Monday, September 9, 2013

Keep your Pets safe this Fall

Caring for pets is a year round job but certain seasons in New England present unique hazards. Summer has the heat and winter is quite cold, but autumn can also be a dangerous time for pets if you are not careful. The presence of wild critters known to carry rabies including raccoon's and skunks, the growth of potentially toxic wild mushrooms and pesticide sprays around a home can all be very dangerous for a dog or cat. At the Middletown Vet we want your pet to be as safe as possible so we offer some helpful tips for keeping your furry friend healthy.

Fall brings the growth of several potentially toxic plants. Chrysanthemum, Meadow Saffron and a variety of wild mushrooms can be very harmful for a dog or cat if ingested. You will know your pet has eaten a harmful plant if he displays the following symptoms: stumbling, skin inflammation, vomiting and diarrhea. Watch closely for these signs and also do your best to remove mushrooms from your yard.

When the weather starts to get chilly wild animals will seek refuge in homes, basements and garages. This can mean raccoon's, skunks and squirrels encroaching on your property. While these critters are not known for aggressive behavior, an encounter with your pet can turn into a fight and if the animal is carrying rabies your cat or dog can be in trouble. Be proactive by ensuring your home does not have any easy access spots for wild animals and if a raccoon or skunk is in the house contact a professional animal removal specialist.

In addition to small critters your home may also be invaded by rats and mice looking to get out of the cold. 
Many homeowners will have their foundations sprayed with pesticides to kill off these rodents but these chemicals can be harmful to your pet if inhaled or ingested. Always have your dog or cat out of the home when a spraying is done and ask the pest control specialist when it is safe for pets to enter the home again after spraying is done. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Old Dog Needs $6,000 Surgery. What Do You Do?

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The average bichon frisé will live to be 16 years old.

Readers’ Comments

Of course, there are no average bichons. Each one is extraordinary and irreplaceable. Especially if he’s your dog.
I recently returned from vacation to find my son, his wife and both their bichons at my house. They were there, they told me, because Maxwell, the older dog, needed emergency gallbladder surgery.
Max, a 13-year-old dog, is calm and sweet-tempered, so gentle and pleasant a companion you can forget he is a dog. I have long maintained that Max is better company than most people.
But now he was suffering. While Jack, their 3-year-old dog, had met me at the door with the usual exuberant barking, Max had remained on the sofa beside my son, whimpering fretfully.
Tom and Amy are crazy about these dogs, so much so that when they married, both bichons were included in the ceremony. Max, part of Amy’s life since her folks brought him home when she was 12, was the ring bearer. Jack was the “flower dog.”
Jack and Max aren’t just dogs. They’re regarded as beloved family members. And when a beloved family member needs life-saving surgery, you don’t sit back and “let nature take its course.” You take him to a hospital.
My son and his wife had taken Max to their local Baltimore veterinarian. An X-ray revealed that his gallbladder needed to come out before it ruptured, endangering Max’s life. The best place for this difficult surgery was the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital. So they got in the car and drove to my house in the Philadelphia suburbs. They planned to take Max to the emergency room the next day.
A risky operation and an elderly dog. Not a promising combination. Even if the surgery was a success, there was a 30 percent chance of life-threatening post-op complications.
“How much will this cost?” I asked. “And who’s going to pay for it?“
“Six thousand dollars,” Tom said. “Maybe more, if there are complications. We’re splitting the cost with Amy’s parents.”
“I’m in for a third,” I found myself saying.
I’m not a wealthy woman. I work, part time, at a public library. But I loved that dog. And expensive dog repair is less expensive if you split it three ways.
“Are you nuts?” one friend asked when I told her about it.
“We’re hoping to buy Max two more good years,” I said.
“He’s an old dog,” she chided. “You’re missing an opportunity to teach your son a valuable life lesson. There comes a time when you have to let go.”
We didn’t want to let Max go. We wanted to try to save his life.
Was this crazy? “Would you pay $6,000 for a 70 percent chance of buying two extra years of life for an elderly dog?” I asked my dog-owning friends.
“In a heartbeat,” one said.
“No way,” another said. “When it’s time to go, it’s time to go. You grieve. Then you get another dog. Preferably from a shelter.”
Another friend admitted that when the vet told her a couple of years ago that her ailing Shih Tzu needed an expensive procedure to save his life, she had blurted: “Do whatever you have to do! I love this dog even more than I love my husband!”
“And I really do love my husband,” she told me sheepishly.
I grew up in the 1960s. My sister and I loved Lady Gweneviere of Shrewsbury, our scrappy Sealyham terrier, but she was never our “canine sister.” She was “the dog.” Gwen slept in the laundry room. She wasn’t allowed on the furniture. And when her health began to fail, Dad took her to the vet and had her “put to sleep.”
But times change. Even though it still remains in his nature (unlike a human sibling) to take a dump occasionally on the living room rug or chew up a library book, the 21st-century dog has received an upgrade, from pet to family. And pricey life-prolonging surgery is definitely an option.
We took Max to the vet hospital the next day, so weak that we carried him in, wrapped in a blanket. They took him into surgery. After the three-hour procedure, the vet called to tell us things were worse than we had thought.
“Max came through the operation beautifully,” she said. “But his gall bladder had already ruptured.” She had removed it and repaired the damage as best she could. But a full, uncomplicated recovery was even less likely.
Max would spend the next 24 hours in the canine intensive-care unit. With his own round-the-clock I.C.U. nurse.
When we were finally able to visit Max, we expected to find him helpless and weak. But he trotted briskly into the waiting room, accompanied by the vet who had performed the surgery. “He’s doing great,” she said. “He’s our favorite patient. Everyone loves him.”
We were as high at the sight of our dog, tail wagging and on his feet again, as Max was on the methadone they had given him for post-op pain.
A mere six grand for bringing our guy back from death’s door? A bargain!
Max continued to beat the odds, going through the three perilous post-op days without a hitch. He is now out of the hospital, recuperating with Amy’s parents, who are spoiling him rotten.
We paid the whopping hospital bill with no regrets. Max, alive and well, is worth every penny. Even if he hadn’t made it through, knowing that we had done all we could for him would have been worth that price. More important, the whole experience has made me very hopeful about how Tom and Amy are likely to treat me when I’m old and frail.
And the peace of mind I get from that?

