General Interest

Wild Deliveries

posted March 9th, 2013 by
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by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

When you start your busy day, you take care of yourself, your family and maybe a few pets, right? When Annette Tucker starts her day, she has about 100 mouths to feed, and that’s during the “slow” season.

By title, Tucker is wildlife rehabilitator, president, director of operations and self-proclaimed head pooper scooper at Wild Heart Ranch (WHR), a state and federally licensed medical clinic, rehabilitation and pre-release care facility for all species of wildlife.

Every day, one employee and a dedicated group of volunteers join her in caring for everything from orphaned deer to a great horned owl with a sprained wing. A quick scan down the rescue group’s Facebook page also reveals a bobcat, raccoons, turtles, hawks, possums, geese, and the newest arrivals, a litter of tiny baby squirrels.

Wild heart ranch started in 1996 when Tucker moved to a small farm near Claremore, Okla. already an animal advocate, Tucker’s farm naturally became a sanctuary for numerous domestic animals in need. Then one day a friend brought her a pair of orphaned baby raccoons, and a mission was launched. Tucker discovered her passion for wildlife rehabilitation and never looked back.

For 12 years, she funded the care of more than 1,000 wild animals per year from her own pocket, working two jobs to do so. One of Tucker’s jobs was as a veterinary assistant— experience that helped her support the animals tremendously through the years.

In June of 2008, Wild heart ranch was finally established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and became Tucker’s full-time job. With help from Wild heart’s co- founder and vice president, Sandy Brooks, Tucker’s support system grew quickly to include Veterinarian Lesleigh Cash Warren, 40 hard-working volunteers, a dedicated board of directors, generous sponsors and, of course, her family and friends.


From her start with two little masked babies, Tucker has created a safe haven where all species of wild animals can receive professional medical and supportive care with the end goal of release back into the wild whenever possible. By the end of 2012, nearly 20,000 wild animals received care at WHR.

The current relative calm at the ranch is about to be shattered. As we head into spring every year, Mother Nature turns into one giant labor and delivery room. if everything goes as planned, baby birds hatch safely, bunnies are snug in their nests, raccoons are tucked away in hollow trees, baby deer are safe hiding in the tall grass, and all receive their mothers’ expert care.

Unfortunately, sometimes Mother Nature’s plans get derailed. Each year hundreds of baby animals are orphaned and well-meaning humans try to figure out what exactly is the right thing to do for them. as Tucker and her volunteers gear up for another busy baby season, they are also working hard to educate the public about how to properly aid wildlife during this delicate time of year.

According to information provided by WHR, one of the best ways to help our wild friends is to steer clear and avoid disturbing nesting sites whenever possible. Tucker advises to think carefully before heading out to spring clean around your house. Thinking of trimming a dead tree limb? Check it first to see if it might be housing a family of raccoons or a nest of baby squirrels.

Planning to clean up an old junk pile? Look for signs of it being used as a temporary nursery. You might see little trails leading into the pile or other small signs that a family is living there. Planning to clean out your gutters? Check for active bird nests before you just sweep everything away.

But what do you do if you find that a bird or wild animal has set up a nursery on your property? “Waiting a bit to deal with the project at hand is always ideal,” Tucker says. Most young families just need a few weeks before the babies are ready to leave the nest and move on.

If your project can’t wait, talk to the experts at WHR to find out how to best deal with the situation. “Finding a nest doesn’t mean you cannot perform your task,” Tucker says. “It just means you will do things a little differently and learn a little patience to support the lives at stake.”

The first rule of thumb Tucker preaches is, whenever possible, babies are better off with their mothers. “We are happy to take in any orphan,” she says. “But it’s sad when a few weeks with mom are traded for several weeks with us.”

If you find a baby bird, returning it to the mother’s nest is ideal. “She is so much better at being a bird example to her babies than we are,” Tucker says. If you should find babies you believe to be orphaned, Tucker advises to make sure the mother is not returning to the nest before intervening. Just because you do not see her, doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t caring for her young.

