Tony Montana wants a home

May 6, 2015 by Brad McElhinny
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Read more about Tony Montana here.

Help us find Sweetie

November 22, 2014 by Brad McElhinny
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This is Sweetie. It’s not an entirely accurate name. She likes to drown toy mice in her water dish. She’s also a weirdo. She’s fascinated by water and likes to lick the shower glass. She also licks the outside of any lotion bottles you might have lying around.

In any case, Sweetie appears to be lost.

We’d like her back.

We were moving some things, and although we didn’t see it at the time, it seems Sweetie slipped out the door. She could be wandering somewhere around Charleston’s East End, possibly in the vicinity of Quarrier Street.

She is a scaredy-cat so she’s likely to be shy of an approaching stranger.

Come home, Sweetie!







Pumpkins for your pup

October 28, 2014 by Brad McElhinny
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Trick or treat!

pumpkinAs we’ve learned at our house, a carved pumpkin can be both trick and treat for doggie.

The first time we learned this was several evenings ago when the kids spread out some newspaper on the floor for their annual pumpkin carving. As they cut the top off the gourds and started pulling pulpy pumpkin chunks from inside, our dog circled like a scavenger. This comes very naturally to him.

Eventually he grabbed a hunk and skulked off.

“Dogs don’t like pumpkin!” I said.


A couple of nights later, we awoke to the sound of doggie barking. I wondered if we had an intruder, or if another dog was barking outside, or if we had a smoke detector with a failing battery.

Came to discover doggie had broken out of his nighttime abode, pulled the remaining pumpkin parts from their trashbag and had a feast.

He was barking because, with the feast finished, he believed it was time to wake up. It was 2 a.m.

Is pumpkin truly a treat for dogs? The Dog Whisperer says yes, although only in small amounts.

This festive gourd is a miracle food for dogs. Good for both diarrhea and constipation, canned pumpkin (not raw, not the sugary, spicy pie filling) is loaded with fiber and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. Don’t give Buddy a lot of it—too much A is highly toxic to dogs—but a couple of teaspoons a day for little pups, or a couple of tablespoons for big boys, should keep them right on track. is in concurrence on the pumpkins for pooches issue: “Pumpkin not only is acceptable for dogs to eat; it’s downright good for them.”

So, there you have it.  A pumpkin might be perfect for a pooch with hunger pangs. Just don’t raid the garbage for the whole gourd.

If pets are anything like having kids…

September 3, 2014 by kelseythomas
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I’m in my mid-20s, so that means the majority of my social media feed is dominated by two types of people: those who take pictures of their babies and those who take pictures of their pets.

I fall into the latter.

But any given day, my “friends” and “followers” allow me to crack open the door and grab a sneak peek of life with children. I see happy babies, sad babies, excited babies, angry babies and sick babies.

It seems that parents are amazed by every little thing their children do. Once, a new father told me that life changes after you have children… rather than going out and doing things, you literally “sit at home and stare at the kids.”

At the time, I didn’t understand this.

And then I got a dog.

As if I’d just birthed a newborn baby, my social media pals were soon inundated with pictures of said dog —  happy Ruthie, sad Ruthie, excited Ruthie, angry Ruthie and sick Ruthie.

I often chose to forego weekend plans to sit at home with her. I began to drive a little more quickly on my way home, brimming with excitement that she would greet me at the door when I arrived.  I thought it was cute when she was a total brat. I watched her sniff things. I even watched her eat.  Who am I kidding, I watched her every move.

Meanwhile, my social media connections — I’m sure — grew sick of seeing my dog’s face every time they logged in.

And then it hit me.

I’ve never considered myself much of a kid person, but if having kids is anything like having a Ruthie — I’m so in.



Struggling to find a pet-friendly apartment? Let us know!

August 19, 2014 by shawneemoran
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Have you had trouble finding a pet-friendly apartment in the Charleston area?

If your answer is yes we would like to hear from you.

Contact Matt Murphy, our local government reporter. Your comments could be included in an upcoming story. Contact him at

Confessions from a crazy ferret lady

June 25, 2014 by shawneemoran
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 I always knew I wanted to have a pet ferret. When I was young my dad would take the green photo album off the shelf, sit on the couch and tell me stories about the two ferrets he had before he got married—Farrah and Fallon.

The tales he told about the furry creatures intrigued me—he said they were playful creatures with slinky bodies and little pink noses. His ferrets, he said, loved to steal his socks and liked to be held at night. They were nothing like anything I had seen before. For years I asked my parents for a ferret and my persistence finally paid off during my freshman year of high school—that’s when I got Foxxy.

This was taken on my 18th birthday. My little brother decided to "give" Foxxy to me as a present.

This was taken on my 18th birthday. My little brother decided to “give” Foxxy to me as a present.