Roz Warren ( is a mild-mannered librarian, humorist and dog lover. Connect with Roz on Facebook at


  1. Fleas have been around for more than 100 million years dating back to the time of the
  2. Cats and dogs are afflicted by the same flea (Ctenocephalides felis).
  3. The average lifespan of a flea on the pet is 60 to 100 days.
  4. Fleas will feed up to 4000 times per day consuming up to 15 times their own body
    weight in blood daily.
  5. Only the adult flea feeds on blood.
  6. Fleas can jump more than 100 times their own length.
  7. Female fleas produce 40 to 50 eggs per day, which translates into 2000 eggs in her
    reproductive lifetime.
  8. Eggs fall off a pet and infest carpets, bedding and furniture and then hatch into larvae
    within 14 days.
  9. Immature fleas avoid light, burying themselves in carpets and crevices.
  10. Most fleas overwinter in the larval or pupal stage with optimal survival and growth
    occurring during warm, moist winters and spring.
  11. A typical flea population consists of 50% eggs, 35% larvae, 10% pupae and 5% adults. The number of fleas found on a pet represents only 5% of the fleas in the environment.
  12. Researchers have suggested a genetic component to flea allergy dermatitis.
  13. Fleas do not use muscle power to jump, but energy stored in a protein named resilin.
  14. The flea larva is small, pale, has bristles covering its worm-like body, lacks eyes, and has mouthparts that are adapted to chewing. Larvae feed on organic matter, including the feces of mature fleas.
Courtesy of our friends at Bluepearl Veterinary Specialists

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Keeping Pets Cool in Summer

As the fittingly named dog days of summer set in its time to think about how hard the heart can be on your pet. If you are suffering, and you have access to cold water and showers whenever you want, think how your furry little friend must be feeling. Summer heat can make a dog or cat miserable and lead to unusual and sometimes aggressive behavior. If the heat is starting to rise in your area follow some safety tips that will keep your pets cool.

Water – It seems simple enough but you’d be surprised how many pets get dehydrated in the summer. Cats and dogs need water in the summer to stay hydrated and prevent fatigue. If they don’t have access to fresh, clean drinking water then a very hot day can become a very dangerous one. Chances are you have to leave your pet at home when you go to work so always remember to have several water options for your pet, indoors and outdoors, so he can stay hydrated while you’re gone.

Avoid Bad Situations – Summer is a great time to go out and join crowds at concerts, fairs, cook-outs and parties. While this is a fun time for you it might not be the ideal environment for a pet dog or cat. These types of gatherings can lead to an animal feeling claustrophobic, overheated and dizzy. When pets are hot they don’t want to be pet, jostled with or pushed. Use common sense when deciding if you should take your pet to a crowded place. Whether it’s in the city or on a beach you need to be careful not to put your pet in a precarious position.

