Hot Diggity

The Zoogurus, Lee and J.R. Bowling, owners of Zoogurus Pet Sitting Service, make sure many local dogs stay fit and cheerful. The sight of them walking down the street with their

furry charges can’t help but bring a smile to the faces of neighborhood residents. Meet their pets! Learn how you can get a Zooguru at zooguruspetsitters.com

Daisy, Frank and Bella

Daisy, Frank and Bella

Maggie and Chloe

Maggie and Chloe

Isis

Isis

Cisco

Cisco

Chloie and Cruiz

Chloie and Cruiz

 

 

Part Of The Family

Ellen Schwab says  that although the pain is  there at first, remembering the happy times with one’s pet is a vital part to the grieving process.

Ellen Schwab says that although the pain is
there at first, remembering the happy times with one’s pet is a vital part to the grieving process.

It’s a day that Pikesville residents Murray and Joyce Hankin can’t forget.

“I still get tears in my eyes talking about it,” Joyce said.

Last September, Murray was walking to the mailbox along with Willie, the couple’s Cairn Terrier. Joyce was standing nearby on a neighbor’s lawn. In an instant, Willie collapsed.

The Hankins rushed Willie, who had been suffering from a malignant tumor on his liver, to the vet. They learned that their beloved dog’s heart simply stopped.

Nine months later, the grieving process is still ongoing. Joyce thinks about the spot beside the couple’s bed where he always lay during the night. Murray, who routinely took Willie with him to work, remembers how he used to be conscious of the dog’s presence under his desk so he didn’t accidentally kick him.

“He was my steady companion,” Murray said. “I can’t imagine anyone having a pet for 15 years and not feeling a loss.”

Murray is spot on. When it comes to pet bereavement, the Hankins are not alone.

According to the ASPCA, 62 percent of all U.S. households have a pet, and there are 78.2 million dogs owned in the United States. Pet loss is inevitable. Still, many feel embarrassed or self-conscious about admitting that a dog’s death takes a toll on their physical, emotional and mental health. And their feelings can often be met with skepticism from non-pet owners who don’t grasp the gravity of the ordeal.

Veterinarian Dr. Michael Shulkin said in his 31 years of practicing, in addition to grieving the loss of his own pets, he’s seen both families and individuals become torn apart at the prospect of having to let their pet go. He said the strength of people’s connections to their pets cannot be underestimated.

“It is not like a family member. It is a family member,” said Dr. Shulkin, who works at Dunloggin Veterinary Hospital in Ellicott City. “There’s this major void that exists for people who lose their animal. You walk in the door and the animal that has been greeting you for umpteen years isn’t there anymore.”

Dr. Shulkin noted that the magnitude and duration of the grieving process is different for everyone, but he said that airing out one’s feelings is almost always a positive step.

In that respect, Ellen Schwab sees eye-to-eye with the doctor. She too advises that one shouldn’t tamp down their grief but instead must work through it.

Schwab, former cantor at Har Sinai Congregation, has suffered through animal loss. A couple of years ago, she decided to use her platform as a clergyperson to extend her services as a grief counselor to individuals dealing with pet loss. She estimates that between volunteering her expertise at a monthly pet bereavement support group at the Baltimore Humane Society in Reisterstown and through informal one-on- one sessions, she’s counseled dozens of grieving pet owners.

“I’ve had dogs die in my arms, and it’s an incredibly difficult thing to go through,” Schwab said. “People are often surprised at the depth of their feelings when they lose a pet — how hard it hits them.”

What does our faith have to say about pet loss?

“The whole idea that Judaism brings us is that, on Shabbat, our animals are to rest as we do,” Schwab said. “The whole idea of kindness to animals is very big in our Torah — it was not always that way with our neighbors in Biblical times.”

As far as the best methods to grieve, Schwab recommends emphasizing the good times as much as one can. Although difficult at first, she said that as the pain slowly recedes it becomes easier to conjure up fond memories.

