Archive for May, 2011

How Do I Love Thee?

Friday, May 27th, 2011

When we were newly married and I was trying to convince my husband that we NEEDED Max the Cat, my Mom said the words that got Max’s paw in the door. ..

“Russ, Do Not Make Her Choose.”

Russ is allergic to cats.  And guinea pigs.  And their hay.  Oh, and rats.  Mostly rats.  We have had them all.

By the time we had Fuzzy and Wuzzy (our 4th and 5th rats) he honestly could not breathe in their presence.  He just did not go into the living room, and if he did, we ended up in urgent care.  “You NEED to breathe, Finch,” I said, in a rare moment of logic over emotion.  He ended up on pretty strong allergy medications for the remainder of the rats’ lives.  He could not breathe well, and he ALWAYS felt miserable, but he did not die.

Crazy, huh?

You know what would be crazier?  If I insisted on a 6th rat…or a 6th and a 7th.  (You know, so Six wouldn’t get lonely.)

We adopted Fuzzy and Wuzzy (Hairless Dumbo Rex littermates) with the misguided hope that they would be less allergenic than their furry predecessors, ButtercupRita and Cookie.  Cookie actually ended up living with Mom and Dad because…yup, Russ could not breathe in her presence.

Fur does not cause allergic reactions.

Allergic reactions are caused by protein in dander, spit and pee.

HOW MANY years have I been telling friends and clients that very thing when they beg me to approve of their Sphinx Cat/Chinese Crested Dog-adoption-to-be because they are just sure hairless pets (or low-shedding pets, like Poodles) are hypoallergenic?  *sigh*  We were just sure hairless rats were hypoallergenic.

Not that that notion is totally misguided.  Some pets seem to cause less intense allergic reactions in people than others:  those with less hair slough less dander, are easier to keep clean and probably have a genetic predisposition to being less allergenic.


We knew better.  But we sure loved those rats.  I am grateful Russ coexisted with them for almost three years.  I will not ask him to do it again.

Thank you for not making me choose, Russ.

In honor of Russ’ kindness, I have written this poem.  My apologies to  Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  I am quite sure this is not what you meant your poem to be.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

If we live sixty more years more or less

And you stay on your meds and hold your breath,

To the very end of our married days…


I love thee more than all the future pets

We’d get if we filled our house like we do–

Got one of each color or maybe two.

I’d love all these Finches-to-be, and yet…


I love thee more than all of our future pets.

We could have two or four rats at a time!

And rabbits and piggies, kittens and cats,

Just a rough guess, that’s about ninety-nine

Pets we could have were we crazy like that.

But we’re not, and I promise, I’ll be fine.

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CareFRESH Blog!

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I am SO excited about my newest writing project!  I have been working with CareFRESH for a little over a year, and the team decided to start a blog on the website.  I love it!

Lavender CareFRESH bedding complimented Fuzzy and Wuzzy’s gorgeous skin the best of all the colors…

With this project, I will be less able to just go with my random kicks, and need to focus on themes and schedules and such much more than I do here on Riley and James, which, honestly, will be very good for me!

I am fairly disciplined, but (I have only ever told Russ this, and just very recently…) a large part of my discipline is extrinsic.  For example, I love having a made bed every morning, but if FLYLady did not tell me to make my bed, I probably would not!  I love being a veterinarian, but if I had not had the structure of veterinary school, I would not have learned all that I have.

And I love writing about environmental enrichment of <hamsters>, but if I were not led to write about it, I probably would not!

I will write somewhat shorter posts than what I normally write here, focus on small pets – rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, rabbits and ferrets – and send the team every single picture I have of Fuzzy, Wuzzy, Princess and Piggy!  Feel free to send cute pictures of your Warm Fuzzies too!

Wuzzy in her Classroom in a Box

I will let you know where on the CareFRESH website the blog is as soon as I know.  It will probably attract a similar crowd to the Ask-a-Vet part of the CareFRESH website (kids and adults who are in love with small pets – two of my very favorite subsets of humanity!)  It will be an interactive blog, which will be very fun.  I hope you will come join me as often as you can!