10491 S. 4190 RD.
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Take mother rabbits for example. Rabbit nests are just shallow indentions in the ground lined with a bit of the mother’s fur and covered by grass. According to Tucker, rabbits only nurse their young at night and do not sit on their nests during the day because that would attract predators.

Because they are not the smartest moms when it comes to selecting a nest site, Tucker claims it is not uncommon to find a family of newborn rabbits in the middle of your back yard—yes, even if you have a dog or cat in residence.

If you want to see if the mother rabbit is still caring for her young, Tucker suggests using a bit of string or twigs to make an X on top of the nest. If you check the next morning and the X has been disturbed, you will know the mother rabbit is still on the job. She also recommends placing a tomato cage around the nest to protect the babies from family pets. The mother can still get in, but larger animals cannot.

So how do you know when to intervene in helping newborn wild animals? Tucker offers these specific guidelines to determine when it’s time for a baby to go to a wildlife rescue. Intervention is necessary for:

• A baby whose mother is known to be dead.

• A baby that is cold to the touch, injured or dehydrated.

• Any animal or bird, young or adult, which has been caught by a domestic animal. Some internal injuries and puncture wounds are not obvious, and the animal should be checked over by a professional.

• A baby whose nest cannot be located.

If you determine that you do have an orphaned animal in need of assistance, Tucker offers these instructions for ensuring the baby has the best chance of survival. “Do not feed or give milk, water or anything to any animal until you first speak with a wildlife rehabilitator,” Tucker says.

Instead she advises to get the baby secure in a small box with soft, clean, string-free bedding and then warm it slowly if it is cold. “We want them warm and calm when they arrive, so we can immediately get started helping them,” she says. Stress is a primary cause of death in baby animals, so keeping handling to a minimum is vital, no matter how cute the baby.

The first litter of baby squirrels to arrive at WHR signals the tip of the spring breeding season iceberg, and Tucker and her crew are ready. “We expect to accept between 700 and 800 orphaned animals at the ranch by this June,” she predicts.

Her ultimate hope is that instead of taking matters into their own hands, people will ask for information and assistance when dealing with wildlife. “In my world,” she says, “there are no stupid questions when it comes to helping an animal.”

Dental Dangers

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Kiley Roberson

Is your pet’s smile making him sick? The truth is that more than 85% of pets over age 3 suffer from some sort of dental disease. Tartar buildup on your pet’s teeth means bacteria, and bacteria leads to infections. Many pets develop heart disease or kidney disease as a result of harboring harmful bacteria in their mouths over time.

Veterinarians, like Dr. Heather Owen at Animal Acupuncture, are constantly reminding clients to provide annual dental exams and cleanings for their pets followed by care at home. “Smaller pets may need to have their teeth cleaned every six months,” Owen explains. “Larger pets need a cleaning every year. I tell people to flip their lip; if there is tartar, they need to be cleaned.”

Still, pet owners are reluctant to follow these recommendations. Some don’t like the idea of using anesthesia to put their pets to sleep during dental procedures because they think it’s dangerous. That’s why many groomers have started offering Anesthesia-Free Pet Dentistry (AFPD).

Marketing brochures show calm dogs sitting on the laps of “pet dental hygienists” who gently scrape tartar off the pets’ teeth. For anyone who has a senior pet or anyone who has lost a pet under anesthesia, this idea might seem to be right on target. But, Owen says, don’t be fooled.

“Don’t do it,” Owen warns. “You can pay a groomer to brush your pet’s teeth and check for bacteria if you want, but they are not educated in veterinary dentistry nor are they trained. This is a money making trend in the industry, and that is it.”

Veterinarians use ultrasonic scalers and sharp dental instruments for cleanings. This is one reason a general anesthetic is needed. Beyond keeping the patient from moving, heavy sedation or general anesthesia allows a more thorough procedure of the entire mouth and hard to see areas. Sedation also helps keep the pets from inhaling the bacteria as it is scraped from their teeth, which could make them very sick.