The Baltimore Humane Society also aims to give pet owners useful avenues to lessen the heartache. Inaddition to its support group, theorganization, through its Nicodemus Memorial Park (one of only a few pet cemeteries in Baltimore County), offers memorial services and cremation/burial options that help individuals achieve a sense of closure.

Andrew Mazan, the Humane Society’s funeral and cemetery services
director, said that acceptance — preceded by phases of denial and isolation, anger and depression — is the final stage of the grieving process. He explained why the bond with dogs is so powerful.

“It’s because of the unconditional love,” Mazan said. “Pets don’t know anything but how to love us, and as humans beings that’s what we want — to be loved.”

Both Mazan and Schwab noted that filling the void of a lost pet by bringing in a new one is often a tricky choice. Individuals battle with the potential guilt brought on by finding a replacement animal as well as fear of having to undergo the same feelings of loss again down the road.

Weighing the pros and cons, Murray and Joyce Hankin are considering
rescuing a dog.

The cremated remains of Willie lie in a pretty box in their kitchen. Of course, there’s sadness at the thought of their beloved pup. But, as time goes on, happiness begins to rise above the grief. And for right now, that’s good enough.

Unleashed

070513_pp_unleashed4There’s a new app in the works that stands to benefit the lives of both man and man’s best friend, and two natives of Jewish Baltimore are the brains of the app-eration.

Los Angeles transplants Jon Kolker (Pikesville) and Gareth Wilson (Towson) are the co-creators of Where My Dogs At, an application, currently in the beta testing stage, that is aiming to be the go-to source of information on dog-centric locales and a social media hub for the dog-owning community.

“There are so many dog owners and so many people who have mobile phones, but no one has really figured out a way to make a really amazing app for dog lovers that’s both useful and fun,” said Wilson, 29.

The core concept of the app is comparable to Yelp –  an online service that provides individuals with background info on anything from restaurants to hotels and also allows for user-generated reviews and ratings. Where My Dogs At offers a similar platform, only it’s specifically tailored to people looking for the best places to take their dogs.

For the last several months, the Where My Dogs At staff has worked to aggregate data from places such as dog parks, veterinarian offices, pet stores, restaurants and apartment buildings. Users from across the country can also submit information on their favorite places, and the content is reviewed and confirmed by the team in Los Angeles. Dog owners can also rank places by submitting their Paw of Approval on a scale from one to five.

At the same time, Where My Dogs At features elements akin to Facebook. Users can utilize their accounts as profiles for themselves and their dogs and have the option to make friends with fellow dog enthusiasts or send them an “Arf,” a “Wag” or a “What-up dog?” They can also check in or “mark their territory” when they frequent one of the dog-friendly places listed in the app’s registry.

Set for a September launch, Where My Dogs At will function as a Yelp for pets. Shown here (from left): members of the Better Pet, Inc. team, Aareth Wilson, Richard Lung and Jon Kolker.

Set for a September launch, Where My Dogs At will function as a Yelp for pets. Shown here (from left): members of the Better Pet, Inc. team, Gareth Wilson, Richard Lung and Jon Kolker.

Said Kolker, 28, “This will be the app for dog lovers.”

The creation of the app spawned as a result of Kolker and Wilson’s friendship.

The duo became best friends in first grade at The Park School. They were both members of Beth Tfiloh Congregation. Wilson moved to California after the eighth grade, but the two reignited their friendship in grad school at the University of Southern California.

The next piece of the puzzle was Edmund, or Eddie, the cocker spaniel Kolker took in a little more than three years ago. Attached to his pup, Kolker would always walk around town wondering which places were the best suited for both he and his dog. Kolker presented the question to Wilson who suggested that the dilemma laid the perfect framework for a potential app.

Now, Kolker is CEO and Wilson is president and creative director of Better Pet, Inc., which they started about a year ago. The company’s chief technology officer is Richard Lung. Their first product, Where My Dogs At, has been in the works for more than two years. Even in the testing phase, it lays claim to more than 15,000 users nationwide. The release of the app’s first official version is scheduled for September, and Kolker said the goal is to have more than one million users by this time next year.

