Author Archives: Alice Benavides

House Calls

posted October 15th, 2009 by

STORY BY ALICE BENAVIDES

HOUSE CALLS. A THING OF THE PAST? Not for Tulsa.
Serving the Tulsa area are a few dedicated professionals who make it their priority to bring their specialty to pet owners with mobility as an option.

SHARI WILDER is one such Tulsan.
She owns Posh Paws Mobile Dog Grooming. She travels to peoples’ homes and grooms their dogs in her van right outside the home.

Shari got her idea one day while searching the web. Soon after, she and her husband purchased a van and morphed it into a salon. That was in 2004, and ever since, she has operated her business-one dog at a time-from her mobile salon.

Every day is a new experience for Shari as she drives from home to home grooming her furry friends. She tries to schedule no more than seven dogs a day, taking about one hour to bathe, blow dry, and groom each animal.

Shari finds that her mobility reduces stress for pet owners, who do not like leaving their beloved pets at the groomers all day-and locked up in a cage for most of that time-not to mention all the driving to and fro. And she says there is less stress for the pets also. She can work one-on-one, without the chaotic barking of other dogs in the background.

And best of all, when Shari is done, she walks the dog back into the house freshly groomed and happy. “That is the best feeling I could ever ask for,” she says. Shari can be reached at 918-671-3899 or [email protected]. Her web site is www.tulsapaws.com.

Another professional dedicated to mobility is SCOTT HARTFELDER. Scott owns PetSquad, a home delivery system of allnatural dog and cat foods, treats, and supplies.

A casualty of layoff in 2003, Scott found his inspiration while researching businesses and franchises for purchase. And being a pet lover himself, he believed that this unique business would make a go in the Tulsa area.

A typical day for Scott is spent taking orders on the phone and internet, and then filling theorders and delivering them. Each day of the week is spent covering a certain zip code area. That way, his customers have the convenience of knowing when he will be in their neighborhood.

Scott says his business is truly familyowned. His wife fills in for him when necessary, and his father does most of the deliveries-and the customers just love him! “We are a family of pet lovers and truly enjoy and believe in what we do!” Scott says.

Many people hear about Scott’s business and think they are unable to afford it. He encourages these prospective customers to compare the price and ingredients in his product with something similar at the store, and they will see that PetSquad is not only affordable but convenient. And delivery is free! Scott can be reached at 918-369-9399 or [email protected] His web site is www.petsquadok.com.

HEATHER OWEN, DVM, owns Animal Acupuncture and is a mobile veterinary acupuncturist. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University in 2001. After seeing many good animals being put down only because they were suffering with painful diseases, such as arthritis or hip dysplasia, Heather looked for an alternative. She attended Colorado State University and received her acupuncture certification in 2006. Now she enjoys helping these animals. Nothing she does hurts them. “Best of all,” she says, “no thermometers!” Acupuncture helps to alleviate pain in older animals that can no longer walk and animals for which surgery is not an option.

Some animals are up and wagging their tails after just one treatment while others may need several treatments. Acupuncture can also help the mother dog who is in labor, unable to continue. Heather inserts a few needles and puppies are born.

The treatments take twenty to thirty minutes, but Heather allows one hour per visit so she can include lots of TLC. She usually cares for about six animals a day, even though she sometimes finds herself still going at 2 a.m.

“Pain management in animals became a passion for me and I am so excited to get to live out my dream!” Heather says. She can be reached at 918-504-7502 or [email protected]

ANITA VREELAND owns Tulsa PAWSpice and Pet Care, a specialized skilled veterinary nursing and hospice service. Anita provides basic pet-sitting for healthy pets as well as pets with special needs. She nurses post-operative and post-illness pets, especially for owners who work out of the house or who are out of town.

And she will also step in and help families deal with their pets in the twilight of life.

The need for this very special kind of pet care became evident to Anita when Emmett, her loyal doggie companion and best buddy for thirteen years, became ill with arthritis and digestive problems. At the time she was working at a local hospital and she struggled with the stress of knowing her beloved furry friend was home alone with no one to check on him. His death became an incredible hurdle for her, and now, Emmett is her inspiration as she cares for other pets in need. His photo is on the logo of her business card.

Anita works forty hours a week at a local twenty-four-hour veterinary emergency room, and also tends to her own clients.

And sometimes she is called out in the wee hours of the morning.