Dr. Owen says that Anesthesia-Free Pet Dentistry is not only dangerous, it’s a scam on pet owners. “The biggest danger is causing your pet harm,” Owen says. “Without sedations, we cannot take oral X-rays which are imperative in helping to assess the health of your pet’s teeth.

“We cannot protect their airway, allowing them to inhale massive amounts of bacteria. We could hurt them with the scaler if they unexpectedly move on us, and we cannot extract painful or infected teeth. In essence, it is a waste of your time and money.”

In a veterinary office, dental cleanings are followed by a polishing step that helps remove the microscopic divots from the tooth enamel and creates a smooth healthy surface. Many veterinarians also apply a barrier sealant that helps repel plaque-causing bacteria and has been shown to reduce plaque and tartar accumulation. Neither of these can be done sedation free.

In fact, without anesthesia, only the visible portions of the teeth can be cleaned. Areas under the gum line and the insides of the teeth will still have tartar and bacteria. In time, the teeth will deteriorate and become painful.

Under a safe anesthetic, veterinarians are able to probe all areas of the mouth and use tools to remove plaque and bacteria from under the gum line. This actually stops the disease process. Veterinarians also use X-rays to help find potential problem areas, and you won’t find X-ray equipment at an anesthesia-free dental facility.

If you are concerned about the cost of dentals, use the February dental discount month to help your money go further. Brush your pet’s teeth daily at home. Listen to your veterinarian’s recommendations. They are trained in this area!

The anesthesia used is safe, and the risks are minimal—more so if you have your pet’s teeth cleaned more often (less time under). Be certain to have your veterinarian listen to his or her heart and perform blood work prior to sedating/anesthetizing your pet. Ask your vet to take dental X-rays to examine along with you!

If you know your pet needs a proper dental cleaning, but the thought of general anesthesia frightens you, talk with your veterinarian. “The anesthesia used is very safe, and the risks are minimal,” Owen says. “It’s even better if you have your pet’s teeth cleaned more often, because they are actually under for a shorter amount of time.”

While no anesthetic protocol is 100 percent safe, anesthetic complications are extremely rare. Ask your veterinarian to show you the monitoring equipment and explain how a well-trained staff makes anesthesia as safe as possible.

You can also reduce the need for dental cleanings by using dental home care products designed to remove plaque buildup in between the veterinary visits. The gold standard is to brush your pet’s teeth daily. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and special toothpaste designed for pets. You should never use human toothpaste. If you’re worried your pet might have teeth troubles, here are some signs to look for:

• Bad breath

• Excessive drooling

• Inflamed gums

• Tumors in the gums

• Cysts under the tongue

• Loose teeth

These are signs that your pet may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian.
Taking good care of your pet’s pearly whites is important to his or her overall health. While anesthesia-free dentistry might sound like a good idea, the truth is the benefits are strictly cosmetic, and risks are dangerous. Keep your pet safe with regular dental cleanings at the vet’s office; that sparkling smile will thank you.


Gypsy Vanner Horses

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Sherri Goodall

The first time you see a Gypsy Vanner horse galloping toward you, you have to ask, “What kind of horse is that?”

With sturdy bodies and dense “feathered” legs, impossibly long tails and thick manes flying in the wind, they look like they might just take off and fly like a fanciful unicorn.

Whitney Forsyth, the wife of the husband/wife team of Green Country Gypsy Horses, assured me these gorgeous creatures are a very old and recognized breed going back several hundred years. There are only around 2,000 Gypsy horses in the U.S. The Forsyths are one of a handful of breeders in Oklahoma.

The Gypsy horse has its roots in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They are descended from draft horses such as Clydesdales and Shires. These huge draft horses were bred with Dales Ponies and Fells Ponies to reduce the size, yet retain the strong bone structure and the unique feathering that distinguishes this breed.

