General Interest

Take A Hike…And Take Your Dog With You!

posted April 12th, 2015 by
  • Share

Take a Hike

Take A Hike…And Take Your Dog With You!


By Anna Holton-Dean


Crisp, cool fall months are the perfect time to enjoy some outdoor activities that were otherwise treacherous in the sweltering summer heat. Hiking is at the top of our fall must-do list, and the best part is many nearby hiking trails allow your dog to come along for the fun. On-leash, of course, it can be the perfect fall activity to enjoy with your pet.

However, before any activity, do your homework, ensuring your pet is ready for a hike. Considerations would include breed type, length and thickness of coat, age and endurance. A smashed face breed will overheat more quickly than a dog with a longer snout, as will a dog with a longer, thicker coat.

“Do check into your breed’s history and ask your veterinarian before taking your dog for a hike,” Nancy Gallimore, certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA), advises. “I had a guy who took his new shelter/rescue dog for a five-mile run, and the dog collapsed.” Just as a person must work up to that type of distance and endurance, so must a pet. Knowing your pet’s fitness level and limitations is a must.

Gallimore, co-owner of Pooches Place, has been hiking with dogs for over 12 years and training dogs for 20 years (professionally certified for seven years). She and Lawanna Smith, also a CPDT-KA and co-owner of Pooches Place, offer up some expert advice for anyone contemplating hiking with a pet:

Be sure to choose a dog-friendly trail, and do not take your dog to hike a trail if you are unfamiliar with it. This article includes  insight and advice on five area trails which allow dogs.

No matter where you choose to hike, keep your dog on a leash. “Even the best trained dogs may take off after a squirrel or deer,” Gallimore says.

If not hiking locally and traveling to a different region, consider the altitude difference and carry your dog’s vaccination records with you.

Fall temperatures should be pleasant, but always be aware of the temp. “Your dog does not sweat like you do,” Gallimore says. “So carry fresh water for your dog. If he starts to lag behind, stop. Learn the signs of heat exhaustion.”

In relation to fresh water, also do not let your dog drink from ponds or standing/ stagnant water for risk of parasites or bacteria. Also, supervise carefully that he doesn’t eat anything along the trail.

Buy dog-safe sunscreen if your pooch has thin hair and pink skin. Dogs can burn too!

Make sure your dog has flea/tick prevention, and check your dog for fleas/ ticks/stickers/burrs after a hike.

Pay attention to the trail’s surface. Make sure it won’t harm paws, and check the dog’s paws throughout the hike. “You get blisters, so can your dog,” Gallimore says. “Inspect pads and between pads carefully after a hike. If the temps are too hot or too cold, check the trail surface to be sure it’s not going to burn or be too cold on exposed paws.”

Do not hike in wilderness areas at dusk/ after dusk. “This is the time of day coyotes and other predators come out,” Gallimore says. “Your dog may attract the attention of predators.” Furthermore, “know the wildlife you may encounter in the area. Even deer can be aggressive during certain times of year. Raccoons, skunks, etc., can be a threat.”

Carry a first aid kit with you, asking your vet for advice on what to keep in it in case of injury, snake bite or allergic reaction to bug bites, etc.

Always carry your cell phone in case of emergency.

Area Pet-Friendly Hiking Trails

Kent Frates, co-author of “Oklahoma Hiking Trails” suggests Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman and Arcadia Lake Trail near Edmond as dog-friendly hiking trails, in that the terrain and environment should be the most accommodating. These are the best options for hiking newbies, including pets new to hiking too.

Of course, Turkey Mountain in the heart of Tulsa is another good option. Frates cautions it is hilly but should be doable for most dogs. If your dog is up for some hills (no pun intended), he will probably enjoy the hike. Gallimore suggests early morning hikes to avoid bikers on Turkey Mountain who can appear in a flash, and you will have to quickly move your dog out of harm’s way.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Indiahoma also welcomes pets on-leash, but the terrain is a little rough. For dogs with hiking experience and endurance, this trail would offer a welcomed challenge.

The Trail at Keystone Lake allows dogs, but the terrain is rocky with some elevation, and you may encounter ticks or chiggers which could be a problem, Frates says. Should you accept this challenge, go prepared with the necessary items and plan.