Anita’s office is her cell phone and the back seat of her SUV, where she carries around all the necessary supplies she needs. It is a benefit, she says, to have everything at arm’s reach, but she also finds it a drawback as she has no front door on which to hang a “SORRY, WE’RE CLOSED” sign or an office staff to “take her calls.” But the sloppy dog kisses and the kitty head-butts are all she needs to keep her going. “The confidence and trust that people place in me by allowing me to come into their homes and care for their pets is immeasurable,” Anita says. She can be reached at 918-230-8695 or [email protected].

The Mobile Pet Vet is CAROLYNNE CASH. She and her assistant, April, run a full-service veterinary clinic that comes to your home. The clinic on wheels is a 2006 LaBoit customized truck that can offer many services from vaccinations to surgery.

After graduating from Oklahoma State College of Veterinary Medicine in 1996, Carolynne decided to open a clinic of her own, but soon realized the area she lived in could not support another small animal veterinarian. Instead, she and her husband made an investment in a mobile clinic, and now Carolynne finds that the flexibility in her schedule works well for her and her family.

A typical day finds Carolynne educating clients and giving preventative care-vaccinations and parasite control-examining, diagnosing, and treatment, as well as common surgical procedures like spaying, neutering, mass removals, and suturing lacerations, and hopefully, taking a lunch break.

Like our other professionals, Carolynne finds many benefits as well.

“Having a patient respond to treatment or receiving a thank you from a client-even when a case does not respond well-is always rewarding,” she says.

And sometimes, Carolynne finds humor along the way. She tells a story about Sally, a thirty-pound mixed breed, who was suffering with severe tick anemia and needed a blood transfusion. It was after hours and Carolynne had no one to assist her. She asked Sally’s owners to help her “collect the blood.” The two looked at each other and nodded hesitantly.

Finally the husband said, “Okay, I guess we can do that for her.” After Carolynne explained the procedure to the couple and gave them each a job to do, they each exhaled a sigh of relief. Puzzled, Carolynne asked, “Did you think it would be more complicated than that?” “No,” the wife responded with a giggle, “we thought you would need to collect the blood from us!” Sally made a full recovery and her owners were relieved in more ways than one. Carolynne can be reached at 918-346-0823 or [email protected]

These professionals have taken the extra mile to bring their services to the streets of Tulsa and the surrounding area. The hours may be long and the work hard, but it sounds like the rewards are countless. Whatever need your pet may have, there is someone who can come to your doorstep with the care and compassion you desire.

Emily — the Schipperke Dog

posted July 15th, 2009 by

By Alice Benavides as told to her by Kaye Lynn.
Alice Benavides is a writer and freelance editor from Jenks, Oklahoma.

Emily, only eight weeks old and a tiny ball of black fur, was Kaye Lynn’s Christmas gift from her son Matthew and his fiancée Jennifer. In an effort to help Kaye stave off the empty-nest syndrome, the engaged couple looked for the perfect companion for her.

After some research, Matthew and Jennifer decided on a beagle. But when they visited the kennel, Jennifer noticed a little back bundle crouched in the corner behind the mother beagle. The kennel owner explained that the little schipperke pup was abandoned by her mother, so they put her with the mother beagle who had just delivered a litter of her own.

When Jennifer bent down for a closer look, the little schipperke waddled toward her and Jennifer fell in love. After more research, the young couple decided this little puppy was just the one for Kaye.

With Christmas still a week away, Matthew took care of the little pup in his apartment. Then on Christmas Day, with the little dog nestled in the palm of his hand, Matthew and Jennifer presented their gift to Kaye.

“What are you going to name her?” they asked Kaye. Jennifer had started calling her “Squeakers” since her bark was not fully developed, but Kaye liked the name “Emily.”

Kaye loved little Emily right away but found house training to be a challenge, particularly in the middle of winter — a wet winter. And Kaye’s big back yard made it difficult to find the tiny dog when she was let out.

“Miss Emily and I had to get used to one another,” Kaye says, and it was the purchase of a book on puppy care and training that saved her life … and Miss Emily’s!

Kaye also purchased a large crate and lots of toys to keep Emily occupied and out of trouble while she was at work. She set the crate by the window so the puppy could see out. When Kaye returned home each day and let her out of the crate, Emily wiggled with excitement. At last, the two were becoming friends.

At six months old, Kaye took Emily to have her spayed. Later that day, the veterinarian called to explain that during surgery Emily suffered a cardiac arrest, but that she was alive and doing well.