It’s funny—for something I loved so much I don’t quite remember how we decided she was the one.
I remember her being very tiny, in fact so tiny that she could fit easily in my hand. She didn’t know what to think of us at first and seemed a little uneasy about her new home, but it didn’t take her long to get comfortable.We decided to let Foxxy run freely around the house instead of keeping her in a cage. We had a cage, of course, but she was never in it. She loved to curl up and go to sleep in my bed, and waited for me to come home from school to hold her. My family would argue about who would get to hold her in the evenings because she would sleep for hours on end.

Foxxy was there for some of the best moments of my life—when I got the lead in the high school musical, when I was accepted into West Virginia University and when I graduated high school. She was also there for me during bad breakups, when I was involved in a head-on collision and when I had bad days at work. After a rough day at Dollar Tree I would go in my room, see a lump under my blanket and the stress would vanish.

She loved getting belly rubs.

She loved getting belly rubs.

Foxxy lived for a long time—I was lucky. Ferrets usually live anywhere from five to seven years and I was able to spend seven and a half years with her before she died in her sleep. I am so thankful she went peacefully. I had so many great memories with her, and I cherish every single one of them. (The year 2012-13 was a bad year for pets in the Moran household—in addition to Foxxy’s death, we had to put our cat and dog to sleep.)

In the months following Foxxy’s death I found myself going to Petco to visit the ferrets occasionally. Petco received a group of baby ferrets in July, and I instantly fell in love with a tiny ferret with little white feet.

(I will never forget standing there and watching the baby ferrets when an older gentleman and his granddaughter came up to the cage. She pressed her face up to the glass and asked him what they were. He replied, “Those are ferrets. Get away from the cage—they’ll chew your arm off.” I couldn’t help but to look at the tiny animals and laugh.)

A couple of weeks later I went out to eat with my family for my birthday. After our meal my mom suggested we visit Petco to see the baby ferrets—just to look at them.

Well, somehow we came home with two tiny, wide-eyed ferrets that day.

As my parents and brothers assembled their cage I played with them in the bathroom. They eventually got tired, curled up on the floor with me and went to sleep— words can’t express how happy I was at that moment.

We named the one I fell in love with weeks earlier, the one with the white feet, Socks, and the exceptionally small ferret, the one with the light brown outline on her nose, Summer.

This is Summer--she's a sweetheart.

This is Summer–she’s a sweetheart.

This is Socks. Can you see how I fell in love with him from the very beginning?

This is Socks. Can you see how I fell in love with him from the very beginning?

In August we adopted the third and final member of our ferret party, a white, fluffy ferret with light brown markings. My mom fell in love with him at the pet store when she went to pick up ferret food. She found out his previous owners took him back to the pet store —for whatever reason they didn’t want him anymore. We immediately fell in love with him and brought him home, and Sampson became a member of the family.

This is the best picture I have gotten of Sampson to date--he doesn't want to hold still for pictures.

This is the best picture I have gotten of Sampson to date–he doesn’t want to hold still for pictures.

And that’s the story on how I became a crazy ferret lady.

I never thought I would ever love a ferret as much as I loved Foxxy, but the love I have for these three is unbelievable. As any pet owner could tell you, every animal has a different personality—Socks is a momma’s boy, Summer is a sweetheart and Sampson is just plain ornery. They currently live with my parents in Morgantown, and I go home as often as I can to visit them.If you were thinking about getting a ferret as a pet, if you have time to spend with them, I would highly recommend it. In my opinion they are the perfect pet—loving, playful and cuddly.

On losing a lifelong friend

June 18, 2014 by kelseythomas
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Yesterday, I found a yellow hair woven into the fibers of an old sweatshirt — a familiar sight, as I had been plucking the same hairs off of my clothes for the past 14 years. Tears welled in my eyes as I pulled the wiry hair from my shirt and carefully placed it on the dresser. Throwing it away just wouldn’t feel right.  Milly has been gone six months, but I’m still finding reminders of her everywhere.

We first saw her in a December 1999 newspaper advertising “mixed breed/part lab” puppies, and although my mom assured us we were not getting one, that evening we were sprawled out with a puppy on the linoleum kitchen floor.


She was my constant from the age of 10 to 24. She had seen me through elementary, middle and high school, and then college.  At the sound of the school bus, she’d assume duty at the storm door, both ears perked and her paws tapping up and down like the floor was lava. Milly was my keeper when I developed a respiratory infection in 7th grade, and from then forward ran to my room any time she heard even the most muffled of coughs. She saw friends and boyfriends come and go.  I lived in three dorms, four apartments and moved to two different cities, but Milly was always my home.