The Gypsy people, known as Roma, have traveled through Europe, England and Asia for hundreds of years. Their nomadic life required horses that could pull their heavy, ornately handcrafted wagons through the countryside. Traveling in caravans, these horses are sometimes known as Gypsy “Vanner” horses. They go by several different names (see sidebar).

Not only did the horses need to be strong enough to “drive,” or pull carts and wagons, they needed to be able to graze wherever the Gypsies wandered. The horses are “cold-blooded” vs. “warm-blooded.” This term defines muscular, heavyset horses that are bred to be calm, steady and patient. They also are able to endure brutal winters without shelter. At the end of the day, the horses needed to be docile enough so that the children could learn to ride and spend time with them.

Known for their colorful culture, it makes sense that the Gypsy people wanted fancy horses. They love the massive amounts of mane and feather moving in the wind when the horses are driving or galloping by—it is truly spectacular. The more hair, the better the horse. Some think their unusual appearance made the horses more difficult to steal.

During shows, the horses’ flowing manes and tails are braided and decorated with vibrant colored ribbons matching beautiful blankets and finery worn by their riders.

One of the breed’s most noteworthy  characteristics is its incredibly gentle nature. Whitney says the Gypsy horses are known as the Golden Retrievers of the horse world. If they could crawl in your lap, they would!

Whitney’s horses would rather be outside than in a barn, no matter what the weather. They are extremely social and gather at the same hay feeder even though there are several feeders around.

When we visited, the youngest fillies, Magnolia and Jubilee, trotted right over to us and began nuzzling our faces, hands and bodies. The rest of the herd, two geldings and several mares, came galloping over soon. It was like a giant hug fest with each horse wanting more attention. The Forsyths have 10 horses now.

The stallion, Icor — the most magnificent specimen of all — was in a separate pasture. He is considered one of the best stallions of the breed in the U.S. and an Elite Stallion in the Selective Breeding Program in the Irish Cob Society in Europe. He’s a Bay Roan with black feathers. Many of the Gypsy horses have one blue eye and one brown. Some have both eyes blue. One of his pregnant mares was with him. Icor, too, proved gentle, curious and friendly. His mane was a mass of thick black hair that fell over his neck as a fur stole. Whitney was constantly pushing it out of his eyes. Another characteristic of these horses is the heavy forelock that falls over its muzzle. Supposedly, this was to protect the horse’s eyes and face from harsh weather.

The beautiful Karma of this story is the coincidence of it all.

The Forsyths took their first trip to Romania in 1994, volunteering with the Romanian Evangelistic Medical Mission. They fell in love with the Roma people and their country. In 2001, they were blessed with the opportunity to adopt a baby girl from Romania. Simona is her name, and she is of Gypsy descent.

The story gets even better…Simona seemed to have a passion for horses, and began riding lessons when she was 7. At a fall festival in Tulsa, the Forsyths saw the Gypsy Vanner horses for the first time. Simona had an immediate visceral connection to these special horses, and the Forsyths understood why, once they learned of the horses’ special history.

It was a match made in heaven. Soon the Forsyths bought their first Gypsy Vanner horse, Argyle, for Simona. At 14, Simona is an accomplished, award-winning rider with Argyle and competes in hunter jumper events. Her dad competes in western events. They travel with their horses to Gypsy horse shows around the country and have won several awards. The Gypsy horse is quite versatile and able to participate most equestrian events.

As much as Simona loves to ride, she also loves spending time in the pasture with the horses, as well as participating in their care. When they see her coming, they meet her at the gate for extra scratches. For more information and a chance to visit, go to www. greencountrygypsyhorses. com.

The Pet Name Game

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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To most people, naming a pet is almost as important as naming a child. Everyone wants to give their pet a name that has some significance. “Why bother?” some may wonder. Probably because a name helps you get close to your pet, because it’s personal, and because naming is what humans do. People often consult popular pet names very much the way they consult popular baby names before bestowing the perfect one.