“My heart just broke. It was at that moment I realized how much that little black ball of fur lived in my heart,” Kaye said. Emily recovered completely from that incident, and as time went on, the two became even closer friends.

Kaye’s mother became ill and moved in with Kaye. Seeing her mom so ill was difficult for Kaye and Emily knew it.

“When times would be tough, I would walk and carry Miss Emily. When I cried, her black fur would catch my tears.” And when burdens overwhelmed her, Kaye noticed that Emily would climb up next to her and would place her paw on her leg as if to pat her and say, “It’s okay, I am here.” And after the death of her mother, Kaye realized how Emily had grown to understand her.

That’s when Kaye began to notice that something was not right with Emily. “When I would pick her up, my hand on her chest, I could feel her heart beat. It was slow and irregular.” Kaye also noticed that Emily’s activity level had become sluggish. Emily could hardly run to chase a ball one time. Kaye, a cardiac nurse for many years, also noticed other symptoms that indicated a problem.

Kaye took Emily to the vet who performed an EKG, but his diagnosis was simply an irregular heart rhythm that many dogs have. He did not feel any other treatment was necessary. But after Emily developed other health problems, Kaye requested a cardiac exam. When Kaye found herself at odds with the doctor, she asked for a referral.

Dr. Patrick Grogan, DVM, performed another EKG and an echocardiogram while Kaye stayed by Emily’s side. Kaye did not tell Dr. Grogan about her profession but watched as the EKG printed out the results. Then she asked the doctor if the squiggly lines could be read the same as for a human heart. When the doctor said yes, she knew Emily was in trouble.

At only four years old, Emily had a bad conduction in her heart that was not telling it when to beat. The results also showed that Emily’s heart rate dropped to the twenties with eight- to nine-second pauses between beats. Kaye was astonished and knew she had to do something. Emily had so faithfully looked after Kaye while her mother was ill, and now it was Kaye’s turn to look after her. If Emily was to survive, she would need a pacemaker.

After Kaye pressed the issue once again, Dr. Grogan made the arrangements and secured an appointment for Kaye and Emily to see a cardiologist at Texas A&M University. Dr. Sonya Gordon and her staff placed a pacemaker in front of Emily’s right shoulder. She recovered well from that surgery and has lived a good life with Kaye. Emily will soon be thirteen years old and currently functions 50% of the time on the pacemaker.

“Not everyone has the money to help their pets,” Kaye admits, “but if they want to take responsibility for their animals, there are ways to do it.” Kaye encourages other pet owners who may be struggling with their pets’ health issues to not give up and to take responsibility early.

Kaye says, “A schipperke life span is between fifteen and twenty years. We had a talk and she (Emily) agreed to stay with me at least ten more years.”

A Safari—in Broken Arrow?

posted April 15th, 2009 by

Story by Alice Benavides

Most people associate exotic animals with the wilds of Africa, yet residents of eastern Oklahoma need not travel around the world to enjoy the beauty of rare wildlife. Lions, tigers, and bears can be found closer than you think.
Known as Broken Arrow’s “best kept secret,” Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that currently houses about two hundred rescued exotic animals—everything from big cats and primates to birds and reptiles.

Owner Lori Ensign founded Safari’s in 1995 and has worked tirelessly since then to accommodate the special needs of literally hundreds of homeless animals. 

Lori began with a bobcat of her own. She saw an ad in the newspaper and thought it would be “cool” to own a wild cat. It wasn’t until the animal grew that she realized the responsibility. The animal easily litter-box trained and he was good with Lori and a few others, but no one else. He would bite and Lori says she has scars to prove it. 

“I was the dummy,” Lori says. But instead of dumping her responsibility on someone else, she owned it. She learned how to care for and feed her unusual pet. Soon, she met others who shared her interest, but not all of these friends shared the responsibility. They, like many others who purchase exotic pets, realized their mistake and asked if she wanted their pets. She took those animals in, and before she knew it, she owned her own zoo, and what started as a hobby eventually became Safari’s.

Lori says that all of the animals at Safari’s are rescued—some from zoos that closed or over bred, but most from people who once thought it would be “neat” to own an exotic animal but quickly found out they were ill-equipped.  

Breeders of exotics make thousands of dollars annually. But unfortunately, many of those breeders do not bother to teach the new pet owners how to care for the animals or warn them of the possible dangers of owning pets with wild instincts. 

