well thanks to several things that Lisa did right in this situation, so read on and be aware…

Lisa says:

With my fair skin and freckles I’m hyper-sensitive about living in the Arizona sun.

I see my dermatologist for my annual skin check without fail.

But I wasn’t aware that my furry canine companion could get skin cancer too!


geo 2Three years ago we were blessed to adopt a black lab from the Desert Labrador Retriever Rescue of Phoenix.  Geo, is now 5 years old, and is the sweetest boy on the planet.  Many months ago I noticed a flat, flesh colored mole (about the size & shape of a pencil eraser tip) on his back leg.  While at a routine visit to our vet, I pointed it out.  At the time, she had no concerns.  Fast forward to the beginning of summer, and I happened to notice the same mole had become elongated, and flecked with raspberry bumps, difficult to really notice hidden by his black fur.  When we went back to the vet for his annual shots, I showed the mole to her again.  Initially, she had no concerns upon inspection, but when I explained how it had changed, she agreed that it should be removed.

Since it was so flat, a needle aspiration could not be done for a biopsy, so we scheduled a procedure to have it completely removed.  A week later our vet called to tell us that she was shocked to get the lab results back; that it was indeed Cancer.  After losing our other lab to Cancer, this was a devastating blow.  Fortunately, for our Geo these results were a best case scenario.  The grade of cancer was a 1; meaning there is no further treatment needed past surgery.  There is a 90% chance or better that this was an isolated case.  Secondly, the margins of the removed tissue all the way around the tumor were cancer-free, considered to be a Stage One (meaning it had not spread to any other tissue or organs).  Our vet commended us on how tuned in we are with our furry friend, and our vigilance contributed to his good prognosis.  Geo recovered from his surgery and is back to his happy playful self, we are relieved but will remain watchful.

Mast cell skin cancer is the most common in dogs.  Mast cell tumors in cats look very similar to those in dogs; they are allergy cells that induce itching, swelling and redness.  These tumors may be red, itchy and periodically swell up and then disappear.  Although dogs and cats who suffer from allergies are not more prone to developing mast cell skin tumors, certain breeds of dogs — including Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Pugs and Golden Retrievers — are predisposed to developing this type of tumor.

Light-colored cats and dogs are more prone to skin cancers (carcinomas) that come directly from sunbathing, especially those that like to lay belly up exposing their thinly-haired tummies.  So limit your pet’s exposure to the sun and provide ample shade. Some breeds are more susceptible than others (especially on the tips of their ears, noses, bellies, or bodies that are shaved), and may require pet-safe sunscreen (consult with your vet).  If you find a lump or sore anywhere on your pet’s skin, see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

 As in almost any form of cancer in dogs, but especially with certain types of skin cancer, it is critical to identify and treat this disease in its early stages.  Examine your dog monthly by separating the hair with your fingers and closely look at the skin. Check for:

  • tumors, areas of color change, or scaly, crusty lesions.
  • new growths or a change in color or size of an existing growth
  • tumors that bleed easily or areas that do not tend to heal
  • an area the dog is continually licking or scratching
  • swelling in the breast tissue or discharge from a nipple
  • suspicious lumps or areas of discoloration under the tail
  • masses or tissue that seems different from surrounding areas in the mouth


About our writer, Lisa:


Lisa Walton–Parenting tips & Family Matters
Valley Teacher and Mother

Lisa Walton has been a teacher in the Valley for over 18 years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Deaf Education from Illinois State University; and Master’s Degree in Special Education from Arizona State University. She currently works as an itinerant teacher, collaborating with regular education teachers in the public schools.

Read more about Lisa on our team bio page








Sad Statistic Shows 100 Animals Are Euthanized Daily in Valley Shelters, So Help Us Change That By Reading This Post!



When I heard that statistic, I knew I had to do something more.  Our family has adopted three cats from our local shelters and several months ago I fostered a cat.  If you didn’t see my story about fostering Oliver the cat and having him neutered, immunized and placed with an amazing family, be sure to read it because it is a great story with a happy ending.

Oliver the fab foster of the most loving kitties our family had ever met!

Oliver the fab foster cat….one of the most loving kitties our family had ever met!

So our family has done what we can so far to help with this incredibly sad issue.  But recently I heard about another way that I can help and so can you and it is easy as reading this article and taking a pledge.  No money needed, no commitments, just read below and then take the pledge at the link provided to help spread the word about the Fix. Adopt. Save. Pledge! that will greatly reduce the number of homeless animals and worse, the high number that are put down when they don’t get adopted.