Dog owners’ affection for their pets is the key to the app’s value. They want to include their furry friends in their day-to-day lives. Where My Dogs At, Kolker and Wilson said, is the first app to provide a convenient and fun way to achieve that goal.

“It’s healthy to explore your city or wherever it is you are, and it’s even better if you can bring your best friend,” Kolker said.

Ready To Adopt?

From left: Joy Freedman, Jane Sopher, Lisa Poland, Linda Turkel and Robin Frank snuggle with their rescued dogs on a recent visit to the park. (David Stuck)

From left: Joy Freedman, Jane Sopher, Lisa Poland, Linda Turkel and Robin Frank snuggle with their rescued dogs on a recent visit to the park.
(David Stuck)

All Pikesville resident Dara Bunjon wants to do is adopt a little dog.

“I love dogs, I really do. I love to be on the couch rubbing a dog’s belly, taking a dog for a walk,” she said.

But thus far, she hasn’t had much luck.

Two local rescue groups turned her down. She applied to be a dog foster parent, and at the last minute, that even fell through.

With nearly 180,000 dogs waiting for adoption on Petfinder’s website, it doesn’t seem like adopting a dog should be so hard. However, it can be.

Petfinder’s Director of Shelter Outreach Sara Kent says 14,000 pet-rescue organizations showcase their available dogs on their site. There is no single set of professional standards for these groups; each one has its own independent set of criteria and policies.

While one group may require potential adopters to fill out a multipage form, provide multiple references and undergo a home visit, others may simply ask for basic information and hand you a dog.

So where does that leave the potential adopter?

Lutherville-based dog behaviorist and obedience instructor Joy Freedman said there’s a good reason many rescue groups carefully screen potential dog owners.

“The reason is to protect the safety of the animal,” she said. “That is the No. 1 criteria that every responsible rescue looks at. Will that dog be safe in that home and have a happy, healthy life?”

Freedman said rescue groups must be on the lookout for prospective owners who may use the dog as dogfighting bait or who would sell the animal on Craigslist for profit.

Kent said Petfinder is aware that some groups are so picky that in some cases responsible owners are turned down.

“We do hear that. What I would definitely recommend first and foremost is to keep trying,” Kent said. “Every group is different. If you’re having some trouble with one group in particular, there are so many more pets out there that need homes. If you’re struggling with one group, move on to another.”

Kent urged potential adopters to put themselves in the shoes of foster parents, who often put a lot of time and effort into rehabilitating the dogs and will wait for what they feel is the perfect home.

“We do encourage [foster parents] to keep an open mind and work with adopters. Great pets aren’t born, they’re made,” Petfinder’s website notes. “If you don’t think it’s the perfect home for a pet, work with that person and make it into a great home.”

Working with the adopter is a key point. There could be many more successful adoptions if rescue groups would offer follow-up training and support. Unfortunately, since most rescue groups are volunteer organizations, that’s generally not possible.

Bunjon considered buying a dog but really wants to do a rescue. Despite her frustration with the process, her search for a canine companion continues.

What Questions To Expect?
When adopting, you might be asked …
• Do you have children? If so, how old are they?
• Is your yard fenced?
• Are you home during the day?
• Do you have other pets in the house?
• How much do you estimate a dog costs?
Source: Interviews, Internet

Worth The Price

Dr. Evan Feinberg of Stevenson Village Veterinary Hospital says prevention is the key to pet health. (Justin Tsucalas)

Dr. Evan Feinberg of Stevenson Village Veterinary Hospital says prevention is the key to pet health.
(Justin Tsucalas)

“Can we have a dog — please?”

Who hasn’t heard that before?

But there are many considerations for families and individuals considering dog ownership. Who will walk, feed and clean up after the new family member? Is there adequate room in the home or apartment? Is there an accessible outdoor space where the dog can get exercise?