People get these animals home and find out they need special diets or that they don’t train well to a litter box. Many exotics require plenty of socialization to remain tame and some have lots of natural curiosity. Lori explains that some exotics are like having a two-year-old around the house for years. 

“People try to have them (exotics) in their homes. They don’t feed them properly. They pull their teeth and pull all their claws. It’s cruel,” says Lori. And by the time these animals reach Safari’s, some are malnourished or even injured.

Lori explains that these animals cannot be turned back to the wild. They have no mother to train them how to hunt and survive, and regular zoos will not take them since there is no paper work tracing the animal back to the wild. 

Lori’s joy is to care for these abandoned exotic beauties and her love for them is evident, but it is her goal to educate the public about them. “I hope to work myself out of business,” she says, and she starts with her own volunteers. 

Safari’s has no employees—only volunteers. As young as twelve years old, they are taught how to care for the barnyard animals. They learn to feed them, change their water, and scoop the poop. 

Safari’s also has a Zoo Mobile that brings the zoo to the classroom or party. An education specialist will teach the children about the different animals and that owning a pet—any pet—is not to be taken lightly.

Safari’s runs on volunteers and donations. “Every penny goes back to the animals, foods, and rescues. It’s all for the animals,” says Lori. Fortunately, some locals businesses, such as grocery stores and restaurants, donate outdated food to the animals, but it’s not always enough and more food must be purchased.  

For those considering owning an exotic animal, Lori suggests finding out what it takes to care for them, and a visit to Safari’s is a good place to start. Let Lori or a volunteer give you a personal tour. 

Visit with Mufasa, a twelve-year-old African lion that came from a zoo that closed in North Carolina. Mufasa loves to play “high five” with Lori…through the fence, of course! And listen to his “chuffing,” a purr-like sound that large cats make when content. “Big cats don’t purr,” says Lori. “They chuff.”

See Rocky, a twelve-year-old “liger.” He is a one-thousand-pound cross between a lion and a tiger. Imagine a cat that big! Rocky came with Mufasa from the same zoo.

Then there’s Outlaw, a two-year-old class A miniature horse (under thirty inches tall). Outlaw was a house pet whose owner realized that he would not “house train.”

One of my favorites when I visited was Jacki Leggs, a five-year-old kangaroo. At first, he appeared small and the next minute had his front hoofs on my shoulder trying to steal a snack out of my hands. Jacki Leggs was neutered too early, causing his growth to be stunted, but made him very sweet. He loves to give kisses…and steal snacks!

And listen to the strange hiss of Brutus, a thirteen-year-old alligator who got “too big” for his owner. 

There are plenty of barnyard animals in the petting zoo, and treats are available for purchase. There’s a turkey and the some of the prettiest peacocks I’ve seen. Small children love the many baby bunnies hopping around. 

But I knew my experience was unusual when I had the chance to hold Pepe, a one-year-old black and white skunk! Don’t worry—he’s been de-scented! Lori explains that skunks need a diet of dog food mixed with fresh vegetables, which made Pepe a hassle for his owner. 

And our escort throughout the park was a gorgeous black Great Dane named Izi, who towers over Outlaw, the horse.  

Park location: Safari’s is nestled on twelve rolling acres east of Broken Arrow. From the corner of Kenosha (71st Street) and 273rd East Avenue, travel north 1.3 miles to 58th Street and turn left into the park. 

Entrance fees and hours: Safari’s is open Saturdays 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. Adults are $6, and Children and Seniors are $5. Treats are $1 a bag. Tours and group discounts are available. 

Donations can be made via PayPal on website: safariszoo.com or mailed to 26881 E. 58th Street, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma 74014. Those interested in volunteering time at Safari’s are encouraged to call for an appointment.

Contact information: Call 918-357-LOVE or visit safariszoo.com. 

Alice Benavides is a freelance writer and editor from Jenks, Oklahoma.

Bonnie, the Smiling Catahoula

posted January 15th, 2009 by

Our dog Bonnie smiles! She is a ninety-five pound Louisiana Catahoula mix with a friendly personality. My sister-in-law, Tanya, gave her to us since my husband Ben and I already had Samson, a Labrador mix that needed companionship on our acreage. We agreed to take Bonnie sight-unseen, but when Tanya let her out of the back of her vehicle, I almost regretted the decision.
Bonnie is white, with little gray spots peaking through her fur like confetti and one large gray patch covering half her face. Her head is too small for the size of her body and her tail looks like a corkscrew flapping around.