The Fix. Adopt. Save. program is formed of an alliance of eight animal welfare agencies, backed by multi-mullion dollar philanthropic support.  All have joined together to solve Maricopa County’s homeless animal problem by launching the “Fix. Adopt. Save.” campaign – a collaborative effort to encourage responsible pet ownership, and to dramatically increase spay/neuter and pet adoption rates in the Valley.

Never before have this many organizations come together to tackle dog and cat homelessness in the Valley, helping animals and communities in the process. The three-year effort will provide 44,000 free spay/neuter surgeries and prepare an additional 7,000 pets for adoption to reduce euthanasia of homeless pets. Nearly 90,000 animals per year end up in shelters with too few being adopted.  This is good news and fully supports this wonderful program!

The Fix. Adopt. Save. campaign aims to “change the equation,” for homeless animals in Maricopa County. For every 100 homeless animals who are adopted in Maricopa County, 100 others are euthanized. This equation is simply unacceptable.

Join us. Take the Fix. Adopt. Save. Pledge and be a part of our community pledge to save this innocent and sweet animals. 

I took it and all I had to do was check a box that gave me an idea of what I can do to help with these efforts.  There are several boxes to choose from and since we have already adopted three cats and fostered one, I checked the box that suggests to help the spread the word and writing this post does just that.

So take the pledge and tell us in the comments section about a pet that you have saved.  Here are our three cats that were all adopted from shelters and all three of them are great pets and definitely loving members of our family….

Our sweet Stanley with his beloved Gingerbread man.  So cute!

Our sweet Stanley with his beloved Gingerbread man. So cute!



Our handsome Tucker boy.

Our handsome Tucker boy.



Little Lucy girl that was adopted from a shelter by our tween daughter who told us that she wanted to save a black cat since so many people walk past the black ones.

Little Lucy girl that was adopted from a shelter by our tween daughter who told us that she wanted to save a black cat since so many people walk past the black ones.

I will raise a paw to that and say cheers to the Fix. Adopt. Save campaign.  Join me!


Wonderful Websites Worth Knowing About

Manic:  The overwhelming number of websites out there.  We are all short on time and long on websites!

Managed:  Decided to share my favorite ones with you to let you know which ones are worth your time.  I found some great ones, too….one that enables you to try hot new beauty products, one for parents to help them decide which movies are appropriate for kids to see, even one for your dog!  Read on to see these sites that are worth checking out!

Update on Foster…Who We Now Call Oliver!

Manic:  My cat farm (as I call my house) situation since I became a foster mom to one very special cat last Friday.

Managed:  This cat!  He has been very well behaved and easy to manage since we took him out of the rain and into our home last Friday!  Here is an update on his situation…

OllieIf you haven’t read the story that I posted this weekend, do so here and get up to speed on this amazing cat’s unexpected arrival that had him literally sitting on our front door mat, politely meowing to come in!  If you read the first post, then you know that we took him in and tried to find his neighborhood owners.  I didn’t have any luck with that because I learned that the family who had him (and apparently a lot of other cats) moved away and left him behind!  Ugh!  I had a bad feeling that is what had happened.  And you know what?  I’m kind of glad about that because I wouldn’t want him going back to them anyway.  And that is because he is the nicest boy cat that I have ever met and he deserves to be in a loving home with people that appreciate just how unique and awesome he is, this sweet boy!

Since we took him in, we keep him in our guest bathroom, so that he is separated from our other cats, especially since he isn’t fixed yet.  That happens tomorrow.  Tomorrow I take him to be neutered. He has been super good going in his litter box.  He also amazes us because he doesn’t cry to get out after our many very loving visits with him.  He really is pretty unbelievable, this special guy who has captured my heart!

I have received a lot of encouraging emails and Facebook posts about him.  Thank you all for your support because when I first took him in, I felt fearful and conflicted about what to do.  Now as he gazes into my eyes, as if he is saying thank you, I know that I have done exactly the right thing.  He also likes to place his paw on my hand like we are holding hands.  And he purrs constantly.  He really is more like a lap dog than a cat.  He loves our entire family, but he is especially loyal to me, climbing in my lap and nuzzling my face every time I pay him a visit!