For now, will you help me come up with topics? Do you have questions that would be best answered in a longer post than the Q & A of Ask-a-Vet?  Are there things about your own favorite small pet species that you think everyone should know, but may not yet?  THIS is going to be fun, people! :)

Princess Gerbil



Good Dogs!

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Guess how much we learned about behavior and training in veterinary school?  The best explanation I have heard for what is taught in vet school is this:  “Four years is much too short to learn EVERYTHING.  Vet school is for learning how to THINK like a vet.”  So true.  Still…

The answer is…NOTHING!  Maybe these days, with all of the great behavior medication and knowledge on how mental and emotional health are linked to physical health, behavior is better covered in vet school.  Everything I know is from trial and error, reading and…you guys.  (Thank you so much!  I don’t need to be a genius, I just surround myself with them!)

So we have always had great dogs, but we have never had very well trained dogs.  Here is what I know for sure:

Positive reinforcement

(reinforcing the desired behavior, ignoring the undesired behavior)

is ALWAYS best.

And, um, that was going to be a list, but really, that is all I know.

The Doorbell Song

This week we have buckled down on the barking-at-the-door training.  When my wonderful Aunt asked me for help with her pup’s barking, I realized that I am a lame barking training resource.  Joy and Noodle are the worst door barkers there ever were.  So I told my Aunt what I knew (but have not practiced well!) and set out to train our barkers.

When the doorbell rings or people walk by or New Mailman delivers the mail (their three biggest barking triggers) I thank them for warning me after the first bark, ask them to come to me and sit  then give them a cat treat.  That is all I have done, and it has worked like a charm!

The real test will be SUMMER, when kids are in and out of the front door constantly.  I will let you know how well my novice training holds up!

Trainers, behaviorists, dog owners who are more successful in training than I, what have you done to teach your dogs not to bark incessantly?  And next up on the Finch dog training…teaching Joy and Noodle not to jump on friends when they come over!  I would love your suggestions!

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Nice to Meet You!

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011


ntmy :)

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Dr. Becker, Teresa, Gina, McKenzie, Rebecca, Dan, Simon the Cat and friends and Council Bluffs PetCo team, it was so nice to meet you all!  And Dr. Backlund, it was very nice to see you!  We had a very fun afternoon.


Joy the Puppy and me :)

Laboratory Animals are Exotic Pets on a Different Life Path

Monday, May 16th, 2011

I have spent the afternoon researching small pet (rabbit and rodent) nutrition in my constant, obsessive quest to be a better veterinarian for my patients and veterinary resource for CareFRESH.  Much of my reading today has circled back to laboratory animal nutrition resources.  That is weighing heavily on me.  It is difficult to read about research subjects when my frame of reference in Real Life centers around my own pets and the rodent patients who come in for individual, loving veterinary care, often in the hands of a child.

In college I worked with the best teacher I have ever had, Dr. Merlyn Nielsen, a Professor of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  His research interest at the time was primarily the heritability of obesity in mice.  I loved helping Dr. Nielsen with his research and spending time with his super cute little white mice.

I did data collection and analysis pertaining to fat percentages of purposely bred thinner and heavier genetic lines of mice – all survival studies, because Dr. Nielsen knew from the start I was a wimp and would cry if I were asked to do terminal studies.  (A story for another day – CPR on a laboratory mouse was my first rodent CPR attempt, not CPR on our baby ratties.)

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It took me thirty minutes to find a plain ol’ white lab mouse picture to contrast with the pet hamster picture, and I still think this guy is super cute!

Fast-forward to senior year of vet school.  I was finishing a well-rounded Midwestern veterinary education covering cattle, horses, pigs, cats and dogs, and realized no one had said “mice” to me in four years.  So I headed down to the Lab Animal corner of the veterinary school and Dr. Lab Animal created an exotic pet rotation for me.  We threw in a couple goat cases for fun.  Again, a surprisingly wonderful experience.  And again, I was shielded from terminal studies.

