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Cat predicts 50 deaths in RI nursing home

February 3, 2010 11:52 am

I found this story intriguing.. I'm not sure why, but it certainly makes you think of the power of animal senses.

A cat with an uncanny ability to detect when nursing home patients are about to die has proven itself in around 50 cases by curling up with them in their final hours, according to a new book.

Dr David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor at Brown University, said that five years of records showed Oscar rarely erring, sometimes proving medical staff at the New England nursing home wrong in their predictions over which patients were close to death.

The cat, now five and generally unsociable, was adopted as a kitten at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence, Rhode Island, which specialises in caring for people with severe dementia.

Dr Dosa first publicised Oscar's gift in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007. Since then, the cat has gone on to double the number of imminent deaths it has sensed and convinced the geriatrician that it is no fluke.

The tortoiseshell and white cat spends its days pacing from room to room, rarely spending any time with patients except those with just hours to live.

If kept outside the room of a dying patient, Oscar will scratch on the door trying to get in.
When nurses once placed the cat on the bed of a patient they thought close to death, Oscar "charged out" and went to sit beside someone in another room. The cat's judgement was better than that of the nurses: the second patient died that evening, while the first lived for two more days.

Dr Dosa and other staff are so confident in Oscar's accuracy that they will alert family members when the cat jumps on to a bed and stretches out beside its occupant.

"It's not like he dawdles. He'll slip out for two minutes, grab some kibble and then he's back at the patient's side. It's like he's literally on a vigil," Dr Dosa wrote.

Dr Dosa noted that the nursing home keeps five other cats, but none of the others have ever displayed a similar ability.

In his book, "Making rounds with Oscar: the extraordinary gift of an ordinary cat", Dr Dosa offers no solid scientific explanation for Oscar's behaviour.

He suggests Oscar is able - like dogs, which can reportedly smell cancer - to detect ketones, the distinctly-odoured biochemicals given off by dying cells.

Far from recoiling from Oscar's presence, now they know its significance, relatives and friends of patients have been comforted and sometimes praised the cat in newspaper death notices and eulogies, said Dr Dosa.

"People were actually taking great comfort in this idea, that this animal was there and might be there when their loved ones eventually pass. He was there when they couldn't be," he said.

I'm thinking this animal may be able to do more anything any modern computers can do, and that's saying something.

Former PetSmart employee fights back after being fired for bringing Dog to Work??

February 1, 2010 12:01 pm

Make sure you read until the end..  god.. how stupid, it's not like the dog was doing his business all over the stores tile flooring or anything.. sheesh.

Who can blame him? Look at that cute pup!!

Eric Favetta was in the doghouse.

A PetSmart employee since July 2008, Favetta was fired from his job at the Secaucus store last month for "theft of service." The alleged "theft" occurred during an overnight shift Favetta worked as a favor to his manager.

Favetta brought his dog, Gizmo, to work with him, and the dog stayed in the store’s doggie day care facility — which at the time was not manned by any other employee — while Favetta prepared the store for a special showing to potential business partners.

"I have always been the type of employee to go the extra mile and make sure that not only the store was taken care of but that the employees were taken care of," said Favetta, 31, of Towaco.

For his deed, at a business that encourages customers to bring pets to the store, he was canned. Here’s how it happened:
THE INCIDENT

PetSmart seemed like a perfect fit to Favetta after his nearly seven-year stint as a dog handler for various military units in Afghanistan and Bahrain. He became operations manager — basically an assistant manager — at the Wayne store.

Favetta said he was charged with helping clean up a messy store where business was suffering.

"We began to get compliments from our customers, telling us how great the store looked and it was a great feeling," he said.

In April 2009, the district manager moved Favetta to the Secaucus store — a high-traffic, high-profile store that was in disarray.

"He explained that the store was not in great shape and there were a lot of issues down there," Favetta said. "He explained I was at that time the number one operations manager in the district and was well on my way to having my own store one day."

Favetta said that as he took steps to make improvements at the Secaucus store, he and the store manager butted heads. More than a few times. Favetta requested a transfer but was denied. He was needed in that store, he was told, so he stayed.

The store started turning around, and Favetta said he tried to make the best of his position, even though he had ongoing conflicts with his manager. Favetta would do favors for the manager, such as coming in at 4 a.m. to work a two-hour shift, even on days off, because the manager didn’t like to work so early, Favetta said.

At 5 p.m. on Dec. 15, Favetta was asked to work a special overnight shift that night to prepare the store for a viewing by representatives for Martha Stewart’s company, which was considering adding its product lines to PetSmart. Favetta said yes.

"I brought my dog with me because I knew if I didn’t, he would have been home alone all day and all night until I returned home at 6 a.m. the next day," Favetta said.