The ongoing costs of caring for a canine may be an afterthought, but they should certainly enter into a prospective pet-owner’s decision-making process.

While adopting a dog from an animal shelter is far less expensive than purchasing one from a pet store or breeder, it’s the expense that comes after the dog joins the household that may come as a shock.

Dr. Evan Feinberg and Dr. Julie Rabinowitz of Stevenson Village Veterinary Hospital offered some advice for how to keep costs down while still providing your pet with essential care. It starts with prevention, they said.

“Once-a-year visits are really the minimum,” said Dr. Feinberg.

With annual checkups, he said, vets are able to catch serious medical problems early enough to intervene effectively and relatively inexpensively.

“I just saw a Cavalier [King Charles Spaniel]. These dogs are really sweet, happy dogs, but they are prone to heart disease,” said Dr. Feinberg. “This dog had a heart murmur that he didn’t have at last year’s visit. [Without treatment] these dogs get sick really fast. If they come in every year, we can catch the disease early, and we can do so much for him. Once he’s in heart failure there’s not much we can do.”

Dr. Rabinowitz conferred.

“The average transaction per visit nationally is about $135. If we see pets regularly, we can keep the costs down. Otherwise, if they end up in an emergency room, it can cost up to $2,000,” she said. “And the feelings of guilt for the owners are really bad, too.”

Dr. Feinberg pointed out that veterinarians who see pets once a year have a perspective that an owner who sees the pet daily may lack.

“You may not notice changes. It’s like the grandparents who visit and say, ‘Look how they’ve grown!’” she explained.

Pet owners should be aware, he noted, that animals are innately programmed to suppress illness and pain.

“It’s the pack mentality. They hide illness and pain because the pack will push them away if they are sick,” said Dr. Feinberg.

Medications to prevent heartworm and ticks are also a good investment.

“Heartworm medication only costs about $80 to $90 a year, and medicine to prevent Lyme disease costs about $150 a year,” said Dr. Feinberg. “We haven’t had a ‘real winter’ for two years now, and ticks are a bigger problem now than ever. In Pikesville, the wildlife is in our backyards, and ticks carry the diseases of that wildlife. We are seeing more tick-borne diseases. I see Lyme disease once or twice a week.”

At Stevenson Village Veterinary Hospital, the doctors have changed vaccine protocols so most dogs don’t need to be vaccinated as often — a money-saver for most pet owners.

“We look at it from the point of view of risk or exposure,” said Dr. Feinberg.

Dr. Feinberg also recommends preventive dental care. While costs vary depending on the situation, having a professional cleaning for your dog can run at least $250.

“I’d rather not do a dental cleaning every year. We can do it once, get the teeth perfect, and then you can start with dental care at home,” said Dr. Feinberg. “Even if you brush only twice a week and spend $15 for toothpaste once in a while, that can help to prevent dental disease.”

Dr. Feinberg said that dogs who aren’t amenable to having their teeth brushed can still benefit from other at-home dental preparations such as powder sprinkled on their food or, if extra calories are not an issue, dental treats.

Many pet owners now purchase health insurance for their dogs. Wendy Goldband of the Baltimore Humane Society said it is an investment worth considering.

“When you look at the annual costs of health care for your pet, it is close to the annual cost for pet health insurance. If something happens, and especially as your pet gets older, and you are suddenly faced with an ER bill of several thousands of dollars, you’ll be glad you have it,” she said.

Goldband stressed that pet owners should purchase insurance early in their pet’s life when the dog is young and healthy and before it develops any medical problems. Just like insurance companies for humans, insurance plans for pets take age and health into consideration when it comes to premiums.

Dr. Feinberg said that when one particular pet insurance company was purchased by a regular insurance company, he and his staff noticed all the claims were suddenly being denied.

“There is tremendous variation from one provider and plan to another,” he warned.

Beyond insuring a pet during your own lifetime, some pet owners set up trusts to make sure their dogs are well cared for after they die.

