Pet Tales: River art just ducky for dogs

A shih tzu named Gizmo looked very happy to be part of the huge crowd of people who flocked to the Allegheny River Sunday to see Pittsburgh's giant rubber duck.

"Gizmo begged us to come," dead-panned Erin Carney of Mt. Lebanon, who also brought John Strong to the point where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers meet to become the Ohio River.

It was the 5-year-old dog's first trip Downtown, Ms. Carney noted, and he was initially intimidated by sewer grates and large crowds, but he settled right in.

Ya gotta love the duck for so many reasons, and here's one more: the 40-foot tall yellow duck provided an outing for so many dogs. Owners are always happy to find events and places where their dogs are permitted, and Point State Park is one of those places.

I saw an Italian greyhound, Yorkshire terriers, a standard poodle, American pit bull terriers, dachshunds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and breeds and breed mixes too numerous to mention. Many of the little dogs wore sweaters, for although the sky was blue and rain-free, temperatures were slightly chilly on the glorious autumn day that was the last day of the duck.

The dogs I saw in midafternoon were leashed and well-behaved, even though the people and children were packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

The duck's orange beak had a little Mona Lisa-esque smile as it bobbed gently in the wakes created by motor boats that slowed down to see it. Canada geese and wild ducks swam around the duck. Although it might be tempting to speculate that wild fowl came to pay homage, I suspect "street smart" urban geese and ducks show up when they see large numbers of people, having learned that many of those people will feed them.

There were thousands of people, including the very young in strollers and the very old in wheelchairs. Camera phones snapped away, and everyone was smiling.

At Disney World, shamelessly billed as "the happiest place on earth," I always saw crying babies, cranky toddlers and stressed-out parents. I saw none of that in the giant rubber duck's domain. Officials at The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, owners of the yellow icon, say 1 million admirers came during his three-week reign. Late Sunday night, the duck was towed away, cleaned, deflated and stored. Hopefully the duck, like the King in Arthurian legend, will return when he is most needed by the people who have loved him.

Treats that kill

Since 2007, 3,600 dogs and 10 cats have been sickened by jerky pet treats and about 580 pets died. Most of the jerky treats were made in China, according to alerts sent out this week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If your dog or cat became ill after eating jerky pet treats, the FDA wants you and your veterinarian to go to to report your experience.

Although the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine has conducted more than 1,200 tests and visited jerky pet treat manufacturers in China, "the exact cause of the illnesses remains elusive," according to the news release.

What to look for in your pet: decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, increased water consumption, increased urination and diarrhea, sometimes with blood and mucus. Some pets collapse and have convulsions or "skin issues."

Here's my advice: Don't give jerky treats to pets, and especially don't feed jerky that was made in China.

Sarah Wagner, who lives near Philadelphia, is the founder of USA Love List ( The free website offers a wide array of products made in the USA. During the jerky crisis, lists of American-made pet treats, toys and bedding have been near the top of the home page.

Pet expo

Get your pets, put 'em on a leash and bring them to the Pittsburgh Pet Expo Friday through Sunday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

This expo has more than 200 exhibitors, entertainment, contests, demonstrations and pet products. More than 20 area rescue organizations will bring adoptable dogs and cats.

There is literally too much going on to mention it all here, so go to for details and schedules. The expo includes Pittsburgh Dock Dogs diving into water, a grooming competition and many demonstrations, including training. And there are the always-popular free samples, given out at many booths.

Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for people older than 55, and free for children age 12 and younger.

Celebrity trainer

Victoria Stilwell, star of Animal Planet's "It's Me or the Dog," will discuss "The Power of Positive Training" from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday in the Duquesne University Union Ballroom, Uptown (parking available in Duquesne's Forbes Avenue garage).

Admission to the lecture is $40. It's presented by Coalition to Adopt, Rehome and Match Abandoned Animals, and sponsored by the Duquesne University Animal Law Society.

Ms. Stilwell is known as a passionate advocate for positive reinforcement training methods. Her lecture will present solutions for dog behavior problems. She'll give behind-the-scenes perspective on her TV show, where she goes into homes to diagnose and solve pet problems.

To order tickets, go to, email or call 412-780-4983.

Petrifying pet party

Costumes are optional at a party from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday that benefits the Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center in Larimer. It's at Taverna 19, 108 19th St., Strip District. Tickets are $15 at the door or $10 in advance from the website,

The cost of a ticket covers food, free White Diamond vodka drinks 3-5 p.m., costume contests, candy, giveaways and auctions.


Check out the gallery of dogs posing in front of the rubber duck from our readers

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: or 412-263-3064.