He did the shift, and Gizmo, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, spent the night in the empty store’s doggie day care facility. Favetta said he’d check in on Gizmo every 15 minutes or so, and then go back to work.

Two weeks later, Favetta was asked to meet with his store and district managers, who requested a written account of his overnight shift. He complied. They reviewed it and fired him for "theft of service."

"I was shocked," Favetta said. "It makes me sick that because I brought my dog to work with me when the store was closed to do the company a favor, I was called a thief and terminated."

That’s when he contacted Bamboozled.
GETTING OUT OF THE DOGHOUSE

Favetta thought his firing was an excuse to get rid of him because he didn’t get along with his manager. He raised some interesting questions: If they fired him because of "theft of service," why did they wait two weeks to question him? Why was Favetta allowed to open and close the store, and handle money every day, if PetSmart thought he was a thief?

We talked to PetSmart about its policies for employees who bring pets to work.

"In our eyes, our services business is huge, with our grooming and training and care. Those are viewed as sale items the same way items on the shelf are," spokeswoman Jessica White said. "To use the facilities and not pay for it — it falls under the same lines."

Hold the dog biscuits. Absolutely, pet care services are an important part of PetSmart’s business, and, yes, employees should pay for any services they receive along those lines. But Favetta brought his dog in when no other employee was in the store. Gizmo didn’t get a manicure. No other employee was being paid, nor was their time being used, to care for Gizmo.

"The use of the facilities is still considered a service," White said.

For argument’s sake, let’s say Favetta was wrong. Did his actions really warrant termination? An employee with a spotless record booted for that? Maybe he should have been given a warning. Or been told to pay for the overnight "service." But don’t take away his job for what amounts to a questionable infraction.

The punishment simply doesn’t fit the crime — if there was a crime, at all. (PetSmart did not call the police or file charges against Favetta for the "theft.")

The next day, Favetta got a phone call from Bob Ruth, PetSmart’s human resources director, and they talked for two hours, Favetta said. Favetta told his story and the director asked lots of questions.

Two days later, Ruth called back, this time with the offer of Favetta’s job, along with a transfer to another store.

"I’m happy," Favetta said. "I definitely think it was the right decision, and once they saw everything that happened, I think they knew it was the right decision."
POSTSCRIPT

Favetta accepted his job back, but while he was unemployed, he had some feelers out for new positions. He was offered a job as a dog handler working for a company that uses animals to search for hazards, and he decided to take it rather than return to PetSmart.

"I had to think about everything that happened, why it happened and what the next step for a career would be for me," he said, expressing concerns that because he’d be under the same district manager — whose decision on Favetta’s firing was overturned by corporate — it would hurt his possibility for future promotion.

Favetta wanted to make sure his employment record at PetSmart would reflect that he left the company on good terms, not because of a firing, so we rang the company one more time.

"It will read as a resignation," spokeswoman Jennifer Simmons said.

Alf is on Twitter… And He’s Only Following Cats!

January 28, 2010 11:42 am

This is hilarious!! Found this over at the nextweb.com - You remember Alf don't you?

If you were alive in the mid-to-late 80’s and watched television, you’re probably quite familiar with Gordon Shumway, aka, Alf. Well, it looks like our cat-eating, bouillabaisseball-playing, furry friend from planet Melmac has joined the Twitter ranks.

Last night, I saw a bunch of tweets in my stream welcoming Alf to Twitter. So, i followed some links and landed on @Verified_Alf. Not sure if the account is actually verified by Twitter or not, but who cares. For people like me that grew up watching Alf, this account, with its few tweets so far, is already a riot.

Alf on Twitter

Will Alf surpass @BillGates? Who knows, but I’d sure like to see it. Like Gates, Alf is only following a few accounts (which all happen to be cats) including the now famous @Sockington. His witty bio reads: “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it’s run over by a car, you don’t want it.” Clever, and we hope to see more clever tweets from Alf in the days to come.

By the way, feel free to spread the word and unite to make Alf bigger than Bill Gates on twitter. As it seems, many users are already tweeting “ Alf is on twitter, must follow @Verified_Alf”

Enjoy! Now time for a glass of wine and a cigar.

How to Help Your Dog Live a Healthy and Long Life

January 25, 2010 12:59 am

I found this article at a very helpful site over at Factoids, and since Hunter is recovering nicely - I read it through and thought you may enjoy.

Although we know that our beloved dog will probably die before we do, there are many things an owner can do to help their dog live a longer life.

Dog Selection

Right from the start, the dog you buy, and the place you buy it from, can have a huge impact on how long it will live. Pups sold in pet stores come from mass breeders, places who only breed for profit. As such these pups may typically have genetic health problems or predispositions to some problems. Of course, most owners know that small dogs live longer than big ones, and most pets stores sell only small breed pups.