Monitor Sun Exposure – Like humans, too much time in the sun can be bad for a pet’s health. Hot days mixed with prolonged exposure to intense UV rays can cause a pet dog or cat to feel dizzy, disoriented, fatigued and ill. You will probably notice your pet acting strange and perhaps lethargic. Be careful when you approach a dog that has been in the sun too long. Even if you know your dog to be docile and friendly the heat can make him do irrational things and you need to be prepared for a sudden action. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

It’s Flea & Tick Season

As the weather warms up and nature springs back to life in Connecticut, it’s time for every pet owner to be on the watch for fleas and ticks. Though summer is usually the peak of the flea and tick population, spring and fall are also known for bringing along plenty of these annoying arachnids and mites looking for dogs and cats to hitch a ride on. Some vets recommend protecting your pet year round from fleas and ticks but the start of spring is when you need to be the most proactive to help keep your pets safe.

Flea & Tick Dangers
Fleas and ticks can do much more than just make a pet itch. Being blood-sucking parasites it isn’t unusual for fleas and ticks to transit pathogens and skin diseases. If your pet isn’t properly protected this can result in hair loss due to excessive scratching, tapeworms, a flea allergy known as dermatitis and anemia in younger pets. Ticks are also well known for carrying Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrilichiosis. These diseases can lead to lameness, swollen joints, cardiac problems and neurological disorders.

Detecting Fleas & Ticks
Luckily it won’t be very hard to tell that your pet dog or cat has fleas. Constant biting and scratching, sometimes at a furious pace, is usually a sure sign your pet has some unwanted friends crawling on his skin. When you are brushing your pet you should also be on the lookout for small dark spots that usually indicate the presence of ticks. If the tick has been feeding on blood it will probably appear engorged and will be easier to spot.

Treating Pets for Fleas & Ticks
There are several things you can do as a pet owner to protect your dog or cat from fleas and ticks. There are plenty of flea and tick shampoos and powders on the market as well as special collars that are designed to keep fleas and ticks off your pet. However, if they do find their way onto your dog or cat you need to act quickly to get rid of them before they can start causing damage. For ticks you can use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin and pull it off gently without irritating your pet. Another treatment is to practice prevention by watching where your pet roams off to when you let him outside. Keeping dogs and cats away from where fleas and ticks congregate is the best way to avoid contact altogether. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


A Dog named Tank

They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie, as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly.

I'd only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone waves when you pass them on the street. 
But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn't hurt. Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen Reggie's advertisement on the local news. The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn't look like "Lab people," whatever that meant. They must've thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes and a sealed letter from his previous owner.
See, Reggie and I didn't really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too. Maybe we were too much alike.
I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that. "Okay, Reggie," I said out loud, "let's see if your previous owner has any advice."

Well, I can't say that I'm happy you're reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie's new owner. I'm not even happy writing it. He knew something was different.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you. First, he loves tennis balls. The more the merrier. Sometimes I think he's part squirrel, the way he hoards them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn't done it yet. Doesn't matter where you throw them, he'll bound after them, so be careful. Don't do it by any roads.
Next, commands. Reggie knows the obvious ones ---"sit," "stay," "come," "heel." He knows hand signals, too: He knows "ball" and "food" and "bone" and "treat" like nobody's business. Feeding schedule: twice a day, regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand. He's up on his shots. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car. I don't know how he knows when it's time to go to the vet, but he knows. Finally, give him some time. It's only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He's gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn't bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.
And that's why I need to share one more bit of info with you... His name's not Reggie. He's a smart dog, he'll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. But I just couldn't bear to give them his real name. But if someone is reading this ... well it means that his new owner should know his real name. His real name is "Tank." Because, that is what I drive. I told the shelter that they couldn't make "Reggie" available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. You see, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could've left Tank with ... and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call to the shelter ... in the "event" ... to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my CO is a dog-guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed. He said he'd do it personally. And if you're reading this, then he made good on his word. Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family. And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family, too, and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me. If I have to give up Tank to keep those terrible people from coming to the US I am glad to have done so. He is my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades. All right, that's enough. I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter. Maybe I'll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth. Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night - from me.
I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure, I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags had been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog. "Hey, Tank," I said quietly. The dog's head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.
"C'mere boy." 