Fast-forward um…many…years, and I LOVE my career as a small animal vet.  I started in Littleton where lots of vets saw exotics, and ended up in Omaha, where I often get “You’ll see my hamster??  Woo!  I will be right there!” which is almost more fun.  Yeah, exotic pet loving vets are here, and they are awesome, but they are few and far between.  I get quite a few referals from vets who only see dogs and cats and even from mixed animal practitioners (vets who see pets and large animals).  Imagine the courage it takes a pet owner to ask that guy for a hamster referral!

Most of what I have learned has been from exotic pet veterinary books, experience, continuing education and other veterinarians with an interest in exotic pets.  Every once in a while I will wonder…

What if laboratory animal researchers and veterinarians who like exotic pets communicated?

We don’t.  We have entirely different goals and focuses.  Pet practitioners are sad around research.  It is difficult to wrap our heads around.  Animals educated us so we could help other animals.  We got through it and do not want to look back.


Both of my experiences working with lab animals were very positive.  Both leaders who taught me were kind-hearted, compassionate people who cared very much for the animals they oversaw.

And SO MUCH research has been done over the years on animal health and nutrition and longevity.  It has mainly been done to benefit people.

Thank you researchers.  Thank you animals.

What if the knowledge from that research were also used to help pets?  I joke that we should have more medical knowledge about guinea pigs than any other species, because they are…guinea pigs.  But do we?  And if so, is it all being accessed to its fullest potential?

I think I have been ignoring a huge resource to the detriment of the patients under my care.  I do not have a conclusion for this post because I do not know how it ends.

When I figure out how to bridge the gap between the caretakers of the animals of the research world and the caretakers of the animals of the exotic pet world, I will share with you what I learn.  This is just one tip of the lab animal iceberg, which, for me, is a very emotional topic.  Chime in – I would love to hear your perspective.

Sometimes the most emotionally exhausting journeys are also the most rewarding.

My Personal Twitter Policy

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

I saw this post regarding a personal twitter policy and thought it was very cool.  It was very kind of Brent Pohlman and Josh Whitford and before them, Klaus Holzapfel, to share this great idea.

So…Here is My Personal Twitter Policy.  I am not a social media genius like these guys.  I am a Mom and a vet.  I am not a guy like these guys…I am a girl.  And I am me.  So it will be different.  Also, I think I will call it something exciting.  Check out their personal twitter policies too!  They are great!


Twitter Secrets – Revealed!

Haha, just kidding.  That is my exciting title for what is actually…

My Personal Twitter Policy

My Twitter Goals

  • to promote veterinary preventative care, pet welfare and retention of pets in families
  • to interact and build relationships with Awesomes (you)
  • fun
  • Here’s a link to my twitter beginnings…Twitter for Veterinarians. When I started, I had no clear goals, I was just doing what Secret Penguin told me to do.


Same as my Real Life personal and professional confidentiality policy:


If you specifically say I can share your pet’s medical case or picture  or a personal story, or ask me to, I will.  Otherwise, I will not.  You can always trust me to be a scandal/gossip/great story/confidential information dead end.

Subject of Postings

Pets.  Links to pet and medical stuff.  Kids.  Family and friends.  Things I notice.  Things that amuse me.  Random things.  Omaha stuff.  I am not one of those super focused, serious, professional veterinarians…on twitter, I mean.  In Real Life, I totally am.


I LOVE talking to people on twitter!  If a tweet is started with @ it is only seen in the twitter stream of that person and people you both follow.  So, everyone else does not have to “hear” every single thing you say (but can – it is not private like DM’s are), but friends who may be interested or want to jump in to the conversation are able to.

I try not to curse or say crabby stuff, or say anything online that would reflect poorly on myself or groups I represent (, my home veterinary hospital, Banfield, CareFRESH, my family, my church, God Himself…).

If I have a concern about a company, I tell them in a DM (direct message).  If I have a praise about a company, I say it “outloud” in a tweet to everyone.  If I need to tell a particularly hilarious joke that should not be said out loud, I tell Russ in Real Life…when no children are present.