More Oklahoma hiking trails we should know about? Let us know on our Facebook page or via Twitter @tulsapetsmag. For more hiking tips and info, check out  “Oklahoma Hiking Trails” by Kent Frates and Larry Floyd, available for purchase from

While there are many considerations, hiking can be a great outdoor activity for you and your dog. A little homework and forethought can go a long way toward creating a new healthy hobby to benefit both person and pet.

Prickly Pets

posted April 5th, 2015 by
  • Share

Hedgehog 2

Prickly Pets


From hedges to households, hedgehogs reign as the latest pet trend.


By Bria Bolton Moore


When he was 9 years old, Mary Dickey’s son Ryan didn’t beg for a rowdy puppy or a purring kitten like most kids. He wanted a palm-sized prickly playmate, a hedgehog.

Mary granted Ryan’s wish, and they got their first hedgehog, Tiggy, in 1995. The Dickeys began breeding and caring for hedgehogs at their home in Stillwater, Okla.


“We went from having them in my son’s bedroom to the bedroom being overtaken by being the ‘animal room’,” Mary Dickey said.

Today, 20 years after Tiggy became part of their family, Dickey has eight hedgehogs, three females and five males, and operates Atlantis Hedgehogs.

It seems more and more people are interested in welcoming a quill-covered animal into their homes. Due to exotic animal ownership restrictions, keeping a hedgehog as a pet is banned or restricted in at least     six states. However, their popularity as American pets grows.

Dickey said she has seen sparked interest at Atlantis Hedgehogs with an influx of calls as more people question if a hedgehog is the right pet for them. Similarly, Kimber Knight, who owns Parkplase Heggies in Ramona, Okla., has also experienced more inquiries.

“I have gotten more emails and calls in the last six months than I ever have,” said Knight, who has owned hedgehogs since 1999 when her family got their first heggie, Sonic.

Dr. Rachael Davis, DVM, is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at VCA Woodland South Animal Hospital in Tulsa. She said she has cared for more hedgehogs recently, three in the last few months, and has about five in her client base.

People are fascinated by the small, cute creatures. Social media celebrity Biddy the Hedgehog has an Instagram account with more than 480,000 followers featuring snapshots of Biddy at the beach, on road trips and hanging out with a fellow pet, Charlie the Mini Mutt. The April 2014 cover of National Geographic highlighted Jade, a female hedgehog from South Carolina, who attracted attention to the magazine’s piece on owning exotic animals.

While there are 15 hedgehog species, most domestic hedgehogs in the United States are African Pygmy hedgehogs. They generally have white bellies, of course fur, with more than 5,000 spines covering their crown of the head and back. Male hedgehogs weigh about 1.5 to 2.5 pounds, while the females weigh half a pound to 1 pound. Hedgehogs live about four to six years.

The right pet for you?

Kristen Zorbini Bongard is a board member of the Hedgehog Welfare Society, a 501(c)(3) committed to the health and welfare of hedgehogs through rescue, education and research. The society has more than 1,600 members who reside in 31 countries.

“I originally became interested in hedge-hogs because I was allergic to many of the more traditional furry pets,” Bongard said. “I read a couple of books about them and then adopted an unwanted hedgehog from a friend of a friend.”

As a rescuer, Bongard said she sees “many, many instances of buyer’s remorse” because people don’t know a lot about hedgehogs before they bring them home. She encourages people to do their research, talk to someone who owns a hedgehog and meet a hedgehog before deciding to get one as a pet.

“They’re really interesting pets, but they’re not for everyone,” Bongard said.

She said she has spent thousands of dollars in vet bills through the years.

“They are exotic animals and require a knowledgeable vet and frequently require anesthesia just to be examined—the downside of a pet that can enclose its body in sharp quills,” Bongard said. “For all you put in, you will still not have an animal that will miss you when you’re gone or greet you at the door with a wagging tail. Make sure it’s worth it to you before you commit to owning a hedgehog.”

Hedgehogs can be interactive pets, but they’re naturally shy, rolling up into a ball when they feel threatened or uncomfortable.

“They require a little bit of effort, but they can be a lot of fun,” Dickey said. “They’re not social like a dog or a cat that seeks to be friends with you. You have to handle them a lot. So, if you’re not willing to handle your hedgehog, you may end up with a little pet that sits in the corner, and you never see it. And it’s prickly,” she said between laughs.

Dr. Davis echoed Dickey’s comments on hedgehog temperament.