Back yard breeders also tend to disregard breeding for health, rather they breed for cuteness. If a person wants a long lived purebred dog they are best off to select one from a reputable breeder. Sadly many people in the market for a puppy have no idea how to determine if a breeder is reputable. Quite simply put, a reputable breeder takes their dogs to shows to prove their worth as breeding animals and has them tested by a veterinarian against any genetic health problems. They do not breed any dogs where problems have been shown to exist. They do not advertise puppies for sale, rather they get waiting lists before they breed.

Purebreds have known problems associated with their breed, any owner wanting a purebred should know what health problems to be aware of and how to avoid them.

Mutts are often suggested as healthy dogs because of something called hybrid vigor, meaning they have more diverse genes than a purebred. This does not mean all mutts are healthy, some are the result of a mating between two low quality purebreds and as such would not have great genes anyhow. Still, mutts should not be discounted, and many have long lifespans when selected well.

Veterinary Care

Having a dog desexed has a huge benefit to health and lifespan. Spaying or neutering reduces or removes the chances for the dog to develop some cancers (interestingly enough cancer is second only to accidents as far as the biggest threat to lifespan). Regular vaccinations can also have a huge impact on lifespan. Parvo virus is responsible for killing many puppies, so a puppy should not leave its home unvaccinated. Regular vet care can help keep a dog healthy, and alive for a long time. Prevention of worms, such as heartworm, can also increase a dogs lifespan.

Teeth Care

One problem for many dogs is that their owners neglect to care for their teeth. While it might not seem important to lifespan, an infected tooth can spread infection to the dogs brain. Even if it does not get to that stage, bad teeth make eating difficult.

Feeding

People think that dog food companies would not be selling poor quality pet foods, but they do. Many ingredients are known to cause problems. Unfortunately the standards for pet food nutrition is very poor. A wise owner would always look at an ingredient list and avoid problem ingredients such as corn, pork, wheat, soy, and beef. They would also avoid cheap preservatives such as BHT, and BHA, both linked to health concerns. They would never offer a food that contained any by-products, which are not only cheap un-healthy filler, but are preserved with a chemical pesticide Ethoxyquin, known to cause health problems.

Many cancers are from eating poor quality ingredients found in poor quality foods (particularly in the preservatives) so food selection should be very important.

Too much food is not doing the dog any favors either. Obesity is just as harmful in dogs as it is in people. Gravy and fat might taste yummy but they are not things dogs should have.

Training

A well trained dog is going to live a longer life simply because they are not going to be a problem for their owner. All too many dogs are surrendered to the animal shelters because they are unruly and unmanageable. Some of these dogs become so unsafe they are not put up for adoption.

Containment

A dog who is allowed to roam is in danger at all times. Not only can it be hit by a car, it could be picked up by an angry neighbor and dumped in another part of town, or poisoned because of becoming a pest in the neighborhood. Even chaining it in a unfenced yard is not safe because stray dogs could easily pick on it. Naturally as pack animals dogs prefer to be with their owners, but this isn’t always possible, as such a fully fenced yard or dog run make the best option. I also believe that when putting the dog in the car, you should use proper seat belt clamps and make sure he's nice and safe.

Companionship

As mentioned, dogs are pack animals, they thrive when they have a companion. A dog who lives with another dog, or even a cat, may have positive benefits because of not being alone in the case where an owner works long hours.

Identification

If a dog is picked up as a stray most shelters only have to hold it for 72 hours. Many hold the pets longer and ideally put unclaimed ones up for adoption. However by providing the dog with identification an owner can be contacted immediately, and returned to them.

Hunter Is Back – A Review Of WGU

January 22, 2010 10:33 pm

Tonight I've a very happy guy.. got both my hounds home, and Hunter is currently doing well, although I think his knewly fixed leg is likely bothering him. I'm actually feeling pretty fortunate that I have the next few days off so that I can spend as much time as possible with him.

Actually this weekend I was fortunate enough to do a review of Western Governors Online University and I must say that I'm quite impressed. If I was looking to go back to school seriously I would look into this. They have a set tuition, and it's not that crazy expensive.. and it's set for the entire 1/2 semester. Pretty slick.

Anyhow, it seems that everyone is looking for healthcare workers and healthcare professionals, so why not try to get your online nursing degree from them? They also have other areas of study like IT courses you could use to get your degree, same with Teaching, and they also have a College devoted to Business. I like the way it's setup.

Well, that's my review of WGU.. not long, but I have to get back to taking care of my boy.. we may take in a movie or two tonight :-)

Night all.