Me Following You

I follow EVERYONE who has followed me.  (See, now would be the time for a super funny joke I will only tell Russ.)  I block accounts with profane pictures or tweets.  I do not follow anyone that has an egg avatar and has never tweeted.  Even bots have a place on twitter though.  The one bot I follow on purpose is @unfollowr.  AND there is a Real Person behind that account.  His name is Ian.

I only unfollow people that Ian says have unfollowed me – just to keep my follower/following ratio clean, not out of any sort of meanness.  It has kind of become a game.  I love it.

You Following Me

I link to blog posts I write, and I post pet information I think is fun or interesting.  If my puppy scratches her ear, I will tweet that to you, perhaps even with a twitpic picture.  I will also tell you fun stuff that is happening in Omaha…or that my brothers are doing…or that interests me.  Kind of random.  So if any of that stuff interests you, you may like my tweets.

Always (I hope) friendly and postitive.  I try to usually tweet no more than five “outloud” tweets (tweets that do not start with @) a day, out of respect for the other tweeters in your twitter stream.

Monitoring Twitter

I have twitter open on my computer when I am at home writing.  So if you send a tweet containing @Finch93, I will always answer it, often in real time.

I check my timeline about once a day, but really only closely read tweets from my lists.  I try not to miss a tweet from my Hey I Know You list and also like to check friends on my other lists, most often Follow Friday.

I do not have twitter on my phone and do not ever check it at work.  I am obsessively in love with twitter and the people there and need those boundries so I can focus in Real Life.

Protected Postings

I understand why some people protect their twitter accounts.  I try to say only stuff I do not mind everyone reading, keep the detailed information about the kids to a minimum (though they are so super cute that that is difficult…luckily I am as neurotically overprotective as they are cute), and follow everyone and let everyone follow me.  So my tweets are not protected.  I do not follow people whose tweets are protected unless they have followed me first and I think they may be looking for more followers.  Then I knock really softly and stand back.


I think this policy template is awesome and I think everyone should post a personal twitter policy on their own website!  Feel free to copy.  If you go through this policy and post it on your site, please let me know.  I would like to see and learn how others view their use of twitter.

(Ironically, that whole uncopyright paragraph was copied word for word from Brent, as was this great template, which he copied from Josh, which he copied from Klaus.  Thank you guys!)






Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Meeting Marty Becker

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Marty Becker, DVM is on his Big Bus Tour across the country to promote his newest book, Your Dog, The Owner’s Manual and also to promote veterinarians and veterinary care.  (Thanks Doctor!)

He will be at the PetCo in Council Bluffs from 12:30 – 2:00 pm on Tuesday, May 17, 2011.

Dr. Wittler and I have cancelled our Tuesday lunch meeting (Thanks Doctor!), which is one of my very favorite parts of the week, so that I can go meet Dr. Marty Becker with Joy the Puppy.

Come with us if you can!  This is a great opportunity.  Dr. Becker has done SO much to promote the human-animal bond and the veterinary profession.

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I do just fine meeting people in exam rooms, but in The Rest of the World, I am well-known among friends and family for my ability to flub even that simple cultural nicety, especially if it is someone I am excited to meet!

My brother Dave introduced me to his friend Stephen Baldwin, and I messed that up.  In my defense, Sara walked up with Riley (my Great Dane-niece of the “Riley and James” duo, who was a super-cute gangly adolescent pup at the time) at the exact moment I was shaking Stephen’s hand, and I got distracted.  When I looked up from petting Riley, he was gone.  (Sorry Mr. Baldwin!  Give me one more chance!)

A guy walked up to the reception desk of Banfield Pet Hospital of Oakview here in Omaha when I worked there several years ago and asked me a puppy question.  He was very nice and fun to talk with.  We chatted for a few minutes, and he wandered off.  That night, I told Russ I met someone who looked like Nick Nolte, and when I described him, he said, “No, you met him.”  When Russ showed me pictures, I realized he was right.  Oops.  *Putting this out into the universe*  It was nice to meet you, sir!

Before that, it was Rich Mullins about fifteen years ago.  (I did say “Nice to meet you” after I said “um…”!)  SO glad I had the opportunity to meet him.  He was one of my heroes.

