Pet Tales: Local therapy cat earns honor


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Although his hind legs are paralyzed, Scooter regularly volunteers as a therapy cat, visiting patients who are battling their own difficulties and disabilities. The inspiration and joy that the black-and-white tuxedo cat brings to so many has earned him the title of ASPCA Cat of the Year.

Scooter, 5, will accompany veterinarian Betsy Kennon and her husband, Steve Nehus, to New York City, where the cat, a dog and several people will be honored at the annual Humane Awards Luncheon Nov. 8 at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan. They'll stay in the Empire Hotel, with all expenses paid by the ASPCA.

"They called me six weeks ago about this, and I was just blown away," said Ms. Kennon, who works at VCA Northview Animal Hospital in Ross.

Last February, the national anti-cruelty organization put out a call for nominations of inspiring dogs, cats and people, said Lindsay Sklar, director of special events for the ASPCA.

"Scooter's story appeared numerous times in our search, and he was the clear choice. With the help of Dr. Kennon and the Pittsburgh community, Scooter not only overcame his own life-threatening injuries, but also he is paying it forward and helping people facing similar obstacles to do the same."

For four years, Scooter and his veterinarian-owner have been making weekly visits to HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital, where he has a special rapport with patients who cannot walk because of injuries, amputation and strokes. They also visit nursing homes.

On therapy visits, Scooter's back legs are supported by a custom-made wheeled mobility device from K9 Carts. At home in Natrona Heights, he doesn't use the wheels. He scoots around by using his front legs to pull his rear end, which is padded by a baby diaper. He goes up and down steps, gets up on couches, and plays with the family's other cats and dogs. He even kills mice, which is something the other cats don't do.

When he was about 6 months old, he was rushed to the Harts Run Veterinary Clinic in Fox Chapel by a horrified client who reported that his dog had brought the kitten into the house in his mouth. The dog's owner feared he had injured the kitten. Ms. Kennon, who at that time worked at Hart's Run, said she didn't think that was the case because there were no puncture wounds or teeth marks. She thinks the dog saved the kitten.

The kitten could not move its hind legs because its last thoracic vertebrae was fractured. Ms. Kennon said the kitten looked at her with "big expressive gold eyes," and she decided to try to save him. He mewed and purred and charmed everyone in the clinic. About two months later, they started making therapy visits.

"He just keeps getting better at therapy," Ms. Kennon said. "He loves the attention, and he loves being petted."

Recently, a patient in rehab told Ms. Kennon: "I look at that rascal and I tell myself I have no room to feel sorry for myself."

Positive parroting

Parrots can be charming pets in the right home, "but they are not a low-maintenance alternative to a dog or cat," says a news release from the National Aviary on the North Side.

Parakeets, cockatiels, conures, macaws and cockatoos are all parrots. Each has unique nutritional needs, and different training methods work for different birds. Bird lovers tell me parrots are smarter than dogs, and they need attention, toys and play time to keep them happy. To put it another way, when parrots are bored they can be very unpleasant.

To help pet owners help their parrots, the National Aviary is holding a Positive Parroting program on Nov. 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the aviary, Allegheny Commons West (15212). The cost is $50, with a $5 discount for Aviary members.

Don't bring your own birds to this session. Some of the Aviary's 600 birds will be used in training demonstrations.

Cathy Schlott, manager of animal training, will lead the session. I've seen her training birds at the Aviary, and she's amazing. In her off-hours she trains dogs. She says her training techniques are "easy to learn and easy for people to practice at home," and the tips "will work with virtually any pet."

The workshop includes information about nutrition, health, housing and a session on making your own parrot toys. Participants will take home a one-of-a-kind toy and binders full of parrot-care information. To register, go to www.aviary.org or call 412-258-9439.

Pet Expo

The 2012 Pet Expo Pittsburgh will be held Friday, next Saturday and Sunday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. next Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Sunday.

Admission is free on Friday night. Other days regular admission is $8, $7 for seniors 55 and older and free for children 12 and under. Dogs and other pets are welcome to attend.

Events include Saturday afternoon auditions for "The Late Show with David Letterman" Stupid Pet Tricks and a pet costume contest at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Other attractions include cats Waffle and Tirzah, who ride in a child-sized car. They've been in other Pet Tales columns and are owned by Gregg and Karen McCandless of Butler. Go to www.petexpopgh.com for further information.

$25,000 challenge

The Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center has been in first place for most of the week in an online voting contest that awards the winner $25,000. But other shelters are not far behind. Supporters can vote once a day until Wednesday by going to http://apps.facebook.com/aspcavotingapp/ in the ASPCA Rachel Ray $100K challenge.

No pit bull walk

Hello Bully's Pit Bull Awareness Day Dog Walk, scheduled for today at Boyce Park, has been canceled.

pets

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to petpoints@post-gazette.com. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.


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