“Alice, just give her time,” said Tanya, who I’m sure detected my disappointment. “Bonnie is very intelligent. And wait until she gets to know you. Have you ever seen a dog smile?”

Bonnie did not smile for us at first. I think she missed Tanya too much. But she and Samson hit it off right away, and it wasn’t long before the two dogs were eating, playing, and roaming the acreage together. Every morning and evening, they’d take off on an adventure, eager to explore the great outdoors.

Then, one morning, it happened. I had just opened the back door and Bonnie came toward me wagging her tail. At the sound of my voice, she nodded her head submissively and blinked her eyes, and then she pulled back her lips for a quick smile! It still makes me laugh to see her do that.

Life went on. Bonnie and Samson grew closer, running off on a brand new journey every morning. At the end, they’d jump into the pond and come home wet and tired. The two became inseparable and never had one come home without the other. But on one particular Sunday morning only Samson greeted us as we all piled into the car and headed off for church. I wasn’t too concerned then, but I knew something was wrong when we returned later that day and Bonnie was still gone.

All afternoon we waited for her. The kids searched the property and whistled for her. We checked fence lines to make sure she was not somehow caught. After we put the children to bed, Ben and I drove around the area looking for her. No sign of Bonnie.

That evening and the next morning, Samson went on his adventure as usual. I hoped he would find her and lead her back home, but each time he returned alone. I missed Bonnie’s whimsical smile.

“Samson, where’s Bonnie?” I’d ask him, hoping he would respond like Lassie and take me to her. He just stared at me.

Monday afternoon, Ben had trouble with his cell phone and stepped outside for a better connection. As he carefully listened to the person on the other end, he also heard a dog barking way off in the forest. After he finished the conversation and hung up, he poked his head in the door and hollered at me. “Alice, come outside! Quick!”

“What for?” I resisted, not wanting to stop what I was doing.

“Listen to this. See if you think it sounds like Bonnie.” As I stepped outside, he held his finger to his lips. Sure enough, way off in the distance, I could hear a faint, but raspy bark.

We jumped into the pickup and took off in the direction of the sound, hardly believing this could lead us to Bonnie. The pickup bounced back and forth on the rough terrain as we drove around the pond and through the woods.

When we reached the fence line, Ben turned off the engine. We opened the doors and listened again. The bark was louder and sounded more like Bonnie.

Immediately, we jumped out of the pickup and headed for the fence. Ben held the top barbed wire while I passed through; then I helped him. Because of the rustle of the grass, we stopped every few seconds to listen again.

“She’s over this way,” I said and excitedly led the way. We crossed another fence line and continued to follow the sound for more than a hundred yards when, finally, I saw Bonnie lying under a tree looking at me.

“Bonnie! Come here, girl!” I called to her in relief, but she would not come. I looked at Ben, who was equally as puzzled. I quickened my pace.

“Don’t approach too fast,” Ben warned, “she might be injured.” Even though I saw her tail wagging, I heeded his warning.

As I drew close, Bonnie jumped up to greet me, a chain clanking beneath her. “Come quick!” I yelled at Ben, still making his way through the brush. “She’s caught in a trap!”

Ben calmly approached and placed his feet around the small rusty coon trap to steady it while he pried it open, releasing her left front paw. With excitement, Bonnie scratched out a few more yaps and ran around, dangling her injured paw in the air. Meanwhile, Ben pulled the trap and its stake out of the ground so it could do no more harm to other pets.

Relieved, we walked Bonnie to the pickup. Ben put down the tail gate and helped her into the bed of the truck. We drove home slowly so as not to jostle her.

At home I filled a large bowl with water and let her drink all she wanted, but she did not touch food for hours. Ben checked her paw and found no broken bones, while I filled another container with warm saltwater. After soaking her paw for more than thirty minutes, it swelled to three times its normal size. It took more than a week of soaking and applying antibiotic cream, but finally, Bonnie’s paw healed. Now, all that remains is a scar running across her toes.

It has been several years now since the near-fatal incident, but Bonnie still greets me with her irresistible grin.

“Hey, girl, what’s going on?” I ask her.

“Yap, yap, yap!” she responds and lifts her paw for a friendly shake.

Story by Alice Benavides