I messed up meeting the members of the band Geoff Moore and the Distance during veterinary school in Ames because I was rushing to get out of the crowd and did not recognize them.   (Yup, even though we had just experienced their awesome music for the preceeding two hours.)  We found the same back exit the band was using, and I was in tunnel-vision get-me-out-of-this-crowd mode.  They said “Hi guys!” and, thinking they were other fans being friendly, we said “hi,” but did not stay to chat, which, in hindsight, was the chance of a lifetime.  *sigh*   (Sorry guys!  I really do think you are great!)

Oh!  I remember a success story!  The day I met Lorie A. Huston, DVM, we had pasta for lunch, and I did not even spill marinara sauce on myself…or Lorie.  Yay me!

Having a puppy with me this time will help me to not be flustered…though I may get distracted…

Wish me luck!  Dr. Becker, if I forget to say it…

“Nice to meet you!”

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The Goldfish Swam Out

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Apparently, saying “What harm can it do?” is as bad as saying “What is the worst that can happen?”

Right before I left to pick up the girls from school this afternoon, Abby’s goldfish died.  When I got home with one crying kid and one sympathetic kid, the girls went to change into play clothes, and I ended up with two crying kids.  Amanda’s goldfish had died while we were walking home from school.  The two little goldfish had been Finch fish for almost twenty-four hours.

What great little life lesson is supposed to be drawn from this part of the fish saga??  I dunno either.

This sucks.

Same song, second verse…

We went to Mom and Dad’s to snag two more goldfish from the pond.  I worried that even after just one day in the big pond, the fish would not be excited about indoor bowl life.

Dad decided that the girls needed bettas instead…much hardier than goldfish.  And so began the second verse.  Here’s hoping.

Grandpa truly saved the day, and I have two happy kids again.  I do believe Bubbles and Yellow Jello did what they were put on this earth to do.

Now we have Sea Shell and Coral.  I can do bettas…I like bettas…

The Goldfish Swam In

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

I did not mean to let it happen.

No more pets.  Ever.  That was mine and my husband’s rigid decree.  Our rodent corner is empty.  Our fish bowls and terrariums are long gone.  Even the butterfly habitat is empty.  Our huge, huge dog beds are missing the great big lovable mutt that took up most of both of them.  Joy the Puppy and Noodle the Poodle curl up in tiny sad circles in the middle of each.  Max the Cat is the only one who thinks we are finally down to a sane number of pets…or we would be if we got rid of those dogs.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

We have decided to not be hurt any more.  We have stood strong through pleas (and offers) for kittens, puppies, guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils.  No more.  Ever.

Today I got a call from Dad who had taken our daughters on a quick errand to PetSmart for wild birdseed and pond fish.  “The girls want to keep one of these fish, but we didn’t get food or bowls.  We’ll be home in three minutes.  Figure it out.”

No!  Dad!  *sigh*  Maybe.

I can do a fish…I love goldfish.  The girls are old enough to feed a fish and clean a fish bowl.  We had Dexter Goldfish for four years.  He was awesome.  They come when called, better than Joy the Puppy ever has…

The girls came rushing in happier than I have seen them in months.  My Mom loaned them a fish bowl (that I believe I had given to Mom when we said “No more pets!”)  I told the girls to pick the smallest fish.  Yeah, goldfish should have a tank and bubbler and filter (or a pond, Dad!) but I was three minutes in and was flailing.  I figured a little guy would do the best in a gallon bowl until we could get him settled in and all.  I just wanted to get him home and figure out what happened to my “no more pets” ultimatum.

Turns out they each wanted their own pet, one for each kid, one for each bedroom.  The goldfish are looking at me now.  They are super cute.  Their names are Bubbles and Yellow Jello.

Guarding your heart does not mean building a high, high wall around it that no one or nothing can get past.  Everyone knows that.  Even me.  I tried to do that anyways, and two little goldfish swam in.

Thank you Dad. Yes, I am having a wonderful Mother’s Day.  I say these little guys are the only exceptions to “No More Pets” for the rest of my years.  Others may say that it’s a start…Regardless, for today at least, what harm can it do to let two little goldfish swim in?