By Harold Reutter
If the kids didn’t learn “All About Dogs and Cats” during Wednesday afternoon’s Kids College class, they still managed to pack away a whole lot of information provided by Dr. Melissa Girard-Lemons, a Grand Island veterinarian.
They learned about cat and dog breeds, the “jobs” that human beings originally wanted their dogs and cats to do, the distinctive characteristics that various cat and dog breeds exhibit, how a veterinarian does a physical examination and how they should care for their own pets.
While Girard-Lemons was responsible for putting on most of the two-hour course, she was ably assisted by a number of people she recruited as volunteers: Kyleigh Smith, Caitlin Aubushon, veterinary technician Kathy Nabity, Nebraska State Trooper Russ Lewis, veterinary technician Jill Moore, Tyler Green and Jared Pankonin.
Nabity served as Girard-Lemons’ assistant, while each of the other people talked about their own particular pet.
First up was Smith, who talked about her Bengal cat, noting that it has very soft fur, is extremely playful and highly confident. Smith also talked about her Sphynx cat — a nearly hairless breed that she described as a loyal animal that “loves to be around people.” Because the Sphynx has down instead of long fur, it is definitely an indoor cat because it can get sunburned on a bright, sunny day or easily freeze to death on a cold winter day.
Girard-Lemons said Sphynx cats still need to be groomed to remove oil from their skin. However, she said people who are allergic to cat fur and cat dander might be able to tolerate having a Sphynx cat in their home.
Aubushon also showed two Ocicats, noting the animal was created by breeding Siamese and Abyssinian cats with one another, before eventually introducing American Shorthairs into the genetic mix to create the markings of a wild cat.
Girard-Lemons, meanwhile, gave the kids information about cats in general, noting they originated in Egypt. Because cats are great at hunting rats and mice, Egyptians used cats in granaries, where it was their job to keep rats and mice away from grains meant for human consumption.
She and Nabity also showed two Persian cats, which are famed for their very long hair. She said that while Sphynx cats must be groomed to remove oil, Persian cats must be groomed on a very regular basis to prevent their long hair from getting knotted and matted. Matted hair can cause the cats’ skin to get irritated and even infected.
The veterinarian showed how she gives cats a physical examination that starts at the tip of the nose and goes to the tip of the tail. Wednesday’s exam of one cat included looking inside the cat’s ears and Girard-Lemons discovered a little wax buildup in one ear.
She dipped a bit of cotton into a solution specifically made to remove cat ear wax and dabbed it inside the animal’s ear. When Girard-Lemons removed the cotton, some of it was smeared with dark wax.
“Ewww!” responded a lot of the kids, but the vet said a cat’s ear wax is no more gross than the kids’ own ear wax.
The second half of Kids College was all about dogs. Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Russ Lewis brought in Cade, a Belgian Malinois that was specially raised in Europe for work as a police dog. Lewis said Cade was brought to Grand Island after he turned 2 years old and was a more mature dog ready for training.
He said Cade has two jobs: “Finding drugs and finding bad guys.” Cade uses his nose to find drugs. Lewis noted that whenever Cade thinks he has smelled drugs, he sits down and looks at the spot where he thinks the drugs are located. Cade might also use his nose to find bad guys, but he’ll also use his teeth to bite the bad guys.
Moore, the veterinary technician, brought in Sam, who was found with a broken leg and brought into the Central Nebraska Humane Society. Moore noted her vet clinic successfully repaired Sam’s leg, with the bone completely healing.
Unfortunately, nerves in the leg did not heal. As a result, Sam’s leg was amputated so the dog would not get the leg with no nerve function caught in something, as that could cause further injury. Both Moore and Girard-Lemons noted that Sam is perfectly happy with three legs. “He has no idea that he does not have a leg,” Moore said.
Tyler Green showed his Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Girard-Lemons said she likes the dog because it is so loving to people. However, she said the breed does have one disadvantage because when it gets to be 8 to 9 years old, it will develop a heart murmur, which will require it to take medicine for the rest of its life.
Jerad Pankonin showed Bristol, a wire-haired pointing griffon, which is used for hunting. Both Pankonin and Girard-Lemons noted that Bristol has lots of energy, with the vet noting she has seen Bristol run around and around in his yard having fun and expending that energy.
Girard-Lemons noted dogs need to be groomed and to have their nails regularly clipped. While many people use chews to help clean their dog’s teeth, Girard-Lemons said it is best if people brush their dogs’ teeth at least every other day.
She said human toothpaste, which contains fluoride, cannot be used because dogs will always swallow the toothpaste. As a result, Girard-Lemons showed a toothpaste that smells and tastes like chicken, which makes it easy to clean a dog’s teeth. She also did a blood draw on a dog, did a canine vaccination and inserted an ID microchip between the shoulder blades of one dog.
She said the best thing pet owners can do for their dogs and cats is to prevent them from running wild. When walking a dog, owners should always have their pet on a lease/harness.
Girard-Lemons said that one teacher in her veterinary school told her that “automobile-animal interactions always end badly,” which means the dog or cat always ended up getting the worst of the deal if hit by a car or truck.