Somewhere along the way, things changed. Her whiskers turned from black to grey. I realized her hearing was gone when she no longer responded to my coughs or the turn of the front door knob. She was uninterested in new visitors, and toys that were once spread throughout the house went untouched for months at a time. The light in her eyes dulled — coated in a film I’m used to only seeing in my grandparents’ eyes — and her tail took up permanent residency between her legs.  Once buoyant attempts at jumping onto the bed ended with her defeatedly slamming into the side of the mattress.  Near the end, I’d awake to her falling down the steps, the sound of her toenails clicking against the hardwood floor until silence when she hit the bottom.

Milly told us when it was time to go.  I’d always heard they’d do that, but I had no idea how painful it would be. The night before “it” happened, she kept my parents awake gasping for air.

The next morning, I almost got the call too late.  My mom was at the vet waiting to take her in. They thought I wouldn’t be able to handle saying goodbye. I jumped out of bed and raced to the office I had visited so many times : when Milly was spayed and we were greeted by a wobbly and sedated puppy; the time she had a toothache and her cheek swelled to the size of a golf ball; and most recently, the time we were told there was a problem with her heart and she would be gone soon.  That was only two months earlier, in October.

I approached the car where my mom was waiting with her, hurriedly pressing my hands against the glass of the truck window, seeing Milly and regardless of the circumstance, was relieved “it” hadn’t been done yet.  I felt guilty for choosing not to visit two days earlier when I had time to do so.  Her floppy ears perked, and despite her limp body, she managed to wag her tail at me. My mom said that was the most alive she’d seen her in days.

The office felt sterile and cold, like an operating room, and I felt strangely comforted as the vet, though merely a stranger, hugged me.  He had cared for Milly her entire life. Still, the process felt very impersonal.  They hadn’t seen the guilt in her eyes the day she ate an entire chicken breast off of our kitchen table or the way she closed her eyes when she faced the sun. They didn’t know she refused to eat rawhides that weren’t Dollar Tree brand or that we had to close our bedroom doors because she had a knack for snooping through trash  or that she loved popping bubble wrap with her pointy front teeth.

He warned us that the injection would cause her to fall “asleep” with her eyes open, and that it would be best to leave before the procedure.  Milly had been there for me through so many things that I couldn’t imagine leaving her in this room to die alone.  I asked my mom, “Are you sure? Do we have to do this?”  I wanted to change her mind.  We’d take Milly home and pretend like it never happened and she’d get better.  It felt like murder when she was in good spirits only days before.

I remember how comfortably she laid on the stainless steel table where she would usually be fighting.  I remember how she didn’t flinch when the shot went in, and the tinge of regret and panic I felt as the vet removed the needle from her leg. “Maybe there’s still time to save her,” I thought, as I envisioned the anesthetic slowly making its way through her veins, petrifying her body as it traveled. As I held her head, her eyes went blank.  Just like that, she was gone.

And just as we came, we left that day with her leash attached to her collar, only this time, it was empty.

If there’s a doggy heaven, I sure hope they stocked up on Dollar Tree rawhides.


Shiba Inus: Not for the faint of heart

May 22, 2014 by kelseythomas
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Our Shiba Inu, Ruthie, may only be 20 pounds, but she has a gigantic personality.

When Googling this particular breed, you will find that they are often adored for their sass, intelligence and heart-melting face but rejected for their strong-willed independence.

Once, I overheard my mom telling Ruthie she was lucky she had such a cute face because the rest of her was awful. She’s right, but her face is definitely more than enough to make up for her sassiness.

My mom had, much to Ruthie’s dismay, tried to clean her ears out the night before.  Ruthie punished her by refusing to sleep with her (opting to sleep in the living room alone) and when my mom greeted her the next morning, she turned around in her dog bed so that she was staring at the couch, refusing to make eye contact.

This apparently isn’t uncommon behavior for a Shiba. While many dogs are happy go lucky and rarely use their emotions to manipulate humans, Shibas are master magicians, and they have no problem combining their smarts and strong will to control their masters.

The best example I can provide you with is Ruthie on walks – or lack thereof. My brother and I adopted her at the age of 6 and she was previously trained as a show dog, so she walked amazingly on a leash when we first brought her home.  After a couple of weeks, she had apparently realized there was no need to impress us any longer.  She began picking and choosing her route and refusing to move if we didn’t walk the way she wished.  Several times, I have had to peel her off the street and carry her home because I wouldn’t give in to her sass and go, literally, the extra mile. The other day, she put on the brakes and laid down to take a little nap under the shade of a stranger’s tree. Before work, if I opt to take her the short way (up the hill), this is the result:


If I begin to walk down the hill, which is the path to a nice, long wooded neighborhood, she happily prances.





I type “stubborn Shiba” into Google, curious to see if others have similar quirks.  Turns out Shibas are manipulating their humans into longer walks worldwide.




