I try to occasionally share my column with you. Here are a few comments from readers. (I always welcome both email and snail mail.):
--"I disagree with your statement that Michael Vick has not done anything to make a difference concerning dog fighting. The publicity concerning his owning/supporting his cousin's business, and his arrest and trial created more national and worldwide publicity compared to all of the do good organizations you named in your column. Without the publicity about Vick, the average person wouldn't even know dog fighting exists. With this publicity, law enforcement agencies have been pushed to enforce existing laws and some states have even passed stricter laws. Yes, it is strange that someone breaking the law has encouraged enforcement of protection for animals. Also, Vick having to pay $1 million to rehab his dogs may have been a wake-up call for others.-- L.H., Farnham, VA
S.D.: Listen, I agree. As I've said before, I ought to write Vick a thank you note for the attention he's brought to dog fighting. However, do consider what Vick has enjoyed in the past 18 months: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell offers permission for Vick to play professional football again if he promises to work hard to educate the community about dog fighting. In about two seconds, the Philadelphia Eagles sign Vick for millions (there's been no public mention of Vick donating any of those millions to animal welfare). Vick makes a commitment to work with the Humane Society of the United States to educate the public about being kind to animals. To my knowledge, he made a handful of well-orchestrated appearances with HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle. Perhaps, what I don't know is that Vick snuck into communities to talk about dog fighting to those who actually fight dogs, or on his own visited schools to talk about humane education. However, it's likely word would have leaked out had Vick made that effort.
Meanwhile, Vick had a so-so season on the field because with the Eagles he's the number two quarterback. Still, his jersey was a hot seller. Fans still paid to attend Eagles games. Any boycott was pretty much limited to Internet noise and Anti-Vick Facebook pages.
The BET cable TV network gave Vick his own reality TV show, "The Michael Vick Project." His pay for the series has not been made public, but again, Vick has not made public that any of the money will go to animal welfare. In December, Vick was awarded the Ed Block Courage award by his teammates. The award is presented annually to an Eagles player who exemplifies commitment to the principals of sportsmanship and courage. According to media reports, Vick's response was: "I've had a lot to overcome, more than probably one single individual can bear." The American Kennel Club just called for the Eagles to withdraw Vick as the Block Award recipient. So far, no response.
I wrote a column going back to when Vick was first signed by the Eagles, noting that he has the chance to really change the world; all he has to do is to try.
--"When I see sloppy phrasing like, 'Getting the 4-1-1 on everyone in the hood,' I realize that it's no wonder we're raising children unable to write a coherent sentence or submit a compelling resume or cover letter. The quality of newspaper writing has plunged, Are you writing a pet column or a rap column? -- Wordsmith, Cyberspace.
S.D.: I share your concerns about the English language (as does my editor), but using common inoffensive slang in a column about pets isn't exactly like blasting the lyrics in many rap songs. The reality is that language is alive, always changing.
--"My wife of 27 years hates my new pet, a boa constrictor, Mr. Slithers. I keep him safely contained in a cage in our basement. Should I divorce her? After all, you seem in favor of dumping partners over trivial issues such as not liking cats." -- L.L, Cyberspace
S.D.: You're referring to the column I wrote which began with this reader question: "Charlie, my boyfriend of nine months, despises cats. He says he won't visit anymore as long as I have Bella. I really do like Charlie -- very much -- but Bella has been my friend for 11 years; I've had her since she was a kitten. Do you think his request is fair?"
My answer read: "I guarantee that Bella will be devoted to you for the remainder of her life, I'm not sure the same is true about Charlie. If it were true, would he would he be asking you to relinquish your friend? Keep the cat. Sorry, Charlie."
I'm not certain how this answer relates to your new pet, but Bella was a fixture before Charlie, and her owner clearly loves her cat. What kind of boyfriend would request that his girlfriend dump the cat? I still say, "Dump Charlie."
--"For over 11 years, my charming cat's life was food-centered. She would eat her meals as if she hadn't been fed for days, then throw up. A friend gave us a plastic ball called a Slim Cat, made by a company in Quebec. You put the dry food in the top, then adjust the holes to let the pellets fall out as the cat rolls the ball around. This feeding method has a number of advantages:
1. My cat eats more slowly so she doesn't throw up.
2. She has to move around after the ball as she 'hunts' for her meals, so she gets a little exercise and has lost some weight.
3. The cat seems more cheerful since she got her food ball.
4. She's very cute to watch while she's eating." -- C.B., St. Paul, MN
S.D.: I think you're right on target. All cats should be fed via toys like the one you describe (or if you're feeding moist food, it can be divided into three or four dishes placed around the house). Other food-dispensing toys include the Play 'n Treat ball and the Egg-Cersizer.
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.