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn't heard in months. "Tank," I whispered. His tail swished.
I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.
"It's me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me." Tank reached up and licked my cheek.
"So whatdaya say we play some ball?" His ears perked again.
"Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?"
Tank tore from my hands and disappeared into the next room. And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dogs are the most diverse-looking mammals around
From the droopy Bassett hound to the sleek-and-slim Weimaraner, dogs show an amazing diversity in body shape. A study published in The American Naturalist in 2010 found that the differences between dog breeds' skullsare as pronounced as the differences between completely separate mammal species. A Collie skull, for example, is as different from a Pekingese skull as a cat's skull is from a walrus's.
All of this diversity makes dogs a great species for studying how genes work, allowing researchers to link genes to certain traits -- like what makes Shar-Peis wrinkly and dachshunds so stubby.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why Does My Dog . . . Curl Up in a Ball When He Sleeps?

Dog Curled in Ball
It’s nighttime and your pup nestles snugly in his bed, rolled up tight like a drum.
It’s a common slumber position for dogs, but why? Wouldn’t it be more comfortable to stretch out while catching some shut-eye?
Well, yes, says Dr. Margaret Gruen, DVM, a clinician at NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Behavior Service.
But there are two valid reasons why your canine rolls up in a ball to snooze — and they both relate to evolution.

Keeping Cozy

“When dogs sleep in the wild, especially where it’s cold, they’ll dig a nest and curl up into it,” Dr. Gruen says. “This gives them warmth — tucking into a ball conserves body heat. It also protects their most vulnerable organs in the abdomen from would-be predators.”
So if your pooch sprawls out to nap — instead of curling up — he’s either hot or he feels very safe in his environment.

Creating Security

If a dog is in unfamiliar territory, he will revert back to the instinct-based, curled-up sleep position.
For this reason, whenever you bring a new pup home, you’ll want to give him enough space to acclimate to his foreign surroundings.
Another tip from Dr. Gruen: Consider getting him a blanket. “This way, he can ‘dig’ a nest with the bedding material before he lies down,” she says, “instead of digging a place to nowhere on your carpet or couch.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Change Your Perspective And Train Your Dog

As a dog trainer there are two questions I get more than any others:

“How do I get my dog to stop doing (insert annoying, yet often natural, behavior here)?”
“How do I punish my dog when he’s just being bad?”

There are also a few statements I get more than any others:

“She knows better!”
“She’s just being stubborn.”
“He doesn’t respect (me, my wife, my children).

Anyone see a pattern here? I’ll give you a second…

It’s all so adversarial and puts the entire responsibility on the dog. A dog! Blaming the dog for lack of communication skills or not understanding human language or desires is scape-goating and also gives a supposedly lesser creature (according to that whole “he doesn’t respect” me malarkey) a heck of a lot of power and responsibility. It’s also quite egotistical of us humans to think that a dog should respect us simply because we’re human. Even if dogs are capable of feeling the human notion that is respect, it’s something that is earned, not just inherently awarded.

Looking at, and dealing with, your dog from an adversarial perspective sets both of you up for failure. From this perspective every perceived transgression is an insult. When your dog doesn’t come when called it’s a slap in the face! “How dare Rover ignore me when I’ve demanded his presence!

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Presumably you got a dog because you wanted a companion, a sidekick. Presumably you live with a dog because you like dogs. Your dog is your friend, the two of you have so many great moments of fun and affection every day, yet you don’t even give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his perceived transgressions.

Ever consider that your dog isn’t listening to you because she doesn’t know what the heck you are saying, let alone understand what is expected of her in a given situation?

Most dogs don’t comply to your requests, commands, or more accurately, cues, because they haven’t been sufficiently trained to do so – by you.

Newsflash: Dogs are not born with a reverence for, or submission to, humans. Nor do they inherently “know” what we want them to do, how to behave in the presence or home of another species, or the meaning of human language. They also aren’t born with a penchant for world-domination.

Dogs are, however, born with a unique ability to “read” humans really well, better than any other species, and a desire to survive: be safe, fed, comfortable, socially accepted.

They’re pretty easy to manipulate, especially by more intelligent beings with bigger brains, greater access to all resources (including good dog training information), and opposable thumbs. (Hey, that’s us!)

When it comes to dog behavior there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that dogs often have a very different idea about what acceptable behavior is any given situation. The good news is that dogs are generally very malleable and willing to learn our strange human ways if given the opportunity via clear instruction and rewards.