So, we’ve had lots of name suggestions from your correspondence.  Some ideas were Kitty, Tukee, Foster and finally Oliver (thanks Liz).  We decided that Oliver is the perfect name for him because our daughter is currently in the upcoming Oliver production at the Ahwatukee Children’s Theatre and our Oliver is an orphan for sure.  In fact, as I combed the neighborhood trying to find his owners, I found a poster that my friend told me about that showed this same friendly guy relaxing happily in their home.  The poster was also looking for his original owners.  I’m not sure how he didn’t make it with that nice and temporary family, but somehow he seemed to know to come to the Harris home instead!  So he has been an orphan, apparently going door to door trying to find his forever home.  Breaks my heart and warms my heart that he is so happy to be here for now!

We are hoping that Oliver isn’t a true orphan for long.

He has worked his way into my heart and his good behavior has made me truly consider keeping him.  I just don’t know if our other cats will accept him.  Time will tell and if we continue our search for the perfect home for Oliver, you can bet that I will be super picky about who gets this amazing, super sweet, loyal, well behaved and all around amazing special guy! his toys

Wish us luck tomorrow on his surgery, his recovery and our continued journey as we see what happens next with the extraordinary Oliver!


Keep Pets Safe from Holiday Hazards

Manic:  This time of year can feel manic to your pets as they observe their people going full-speed through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season!

Managed:  The great  ideas in this terrific article written by writer, Lisa Walton.  Take a look at her tips to keep your pets stress-free and safe over the holidays!

Lisa says:

Because our pets are special, we want them to share all the special times in our life, including holidays. However, they may not be able to appreciate the strange people, noises, things and goings-on associated with holiday celebrations. In my family we’ve had cats climbing Christmas trees, dogs running off with stolen turkey legs from the table, dogs unwrapping presents under the tree, and all kinds of holiday craziness!

Here are some ways to keep your pet safe and happy during festive times.

General Tips:

  • Stick as closely as possible to your normal routine. Try not to vary your pet’s feeding, walking, and playtime schedule.
  • Don’t give your pet scraps from the table or holiday buffet. Cookies and pies, stuffing, and fancy hors d’oeuvres, are inappropriate foods for dogs and may make them sick.  Don’t feed them leftover turkey or ham, bones can actually splinter off and hurt their insides.  Some holiday foods can also make cats ill, too.
  • If you host a party, remember that some guests may be uncomfortable around dogs/cats. Your pet may, in turn, be uncomfortable or frightened around a large group of unfamiliar people. You may want to confine him in a crate or a room that will not be used by guests.
  • No matter how fun the party gets, never ever give your pet alcohol.

    Holiday Decorations:        

    • Holly, mistletoe and poinsettia plants are poisonous to animals. Make sure they are kept in places your pet cannot reach.
    • Watch out for electrical cords. Pets often try to chew them and get badly shocked or electrocuted. Place them out of reach.
    • Avoid glass ornaments, which break easily and may cut a pet’s feet or mouth.
    • Do not use edible ornaments, or cranberry or popcorn strings. Your pet may knock the tree over in an attempt to reach them.
    • Keep other ornaments off the lower branches; if your pet chews or eats an ornament, he can be made sick by the materials or paint.  Do not put lights on the lower branches of your tree. They may get very hot and burn your pet.
    • Tinsel can be dangerous for pets. It may obstruct circulation and, if swallowed, block the intestines.
    • Keep burning candles on high tables or mantels, out of the way of your dog’s wagging tail, and be watchful of your cats climbing nearby them.  You don’t want them burned or a candle accidentally knocked over.
    • Your pet may want to investigate wrapped packages; keep them out of reach or fence them off.

    Santa Paws Wish List:

    • Review pet holiday gifts for safety. Small plastic toys or bones may pose choking hazards.  Dogs have been known to tear their toys apart and swallow the pieces, which can then become lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, like Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible.
    • Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the most risky toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Surprise kitty with a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy or the interactive cat dancer—and tons of play sessions together.

    New Year’s Eve:

    • As you count down to the New Year, please keep in mind that strings of confetti & streamers can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers, fireworks, and banging pots/pans can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears.  Put them away where it’s quiet and they can stay safe.

        Happy Holidays…have fun, and keep those critters safe!

    About our writer, Lisa:


    Lisa Walton–Parenting tips & Family Matters
    Valley Teacher and Mother

    Lisa Walton has been a teacher in the Valley for over 18 years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Deaf Education from Illinois State University; and Master’s Degree in Special Education from Arizona State University. She currently works as an itinerant teacher, collaborating with regular education teachers in the public schools.

    Read more about Lisa on our team bio page