“Some aren’t really interested in being handled,” Dr. Davis said. “They want to just roll up into a ball. But, most of the time, that can be overcome with gentle handling and getting them used to people. Then, I see some that are just out, walking around and aren’t even phased by coming in to see me (in the veterinarian’s office).”

Dr. Davis said some hedgehogs are stressed by new people, small children, or dogs and cats that may be perceived as predators.

Another unique characteristic is anointing. When hedgehogs encounter a new smell or object, they pick it up or chew at it until they begin drooling excessively. Then, they rub the saliva all over their quills and body in a process called self-anointing. No one knows why the animals anoint, but it’s a common behavior.

Hedgehogs can be purchased from a breeder or a pet store that offers exotics. A hedgehog from Atlantis Hedgehogs costs $125 while a hedgehog from Parkplase Heggies costs $150.

Caring for a hedgehog

“They’re easy to care for,” Dickey said. “They’re not rodents, so they don’t have     any odor.”

A hedgehog should be housed alone in a large cage with a solid base, at least 2 feet by 3 feet with shredded newspaper or Aspen shavings. A hiding place or shelter as well   as an exercise wheel are recommended. The cage should be cleaned weekly.

In the wild, a hedgehog diet consists mostly of insects. However, pet hedgehogs usually eat two to three teaspoons a day of commercial hedgehog food or low-calorie cat food. Their diet should be supplemented with one to two teaspoons of mixed vegetables or fruit as well as insects, such as crickets or mealworms.

“The most common issue I see with [hedgehogs] is obesity,” Dr. Davis said. “It’s hard, because there’s not a readily-available hedgehog diet.”

Dr. Davis said other common health problems are mites and dental disease.

Hedgehogs are also nocturnal, sleeping during most of the day, so Dr. Davis advises owners to house their pets in a non-sleeping room.

“A lot of people will get [hedgehogs] for their children, put the cage in the child’s bedroom, and then the hedgehog’s up, running around all night long.”

Dr. Davis also recommends that owners take their hedgehogs to see an exotic veterinarian at least once a year for a check-up.

Bongard has cared for more than a dozen hedgehogs since getting to know her first hedgehog in 2004.

“Hedgehogs are really fascinating creatures,” Bongard said. “They are independent and sometimes standoffish,  but that’s part of their charm. There’s something magical about earning their trust over many, many days and watching them splat out, unafraid, on your lap. They have adorable little faces, too.”


posted March 21st, 2015 by
  • Share



Taking A Stand For Child Victims


By Debra Cox



It’s an ordinary day for Nala, my 3-year-old German Shepherd, until I reach for her special “work” collar and vest that carries her special badge, identifying her as a member of the Special Dog Unit of the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office.

Nala stands alert with ears pointed forward as I put on her uniform, looking up at me with her telling eyes—she knows she will have a special job today, taking care of a child who will need her help. Then it’s time to “load up” for our journey to the courthouse. Upon arrival at the Victim Witness Center, Nala checks in for our assignment by putting her front paws up on the reception desk, which brings smiles from the attorneys and staff!

Then it’s down to business for Nala as she goes in search of her child in the waiting room, and she seems to know exactly which child is hers to care for on this day. How she knows this, I will never know. There can be a room full of people, and Nala will instantly go right up to her child and family with ears up and eyes alert.

It’s pretty amazing to see the instant connection they make as the “German Shepherd lean” goes into full force and Nala visits each family member, giving comfort and love unconditionally as therapy dogs do. When Nala feels certain that her child is calm and OK, she flops to the floor for the belly rub that she knows will surely come from her new friend as they go through this difficult process of the legal system together.

When Nala looks into the eyes of her child victim, the message comes through loud and clear as if she’s saying, “You can trust me. I’ll be right here by your side to help you get through this!”

You see, what none of the children whom Nala meets at the Victim Witness Center know about her is that Nala knows a lot about lack of trust. When you meet her these days, Nala will come right up to you, give you a kiss, wiggle and lean on you… but she was nothing like this when I first met her at the Tulsa German Shepherd Rescue facility.

At 8 months old, skin and bones at 42 pounds, and missing 5 inches from a fresh wound to her tail, Nala was nothing like the big, regal German Shepherd I envisioned owning. My friend Nancy, who is my voice of reason where pet adoption is concerned, went with me. I know I can trust her to not let me make rash decisions based purely on emotion.