You may be wondering how pet owners come up with such colorful names. One popular way to name pets is to choose the name you’ve always liked or wanted to name your baby. Another way is to name the pet after a human in history or someone you know. Still another way is to name the pet something ironic, like TulsaPets reader Mariann Ostapowich Haggerty who named her 150-pound Great Dane “Tynnee.”

Recently, we asked our readers to submit their unique pet names. The following list includes some of our favorites.

“Menses,” a cat submitted by Sarah Cockburn

“Nubby” submitted by Jodi Koch

“Muzby,” because her owner thought when she adopted the Boston Terrier that she “muzby crazy” submitted by Caryn Adams

“Macabee,” a Scottish Terrier Schnauzer mix submitted by Jaime Squaresky Chasen

“Rufus,” a Pit Bull mix submitted by Angela Webb

“Fallacy,” a rescued Scottie named after FDR’s Falla;

“Queen Santa Anna Belle,” or “Queenie” for short, a Schnauzer wilder than the Santa Anna Winds submitted by Sam Newcomb Wolohon

“Steinbeck,” a lab submitted by Lisa Hood Parker

“Dexter, the Super Pup,” a mutt submitted by Natalie Thomas

“Kelso,” named after Ashton Kutcher’s character on “That 70s Show;” yet he turned out more like grumpy Dr. Bob Kelso on “Scrubs” submitted by Amanda Thompson Sumner

“Pepper and Gordita,” two rats

Pet Owner New Years Resolutions

posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

At first glance this may appear to be just another article on New Year’s Resolutions, but we’ve gone further than that.

It goes beyond the usual “exercise more, eat better” mainstays (which we have included) and incorporates resolutions to improve the quality of life not just for you, but your pet, homeless pets and even the community. Adopt some of these ideas as your own and make a difference in 2013!

1. Regular exercise

Overweight pets are at risk for heart disease and other health problems. Going for a walk is the perfect exercise for pet owners. Dog owners tend to walk about twice as much as non-dog owners, according to

Routine walks will keep both of you healthy. An added bonus is that a tired dog equals a well-behaved dog. Exercising can help ward off bad behavior. Cat owners, also, shouldn’t forget that Fluffy needs playtime too. Dedicate at least five minutes a day to engaged, interactive playtime.

2. Mix It Up

Venture to a new dog park, try a new walking route or hike through a nature trail. Introduce yourself to another pet and owner at the park and make a new friend. Determine to get out of your comfort zone and see what comes of it—you might renew your enjoyment for exercise in the process.

3. Get Groomed

Keep Fido washed, brushed, nails trimmed, etc. Routine care and maintenance can prevent costly vet visits (for issues such as matting) and improve his quality of life. Don’t you feel better after a visit to the salon? And so will your pet, Debbie Davis of Muddy Paws Grooming says.

“Yes, little doggies that are unkempt come to us with their heads down and sad. After they are groomed, they come to life and strut around proudly,” she says. An added bonus is the bond it builds between you and your pet. “Since most of us consider our dog a part of our family, caring for our pet’s needs is a natural nurturing process,” she says.

4. Clean Bill of Health

Ensure your pet’s health by making an appointment with your veterinarian. Mark Shackelford, DVM, recommends all senior pets—7 years and older—have wellness blood tests once yearly to screen for potential problems that may not be apparent at the time of the physical exam.

“We can find early pathology of some organ systems that can be reversed or at least slowed in their progress,” he says. “We also recommend that pets receive their heartworm and flea/tick preventatives all year due to our mild winters.

We’ve found that using flea and tick preventatives all year greatly decrease the probabilities of infestation during the spring and summer. Heartworm tests should be performed yearly, along with vaccinations, due to possible gaps in timing in administering the heartworm preventative.

