All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014


Dear Marie:
Recently, a local news program aired a segment featuring “Pocket Pets.” These are tiny pets that fit in the palm of your hands. What I am interested in is the Munchkin Dog, or they called it “Toy Munchkin.” They said it costs about $5,000.00 (Not that I can afford it); but they didn’t tell anything else about the dog. If you can tell me more information about it, I’d appreciate it.

Dear Vivian:
Breeders of the Toy Munchkin, and there are very few, state that this tiny dog was originally bred by Vikings. During the Middle Ages, Munchkins were traded in Europe for goods and services. They were much larger at that time and have been bred down over several hundred years to their current three to five pound weight. They literally are not much bigger than a rootbeer float.

Munchkins are affectionate, happy-go-lucky, mellow dogs who are loyal and good with kids. They are not at all like typical small breed dogs who usually tend to be nervous and prone to biting strangers and children. Rather, they are sociable and playful; but snuggling in their master’s lap is their favorite activity. They are described as intelligent and are easily trained to do just about anything...including how to use a litter box!

Breeders claim that these little dogs do very well in apartments and even enjoy long walks. They are quite capable of keeping up with their masters and walking in the “heel” position. Apparently, Munchkins accompanied Royal Families of the past on strolls through palace courtyards.

Toy Munchkins are not “barky” dogs, though they will alert their families to any danger that may be close. They do not seem to realize how truly tiny they are and assume the duties of “watchdog.” They form strong bonds with everyone in the family and are not considered a “one-person-dog.” Nevertheless, they do usually have a “favorite” human who has the perfect lap for snuggling!

These dogs resemble Chow Chows that have been shrunk to a fraction of their size. Originally, this breed of dog came in one color...white. However today, Toy Munchkins are bred in almost every color. They have a thick fluffy coat which is usually groomed and cut to give a lion-like appearance.

Toy Munchkins also possess a sweet face that always seems to be smiling. Because they remain small, they retain a puppy look that makes them especially endearing. They are extremely hard to come by; thus their high price-tag.

Now that you know this basic information, consider this: the “1978 Guinness Book of World Records” lists the Sharpei as the rarest dog breed with only 60 individuals gracing the planet during that year. Today, animal shelters and humane societies regularly house abandoned, discarded, and unwanted Sharpeis and Sharpei mixes.

Why did this happen? There are many reasons. Having the most unique dog on the block is always fun. The opportunity to make a lot of money by breeding is also very enticing. There may even be a sincere love of the breed.

None of these reasons seem very important when you examine the tragic consequences of indiscriminate and irresponsible breeding. The 1978 Sharpei price was at least that of the Toy Munchkin. Today, it’s hard to give away a Sharpei. I sincerely hope we humans don’t repeat this disastrous breeding cycle with Toy Munchkins; however, I imagine we will. I hope I’m wrong.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Safe Pet Toys

Dear Marie,
I've been receiving some mass-circulated e-mails about pet toys that have caused injuries and I am very concerned. Does anyone regulate pet toys to make sure they are safe? I had planned on getting my pets little holiday presents – and now, after reading some of these horror stories, I’m not so sure this is a good idea. I know this sounds like a knee-jerk reaction – but my pets are just too important to me.

Dear Michelle,
I've received many of the same type of e-mails so I appreciate your concern. Some of the emails are chain-letters – however, when I check the subject matter out, the content is confirmed. But I have also received some very heart-wrenching personal letters from pet owners detailing some very tragic accidents involving toys.

In one letter, a woman recounted how after leaving her young cat unattended with a cat toy on a bungee that was affixed to a cat tree, she returned home from work to find her beloved pet strangled by the cord. Needless to say, she was horrified. The toy seemed so harmless and fun and she thought it would provide her cat with some interactive play while she was away.

Another letter detailed the tragedy of a dog choking to death on a piece of a rawhide toy. His owners tried desperately to dislodge the piece of rawhide that was obstructing the dog’s breathing, to no avail. And in moments, their dog was dead.

A recent “chain-email” I received described in great detail the trauma one dog suffered as a result of his tongue being suctioned into a hard rubber ball that he had been chewing on. His owner couldn't get the ball off and the poor dog’s tongue had swollen to a great degree. He had to be taken to a veterinarian to have the ball removed; but in the end, his tongue has suffered too much damage and had to be amputated.

There are no safety protocols in effect for pet toys. Some even contain lead which has long been banned from children’s toys. Pet’s can become sickened due to lead poisoning. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, difficulty walking, abdominal pain, tremors, blindness and even coma.

Some toys have small parts, rope or strings that can be swallowed by pets, but not passed in the stool. This can lead to intestinal blockages. Some of these pieces can actually perforate the intestines or the stomach, or leech toxic chemicals.

If you have a bird, you need to be especially careful. There are a lot of plastic bird toys in stores.These are easily broken up by any sized bird and the sharp pieces can be swallowed. Avoid bird toys with bells as some of these are coated with zinc and can cause zinc poisoning.

So, you are not overreacting to this issue. There just aren't the same safety measures taken for pets that there are for people. A good rule of thumb is this: Supervise your pet when you give him a toy. Make sure the toy is size and species appropriate. Avoid rawhide toys. Purchase products that come from trusted manufacturers and appear to be high quality. Balls should have a number of air holes so that suction will not be created when a dog chews on them. If there are not multiple holes in a ball, make a few yourself. Cat toys on strings/springs/elastic bungees should only be used when a cat is being supervised.

When in doubt, talk with your veterinarian. Most veterinarians have seen accidents that are toy-related and can give you some good tips on what to avoid and what might make a safe plaything.

The holiday season is just getting into full swing – if you don't yet have a little something for your pet
under the Christmas tree this year, hit the “After Christmas Sales.” Your pets don’t care when they get a toy. And, if you do your research online, you’ll be able to find quite a few fun and safe toys to give to your special little buddies. Combine that with good, common sense, and you should have a very Happy and Safe Post Holiday Season.