We sat down on a stump, and Nala slowly crawled over to us on her belly with the saddest eyes that seemed to tell her story of neglect and abuse. She never barked once and just leaned into us. After thinking it over carefully that night, I went back the next day for another look, and Nala adopted me—she jumped into my car and wouldn’t get out!

Once I got her home, it was quickly apparent that our life together wasn’t going to start out smoothly. Nala spent the first six months hiding from me. Wherever in the house I was, she wasn’t. Trust is hard to earn from an abused dog just as it is with children of abuse. But with a lot of love, training, socialization and loads of patience, eventually Nala came out of her shell. It was then that I began to research volunteer work using dogs. In light of Nala’s connection with children and my own love of kids, I knew that I wanted to do something that would significantly help young people in some way. I began talking with everyone in the dog world, and one day a friend suggested looking into court therapy work.

As I own Summit Recruiting, Inc., a legal recruitment firm, I felt this was the perfect opportunity for Nala and me to do volunteer work for the legal community that has been so supportive of me over the last 16 years. So I dove into researching the use of therapy dogs in courtrooms across the country, and I knew for certain that this was exactly where Nala and I needed to be, helping child victims in the court system. Nala and I began the process of registration through Therapy Dogs, Inc., and she was approved to join the Special Dog Unit (SDU) with the office of the Tulsa County District Attorney.

As one of six team members of the SDU, Nala and I work closely with the prosecutors and victim advocates to help ease the stress of young children in the court process who are involved in abuse or neglect or who have witnessed violence.

The courtroom can be a scary place for anyone, especially children, as they must talk with strangers about sometimes terrible events that have happened to them or that they have witnessed in their lives. The use of therapy dogs helps the child to relax enough to talk and gives a tactile comfort to the child through touch. The child may feel safer when recalling events in a pre-trial hearing or courtroom, and testimony is improved with the presence of the therapy dog.

The benefits of having these animals available to lend emotional support to children far “outweigh any possible prejudice to the defendant” (National District Attorneys Association [NDAA], 2007).  Studies have proven that the presence of companion animals can lower the blood pressure and human heart rate, and the touch of a therapy dog can change the physiology of a nervous child.

Therapy dog use in the courtroom has become more and more widespread across the country over the past several years. Court therapy dogs are highly trained animals and remain quiet and unobtrusive when accompanying a child on the witness stand, often so much so that a jury is not even aware the dog is present in the courtroom.  In April 2014, Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill No. 2591, which will go into effect in November 2014, allowing the use of emotional therapeutic dogs with the proper certification in all of the State Courts of Oklahoma.

This bill was drafted by Steve Kunzweiler, Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney, who was instrumental in developing and implementing the start-up of the Special Dog Unit in Tulsa County. This new law will have a significant impact on the therapy dogs’ ability to help countless child witnesses and victims throughout the State of Oklahoma.

There’s an undeniable bond between children and animals.  A walk through almost any neighborhood is proof of this.  However, the bond between a therapy dog and an abused child is nothing short of magical to observe, as the animal provides non-judgmental comfort and can ultimately help with the healing process for the child. One of the main objectives of the Tulsa District Attorney’s office is that by the use of the therapy dogs, the children’s memory of the courthouse will be their special dog friend and not the uncomfortable things they’ve had to discuss.

As I’ve heard Steve Kunzweiler so aptly put it when speaking with various groups about the Tulsa County court dog program: “I once heard that ‘D-O-G’ is ‘G-O-D’ spelled backward.  It is truly incredible the miracle that these court dogs work with these child victims.”

During one of our most recently assigned cases, Nala and I were in the kids’ playroom with our child witness and her family. After a rousing game of hiding toys for Nala to find, the girl turned to her mother and said, “…Can we get a Nala?”  Nala gave her a big tongue-hanging-out grin and sloppy dog kiss, and the girl’s big smile gave us all happy hearts!  Court dogs truly do make a difference!

DVIS’ New Kennel

posted March 14th, 2015 by
  • Share


DVIS’ New Kennel Brings Shelter To Four-Legged Family Members Making The Transition To An Abuse-Free Life A Little Easier.


By Rachel Weaver


After 11 years of an abusive marriage Taylor* decided to leave her husband. She sought a protective order with the help of advocates from Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS/Call Rape) and learned about transitional housing DVIS offered. She and her son, Nathan* applied to the program and soon moved into their own apartment.