Occasionally, we will recommend radiographs to diagnose and/or monitor the progress of arthritis in older pets as well. Also, glaucoma screening is done during the yearly checkup for some older animals that are high risk.”

5. Ensure Those Pearly Whites

Dental health is just as important as the rest of his physical health. It should be an equal priority. Make teeth brushing part of your daily routine. Use a toothbrush specially made for pets or a children’s soft-bristle type.

Pet toothpaste is optional, but never use a product intended for humans. It may take some time for it to become a habit, but it’s well worth it for your pet’s health sake.

6. Training Classes

Don’t get exasperated over your pup chewing on shoes; be proactive. It is never too soon to think about training, according to our resident expert Mary Green.

“I believe that training or learning is a process, rather than an event. Learning begins when the dog comes home, and there’s never a day when the process is complete,” she says.

“A dog’s education is as important to his wellness as are food, water and shelter. For most pet owners, training should involve integrating the dog into your family life. The foundation that all well-mannered pets should have includes proper house training, chew-training, responding to basic commands such as sit, lie down, and come.”

7. Take Time for Thanks

Be appreciative of all the good things in your life, such as how wonderful your dog is. This can play into training time for example. One of the biggest elements of successful training is looking for desirable behaviors and reinforcing them with something your dog likes and appreciates—a treat, a butt scratch, a game of tug or the opportunity to go for a walk. Never miss an opportunity to thank your dog for good behavior.

8. Clean Out Clutter

While cleaning out your own clutter, such as documents or old clothing, go through Fluffy or Fido’s toys and donate anything he or she no longer plays with to a local shelter. Your pet’s trash may be a homeless animal’s treasure.

9. Buy American Obviously, it’s good to buy U.S. products for economic reasons, but more importantly, there have been numerous recalls on products made in China and Korea, including pet treats. Even if it’s cheaper, it may not be safe. Buy American made, and even better, buy local when possible.

10. Give Back

There are therapy dog programs which greatly benefit the community through the animals’ contributions, but this particular resolution is directed at you, the human. There are many small ways you can be a part of animal welfare initiatives right from your own home. Whether you are limited in time or physical ability, there is a way to be involved, Ruth Steinberger of SpayFIRST says.

“This is the time to resolve to use them!” she says. “Signing a petition does not always replace hands on work, but make no mistake; petitions have resulted in policy changes, procedural changes and even prosecutions in cruelty cases which looked like they may go unaddressed. Sign them and pass them on to others on your email list.”

Steinberger says part of the reason animal cruelty has not been taken as seriously as domestic violence, child abuse or drunk driving—all of which were not seen as “real crimes” just a few decades ago—is that the other issues have been made into local election issues. She advises to “make these issues local and watch what happens.

Mailing money to a different state because we are appalled by cruelty does not get one single message to our own leaders. Resolve to write at least one letter a month to one of your own elected officials reminding them that you are a voter and your vote depends on their compassion toward animals.

“Eyes in the courtroom have prevented creeps from getting out of cruelty cases and have changed the way the courts view cruelty prosecutions,” she says. “The judge and prosecutor know that the concerned citizens sitting in the courtroom are likely voters. Resolve to attend a cruelty hearing on behalf of an innocent animal victim who went through much worse than a single boring day. Your time, even a small amount of it, can make a huge difference if you spend it locally!”


posted January 14th, 2013 by
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by Lauren Cavagnolo

It’s early on a Friday morning, and Pink Poodle Grooming is hopping. Many of the arrivals seem to be regulars, and all of the pooches are more than eager to greet Owner Heather Davis and the rest of the staff. The grooming facility, located at 907 S. Memorial Drive, also offers doggie daycare.

As Davis’ own brood of dogs and cats also greet the newcomers, it starts to get noisy.

At first glance, most customers would just see a group of happy dogs wagging their tails. But look a little closer, and you might start to notice one of those little dogs has a curly tail, a round, smooth snout and hooves.