This is only one exhibit of Ruthie’s (whose birth certificate so aptly names her “The Ruthless One”) well… ruthlessness. While many would find this behavior annoying, I find it endearing and quirky.  Her defiance is very articulate. She is such a lady, and she never makes a scene.  I want to get angry, but I always end up laughing out loud and surrendering. My neighbors probably think I’m crazy.

Who can’t love a dog this smart?

Easter bunnies are a lifetime commitment

April 20, 2014 by Samantha Ricketts
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To some, Easter means the end of Lent. To others, coloring and hunting for eggs. To me, it’s a chance to see my pet everywhere.

Not him, specifically, but his species.

He’s a bunny. And his name is Jacques.


All my life, I’ve had various rodents and the like for pets. My dad is allergic to cats, and my mom just didn’t want a dog to mess up her house. So my options were confined to caged animals. I’ve had guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils and bunnies. I’d recommend some more than others. Guinea pigs and rats are great. Hamsters, not really.

I’d love to own all the pets in the world. But for now, I’m content with just my bunny.

He’s the perfect pet for me.

He doesn’t make any noise, so I can keep him in my apartment without any problems. He also doesn’t make any messes, except in his cage. And that just needs cleaned once a week. He doesn’t eat or drink much, and is content with just a wooden box to jump on, a blanket to dig in and a paper towel roll to play with. Mine is a unique bunny in that he doesn’t enjoy carrots or other vegetables, but he snacks on a few select treats from the pet store.

But bunnies are not for everyone.

If you’re thinking about getting a bunny for Easter, make sure you’re ready for a commitment. They live for 8 to 12 years and have strong personalities. Be prepared to play with them daily. They like attention and they need a good-sized area to run and jump. Although they don’t need baths, you’ll need to cut their nails every few weeks, or take them somewhere to do so. You’ll also need a stockpile of newspaper and bedding to line the cage, as well as rabbit food, treats and toys.

They don’t cost as much as a dog or cat, but they require the same amount of love. Please don’t buy one as a cute addition to your Easter basket just to turn it in to the animal shelter in a few weeks.

Stuffed toys are for baskets; animals are for life.


Reading Up on Pet Food

April 15, 2014 by Dana Smook
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What type of food does your pet eat? Do you know what’s really in that food?

In 2013, the news story every dog owner was talking about involved tainted jerky treats, which sickened nearly 3,600 dogs and killed hundreds. A newer article from the Washington Post brings up those bad memories again, saying the FDA is still trying to “nail down what might be behind the illnesses.”

Our furry children are our family, and many Americans are thinking harder about what they’re feeding their families, moving toward less processed, more organic options. So of course there are many questions surrounding the kibble our pets eat. Do all store bought pet foods provide the same nutritional value? How can we be sure the food we buy is safe? Should we go with dry or wet foods? You want to choose the very best nutrition for your pet at a price you can afford.

At Kanawha County Public Library, requests for books about pet nutrition and health are increasing. If you’re like me, you find the food aisles at your favorite pet store overwhelming, and maybe you are struggling to understand the choices there. Here are some resources that you can trust to help you navigate food choices for your dog or cat.

Online Resources

The Chemistry of Kibble,” by Mary Roach, featured in Popular Science.
While this article won’t help you choose a brand or type of food, it is an engaging peek into the pet food industry, written by a favorite author of nonfiction readers.

FDA and Pet Food” (Online video).
This is a video from the FDA which discusses roles the agency plays in regulating the manufacture of pet foods. The information is a little dry, but if you’re wondering just how much oversight there is over your pet’s food, this may answer some of your questions.

Choosing the right pet food” by Dr. Cynthia Maro, featured in the Ellwood City Ledger.
Here’s the short and sweet: what to look for in a pet food, from a veterinarian, written for the layman.

Books Available at Kanawha County Public Library

Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, by Marion Nestle
In 2007, reports of sick animals led to a massive recall of pet food. The “trail of tainted pet food ingredients” led officials to sources that involved human food supply. This expose highlights connections between pet food and human food manufacturing and identifies gaps in international food safety oversight.

Feed Your Pet Right, by Marion Nestle
Nutritionist Marion Nestle, author of Pet Food Politics and What to Eat, teamed up with veterinarian Malden Nesheim to create this guide on selecting healthy food for pets. The authors shine light on industry practices and marketing tricks to help pet owners objectively evaluate pet food labels and nutritional quality.

Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook, by Barbara Taylor-Laino
Not satisfied with commercially available foods? Frightened by the massive contamination scares of the last decade? This book includes recipes for feeding pets at every stage of life, including snacks and treats and suggestions for supplementing store bought pet food with homemade.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Liz Palika
You might scoff at the “Complete Idiot’s Guide” series, but these are excellent, highly researched reference books. This one is no different. While this book covers a range of topics, there is special focus on food and nutrition. You’ll find lots of excellent information here on how food can affect your pet’s health.