Taylor’s story differs slightly from others in similar situations. Taylor and Nathan have a mixed breed dog named Rigby* and they were able to bring him with them to DVIS’ transitional housing. But for many, this isn’t a reality.

Up to 65 percent of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusers because they are concerned for their pets, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. For those who do leave, 71 percent of pet-owning women entering shelters reported their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control them.

Thanks to DVIS’ new emergency kennel opening in January 2015, domestic abuse victims will have a place to house their pets in safety. The 80-bed facility will be the first domestic violence shelter in Oklahoma to have a kennel.

“Often women entering a shelter have little to no income, so boarding their pet is not an option,” said Tracey Lyall, DVIS executive director. “The kennel will offer comfort to individuals who need safe shelter but don’t want to leave their family pet behind.”

Now that victims will have a place to house their pets, Taylor said she thinks it will help many women and men stay out of abusive relationships.

“They’re afraid the abuser is going to abuse the pet, and they don’t have a place to put them, and they don’t want to leave them because they’re like family,” she said. “I think it’ll help them deal with the abuse and give them that familiarity of [the shelter] being like home.”

DVIS’ Kennel

The kennel will be able to house seven dogs and cats at a time and will have a 200-square-foot air conditioned and heated interior and 180-square-foot covered exterior space. There will also be a 1,773-square-foot outside fenced dog run.

Some families arrive at the DVIS shelter in the middle of the night with only the clothes they are wearing, so most pets arriving at the shelter will also need food dishes, a leash, litter box and food. A staff member will provide intake services and give new pets needed accessories such as a leash, food bowls and toys.

If someone needs shelter and has a dog or a cat, a staff member will complete a pet intake form to help DVIS better care for the individual and the pet while they reside at the shelter. The resident will also fill out a pet shelter agreement, saying she or he will be responsible for the pet.

For a dog or cat to move into the kennel, he or she must have a current rabies vaccination. If pets aren’t current on vaccinations, a staff member will assist the owner in finding a veterinarian to provide this service.

While living in the shelter, pet owners will still be the primary caregiver for their pets— feeding, grooming and cleaning up after it and making sure it is healthy and adjusting to the shelter kennel. Staff will also help make sure all animals in the kennel are safe and well cared for.

“There’s no limit on how long the pet can stay as long as his/her owner is living at the shelter,” Lyall said. “Being separated is emotionally harmful for pets and their family. Keeping pets and their family together eases the stress of both the family members and   their pet.”

For Taylor, taking Rigby was the only option. Nathan had become very attached to him, and she was afraid her husband would hurt Rigby if they left him.

“The dog was a part of our family, and we couldn’t leave him behind,” she said.  “It was really, really important emotionally for my son because of the trauma he went through.”

Rigby helps Nathan feel safe and comfortable and also offers companionship for Taylor.

“He helps make the house feel like a home,” she said. “It’s good to have someone there that helps you know everything is going to be OK.”

How you can help

If you’re interested in helping the kennel, here are three ways to do so:


“We’d love to have veterinarians volunteer to provide services to help ensure the health and safety of the animals during their stay,” Lyall said.

If you think your vet would be interested in helping, you can find a sample request letter at Veterinarians will be needed to provide the following services:

Free immunizations

No-cost spay or neuter services

Free flea and tick treatment

Free surgery

Answering questions about pet health

Free or reduced rate for boarding when the kennel is full

Sample dog/cat food or treat donations

Talk about the kennel—give DVIS’ contact information to a colleague who might like   to help.

Host a can food drive at your clinic—ask staff and clients to bring an item for a pet in the kennel.

Be on call for veterinary emergencies


Kennel volunteers will be needed starting in January 2015. Volunteers will help provide additional exercise and care for the animals as well as some light cleaning. DVIS staff members will familiarize volunteers and new residents and their children on the operation of the kennel.

Interested volunteers can contact:

Paula Fox, DVIS volunteer coordinator, at

(918) 508-2706.


Kennel needs

New in-kind items will be utilized to support the operation of the kennel. Needed items include:

Dog and cat food  Collars

Cat litter, Leashes, Litter boxes, Scratching posts, Toys and chews, Carrier bags, Treats, Crates

Donated items can be dropped off at 4300 S. Harvard. To learn more about how you can help, visit or call (918) 508-2709.