Penelope, Davis’ mini potbellied pig, fits right in with the gang at Pink Poodle and holds her own when it comes to chasing toys and running with the big dogs.

“Everybody loves her,” Davis said. “She bosses those dogs around.”

Some customers have even mistakenly asked Davis, “What kind of dog is that?”

And in fact, Penelope shares quite a few traits with her canine friends. She loves to have her belly rubbed, wags her tail and comes when her name is called.

Davis has even taught Penelope how to sit on command using the same method dog trainers use with treats and is now working on teaching her to take a bow.

It only took two times before she mastered the command. Now, when Penelope sees a treat, she automatically sits, Davis said.

Penelope even shares a few less desirable dog traits and can get herself into trouble.

“She loves to eat paper and she will destroy things. She’s had some important papers or a bill, and I have to chase after her,” Davis said. “She can be really, really naughty, but part of that is just because I am a new pig owner.”

Some of Penelope’s other “tricks” include taking the leashes and collars and carrying them off, “for no other reason than she wants to, it’s her playing,” Davis said.

She has even stolen keys out of an employee’s purse. “She is a thief!” Davis said. “In fact, my favorite comb had fallen off my table, and she had taken it and put it in a kennel.”

Of course, it isn’t all mischief. Penelope can use her tricks for beneficial reasons if she so chooses. “Sometimes another groomer will drop something, and Penelope will pick it up and bring it to me,” Davis said.

She brought home Penelope when she was just 2 months old. “At the time, she was half the size of my Pomeranian,” Davis said. “She was really cute when she was little; it almost didn’t seem real.”

At 4 months old, Penelope was weighing in at about 15 pounds. At full size, Penelope is expected to weigh between 30 and 40 pounds.

“A lot of people say, ‘Thirty, 40 pounds, that’s big; that’s not mini!’ But for a pig, it is mini,” Davis said.

Though Penelope will be about the size of a medium-sized dog and shares many common qualities, there are still plenty of differences that make owning a pig a far stretch from owning a dog.

“Potbellied pigs have a life expectancy of up to 20 years, so that’s a big commitment,” Davis said.

Bathroom training is another difference between Penelope and her canine buddies.

“I was trying to housebreak her like a dog,” she said. “I think instead we are going to switch to a litter box because she goes so frequently. I was doing some more research, and I found most people do use a litter box, so that’s what we’re going to start working on, too.”

Pigs also require a different diet from dogs. “Fruit is good for them but more as a treat. Vegetables are a good part of their diet,” she said. “They aren’t supposed to eat dog food; you have to go to the feed store to get mini-pig food.”

“And you know the saying, ‘Eat like a pig?’ There’s a reason for that,” Davis cautions.

While people have a trigger to let them know when they are full, potbellied pigs do not, Davis says.

“They can literally eat themselves to death, so you have to be careful about over feeding,” she said.

Pigs are also highly intelligent animals that require plenty of mental stimulation.

“You have to be careful because they By Lauren Cavagnolo Penelope TulsaPets JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013 31 are so smart. You can make them aggressive very easily,” Davis said. “If you don’t stimulate them and just throw them in a cage while you’re at work all day, it’s not good. That’s why I knew she would be a good fit with me, because I can bring her to work.”

Davis said she spent time researching mini potbellied pigs before bringing Penelope home.

“I am really big on researching what you’re getting first, even cats and dogs. It really is important,” she said.

Davis, who is no stranger to exotic pets, has been through the process before. She currently owns four sugar gliders and two skunks, in addition to her six dogs and six cats.

After researching the animal itself, Davis recommends finding a vet that can care for the kind of exotic animal you are interested in adopting.

“Not all vets can care for exotic animals,” Davis said. “You also want to make sure the area where you live is zoned for the type of animal you want to own.”

Davis and her animals live on unplotted land outside of city limits. Despite all the work, Davis says she loves having a pig.