So next time your dog doesn’t come when called at the park, or jumps up to greet someone think about whether she’s had sufficient instruction and repetition of recalls or if she’s ever been taught what a polite greeting looks like from the human perspective. Has she been taught what is “right” versus merely been told what is “wrong”? Has she been given an acceptable alternative to her natural doggy behavior and has it been heavily practiced and reinforced? Because behavior doesn’t lie, and it’s likely if your dog is doing something you don’t like it’s probably your fault and it’s definitely your job to teach her what to do.

So if you find yourself getting grumpy, or frustrated with Fido, first change your perspective, and then get to work training your dog!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

River Reflections From Jane

Why Does My Dog . . . Eat His Food Away From His Bowl?

Spilled dog food
It can be a peculiar sight: After you put food in your dog’s bowl, he takes a mouthful, walks across the room, drops it onto your carpet and then munches away. And he repeats this curious ritual until his chow is all gone.
It doesn’t seem like an efficient way to eat — not to mention that he's getting crumbs on your rug.
So what gives?

Possible Reasons Behind the Curious Mealtime Behavior

The answer to this propensity lies in two words: pack mentality.
When dogs in the wild make a kill, the outranked animals drag pieces of food away so they don’t have to fight the leader or a more dominant canine for it, says Dr. Julie Albright, MA, DVM, DACVB, an assistant professor of veterinary behavior at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Fighting is obviously very risky, so most animals, especially subordinate ones, will go to great lengths to avoid an altercation,” says Dr. Albright. 
Although the competition in your house may not even be real — particularly if you only have one dog — it’s his evolutionary instinct taking over.
Another possibility: If you use a metal bowl, the noise of the food moving around in the dish or even his collar tags hitting the side can be frightening or annoying, notes Dr. Albright, so he may be taking the kibble away from the trigger of the sound.

How to Put the Kibosh on This Kibble Ritual

If you want to curb this unusual eating behavior, Dr. Albright suggests swapping metal bowls for plastic versions or paper plates to rule out issues with noise.
“If the dog still takes the food away, find a more secluded or confined area for him to eat,” she says. “And if there are other dogs in the house, separate them at feeding time to allow for privacy, so there’s no threat of competition — either real or imagined.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Collie dog breed

The popularity of a dog breed can change faster than you can say “Yo quiero Taco Bell.” One dayChihuahuas are feisty, fun little dogs you’d see only occasionally; the next day (or so it seems), you have three of them back-to-back on your appointment calendar, and your local shelter is running a special on Chihuahua adoptions because there are so many looking for homes.
I see a lot of Chihuahuas over the exam room table these days, along with Labradoodles, Pit Bulls, Bulldogs and the eternally popular Labrador Retriever. I love them all, but I have to admit I do miss seeing some of the dogs who used to be in my waiting room, pets I rarely see now that they’ve lost the cachet they once enjoyed.

Five Breeds That Used to Be More Popular

Here’s my list of five dog breeds I used to see a lot of, and miss seeing now.
1. Irish Setters: I used to see a lot of these bouncy red dogs in my practice. I know the rub is that they’re too energetic and not the brightest bulb on the light string, but the ones I used to know were great family dogs who loved to be around people and really wanted to please. I miss their smiling faces and the feathered tails that never stop wagging.
2. Scottish Terriers: These stylish, strong-minded dogs can be difficult to handle, since they are terriers through and through. In my family we’ve loved a lot of terriers, including our forever-missed Wire-Haired Fox Terrier, Scooter, so I understand some of the challenges. These days I’m more likely to see a Scottie on a Monopoly board than on an exam table. Too bad, because these high-style pups really know how to make an entrance.
3. Collies: When Lassie is in, so are Collies. Otherwise, their size and the challenges of their massive, beautiful coat no doubt put many people off. And that’s a shame, because a good Collie, while not likely to be saving Timmy from the well every day, is a great family dog — smart, loving and always keeping an eye on his flock.
  • 5. Cocker Spaniels: These little bird dogs were top of the heap for decades, the most sought-after of all purebred dogs. Their reign at the top of the American Kennel Club rankings finally ended with a wave of Poodles. I still see a fair number of Poodles — and even more Poodle-oodle mixes — but Cockers are relatively rare. And that’s a shame, because like the Irish Setter, these dogs are sweet, beautiful and full of fun.
    Make no mistake: I love all the dogs — and cats — I see whether on the street or over the exam room table, and I live to help them all be healthier and happier. But I do miss some of the dogs who used to be so popular. I know, however, that they’re only one hit TV show, movie or commercial away from being popular again.

    Thanks to a friend, Dr. Marty Becker