‘Mutt Strut’ Pet Walk

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and DVIS will be raising awareness for its kennel. They’ll be collecting new in-kind items for the kennel throughout Tulsa (visit for more information).

On Saturday, Oct. 18, at 9 a.m., DVIS is hosting a leashed dog walk, “Mutt Strut,” at Hunter Park (5804 E. 91st St.). Entry is an in-kind donation to the kennel. Dress  your dog in its finest costume, and he or she may be crowned “king” or “queen” for best costume. If you’re game, dress in an accompanying costume to vie for the title of “best duo.”

After the walk, dogs (and owners) can participate in free doga, dog yoga. For more information, call (918) 508-2711.

Kennel Support

On July 31, 2014, DVIS received its first check toward the construction of the kennel from PetSmart.


*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Canines and Carwashes

posted March 7th, 2015 by
  • Share

Canines & Carwashes


By Sherri Goodall


It seemed like such a good idea at the time… sunny day, dirty car, no line at the carwash. I didn’t think about my two dogs in the car.

Who knew?

I plunked down my money for the deluxe carwash—the one with all the bells and whistles and the longest cycle (of course), seven minutes—the longest 420 seconds of my life!

At the first downpour of pounding water and pummeling brushes, my Westies went ballistic, howling, growling, snapping and yapping. The flashing green and red lights didn’t help. At the same time my car was shimmying and shaking, my dogs were leaping from the back seat to the front seat, into the dashboard, into my lap and into each other. They were desperately trying to escape or attack the water and brushes. (Anything that moves is fair game for a Westie.) I understand what it must feel like to be inside a washing machine.

I gripped the wheel in panic as I realized I was stuck in this carwash, trapped! I am trapped in this car with two flying, freaked-out dogs! Plus, I am trying to keep my eyes on an immovable object in the distance so I don’t get carsick and throw up. I see the cycles light up on the bar above the car. We’re only on cycle three, one of countless rinses. I can’t hold my breath any longer, or I’ll explode. We’re not even halfway done. I toy with the idea of crashing through the brushes as they slap the car. My luck, I’ll get stuck and spend eternity on a merry-go-round of wash cycles. I’m astounded at the insanity of my dogs, and their stamina… that they could keep up this level of hyperactive madness for seven minutes.

By the time the carwash spit us out, finally waxed and dried (another extremely loud and annoying noise, especially for dogs’ ears), I was a sweating, hyperventilating wreck. The outside of the car sparkled; you could apply your makeup and pluck your eyebrows by looking into the gleam.

The inside looked like the aftermath of a tornado. White tufts of fur stuck to the ceiling and dashboard, scratch marks streaked the leather seats, my sunglasses lay broken on the floor, and the contents of my purse littered the front seat. And, to top it off, my macho-male MacTwo had peed everywhere possible in his excitement, and my dainty lady Mulligan had pooped in terror in the back seat.

Will I ever take my dogs to a carwash again? NO WAY!


posted February 28th, 2015 by
  • Share




By Lauren Cavagnolo


With her painted pink toenails, an assortment of tutus and an attitude to match, Miss Piggy doesn’t have anything on Buttercup, the resident mini pig at Horizon Animal Hospital in Bixby.

“She is quite a character,” says Cari McDonald, DVM. “Nobody really owns her; she is her own pig.”Buttercup lives at the hospital along with eight cats and one dog who travels back and forth between home and work with Dr. McDonald.


“Amazingly, yes, they all get along,” McDonald says of her little menagerie.

McDonald says she has always liked pigs and had wanted one for a while. When she moved out of Tulsa to Bixby almost two years ago, she was finally able to get one.

McDonald got Buttercup when she was 8 weeks old, and she has been living at the clinic for just over a year. At first there was some concern about how clients and patients would react to Buttercup, but McDonald quickly realized it was not going to be a problem at all.

If Buttercup is in the waiting room, she is quick to greet anyone who comes in the clinic, human or otherwise. “There are people that she likes; she knows when they come in. She goes over to say hi to them and greets them,” McDonald says.

“We had been really worried about how people would perceive having a pig in the clinic, but it’s become funny to everyone,” McDonald says. “Enough that they come to see the pig now. If we have her put up for some reason, everyone is like, ‘Where’s the pig? We gotta see the pig. Where’s Buttercup?’”

In fact, Buttercup has made enough of a name for herself around town that she has her own Facebook page, Buttercup the Pig, with more than 300 fans. And Dr. McDonald is now commonly referred to as “the vet with the pig.”

“She’s become a little bit of a celebrity,” McDonald says. She has even been asked to make public appearances at community events.

At Tulsa Relay for Life, Buttercup was asked to kiss the person who raised the most money.

“She got kissed by a doctor. She wasn’t real cooperative,” McDonald recalls, laughing.

There were also many kids at Tulsa Relay for Life who enjoyed having their photos taken with Buttercup.

“That was the highlight; they thought   it was the best thing ever, and they     were just really enamored with her,” McDonald says.

Buttercup also made an appearance at the annual Green Corn Festival in Bixby.

“She was a big hit there,” McDonald says. “Everyone wanted to see her and pet her and say hi.”

Taking care of a mini pig

Having and caring for a mini pig is incomparable to having any other pet, says McDonald.

Buttercup weighs almost 50 pounds, which should be close to full grown for a mini pig. But this large animal won’t get a walk on a leash or be put out in the yard when it’s time to do her business. Instead, like her feline companions, Buttercup is litterbox trained.

Much like her canine friends, she loves her squeaky toy and a good belly rub. Though there are probably some picky dogs that would turn their noses up at some of Buttercup’s favorite foods.

“Her favorite treat is apples,” McDonald says. “She loves sweet potatoes, lettuce and carrots. We have only found a few things she won’t eat. She won’t eat celery.”

In the right mood, she can even be convinced to perform tricks for some of her favorite foods.

Mini pigs also need to have baths regularly, and “she’s not the easiest one to bathe,” McDonald says.

Someone who is considering keeping a mini pig as a pet should consider having the animal spayed or neutered, something McDonald highly recommends.

“She was having some behavioral issues before we spayed her,” McDonald says “After that, it improved drastically. It’s more of a health issue with indoor pigs since she’s not around any other pigs.

“There is nothing else like her. She does not fit into any category. She’s not what I would consider an easy pet to take care of. I can’t imagine if we didn’t have her here at the clinic or how someone would take care of her in a house setting. I don’t want to discourage people, but… you would have to be in the country.”

In fact, unless you are in an area zoned for agriculture, it would be illegal to own any farm animal—even miniature and dwarf varieties.

Miss Personality

McDonald says all of those clichés about pigs are clichés for a reason. “Eating like a pig? They do. Pig-headed? They are. All of those things really apply,” she says.

“She is very opinionated, very stubborn, but she is super smart,” McDonald says.

“Everyone is always surprised at how smart she is. We can’t keep any trashcans down on the floor because she is smart enough to figure out how to tip over any trashcan and get to it.”

To keep her stimulated, McDonald   has created puzzles for Buttercup, hiding treats in boxes and wrapping them with duct tape—something Buttercup has figured out how to get undone in about 30 seconds.

Much like a toddler, if she gets too quiet, she’s in trouble.

“If it gets silent, she is into something she shouldn’t be,” McDonald says. “She thinks she is being sneaky.”

McDonald and her staff all agree that Buttercup’s biggest goal is to get into the kennel to get to the dog food. “It’s her biggest thing of the day; that’s her challenge,” McDonald says.

There are two doors in the clinic, and Buttercup is always paying attention.

“She’ll listen, and if she happens to hear it not click and not lock, you’ll see her; she’ll sneak around the corner,” McDonald says. “But then she’ll get excited because she knows that door is open, and she’ll start grunting and oinking to get to that door. You’ll shut that door and she huffs.”

Buttercup has also been known to harass the dogs staying in the kennels at the clinic, according to some of the staff.

“She’ll walk in front of them really slow because she knows they can’t get out,” said Abrianna Jackson, kennel assistant at Horizon Animal Hospital. “She’ll tease them.”

She also may be a little confused about what species she actually belongs to.

“She’s afraid of my pig. The same way other dogs are afraid of her,” says Jackson, who once had to bring her own show pig, Winston, to the clinic.

“He was chasing her around trying to be friendly with her, and she was like, “Don’t touch me; get away from me!” laughs McDonald.

“She would squeal if he took a step even near her,” adds Jackson.

“It literally was like ‘He’s touching me!’ It was so funny,” McDonald says. “She’s fine with dogs and cats, but with the other pig, she was not happy.”

Sounds like Buttercup is still in search of her own Kermit.