“Many animals come to us [the Baltimore Humane Society] when their owners die and no provisions have been made for them,” she said. “Who do you want or not want to care for your animal after you’re gone? Have you left any money for the dog’s care?”

Local law firms can help proactive pet owners set up trusts for their pets.

Another area where Dr. Feinberg suggested pet owners can save money is on fancy dog food and supplements.

“I discuss this with many clients. If the fad is now organic dog food, that doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s a lot of marketing for a limited difference,” he said. “It’s the protein, calories and carbohydrates in the food that matters. A balanced diet, exercise and meeting your dog’s emotional needs — that’s what’s important.”

For additional information on the costs of pet care, visit http://aspca.org/adoption/pet-care-costs.aspx.

Canine-A-Hora

(Justin Tsucalas)

(Justin Tsucalas)

Purchasing or rescuing a sweet little puppy is a day of adulation. The kids have been begging for a dog for months, and even you look forward to the idea of snuggling up with a pup or having him fetch the newspaper in the morning.

But if you are a Torah observant Jew, as a pet owner, you’ll be regularly confronted with a wide variety of halachic issues. The first one, of course, is whether you should even own him.

There are many contradictory texts when it comes to owning a dog, explained Rabbi Howard Jachter, a prominent rabbi on the Rabbinical Council of America. Rabbi Jachter penned “Halachic Perspectives on Pets” for the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society in 1992. Those texts are for (or against) dog ownership for various reasons.

Rabbi Jachter said that most mainstream Jews hold by the “Shulchan Aruch,” the code of Jewish law. In there, it talks about Jews not being allowed to own “an evil dog.” He said that by evil, the text means either a dog that bites or barks loudly.

“If a dog is not a nuisance, the mainstream sources permit ownership,” said Rabbi Jachter.

Subjective?

“True,” he said, noting there is not a definitive list of acceptable dogs. He said dogs that are used for medical purposes (such as seeing eye dogs) or are necessary for companionship for the elderly are always permitted.

“Like everything else in life, good judgment goes a long way,” he said.

Assuming there’s a green light on your dog, kashrut comes into play. According to Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, kashrus administrator for the Star-K, you can feed your dog non-kosher food with no problem.

“Pets have no halachas. They didn’t get the Torah at Sinai; they don’t have to keep any rules at all,” Rabbi Goldberg said.

Well, sort of.

You can’t feed pets milk and meat mixed together or chametz on Pesach. There is a prohibition against a Jew deriving benefit from kosher meat and milk being mixed together. Read the label, said Rabbi Goldberg, and make sure the food does not contain beef and milk from a kosher species. Ingredients to watch for: whey and casein, both which are milk derivatives.

It’s that same prohibition of enjoyment/benefit that affects Pesach. Owners are not allowed to feed animals anything with leavened grains in it on the holiday. Of course, while many Ashkenazim will not eat kitniyot on Passover, their dogs may do so.

Rabbi Goldberg said the Star-K website has a list of acceptable dog foods for Pesach. Those foods are also acceptable throughout the year and contain no milk and meat mixtures.

Another issue: Shabbat.

“That’s tricky,” said Rabbi Jachter. “The most complicated one is trapping. You are not allowed to trap your animal.”

Who is going to do that anyway? Well, said the rabbi, it depends if you understand what it means to trap.

“If you have a frisky dog, the kind that if you open the door it will run out, by opening and closing the door to your home you are trapping the animal,” he explained. “You would have to walk into your home in such a way that it was always trapped.”

Huh? He said open the door only slightly, fill the gap between the door and the wall, and close the door immediately.

And while you’re squeezing through, be sure not to pet the pooch.

“The majority of opinions say you cannot pet an animal on Shabbat,” Rabbi Jachter said.

Another little known halachic challenge: spaying and neutering your dog.

“Neutering is generally forbidden, and one needs to speak to his rabbi about it,” said Rabbi Jachter, noting that some rabbis recommend giving the dog birth control shots.

Jon Kaplan of Pikesville is observant and owns a big dog named Buster. Kaplan said he was not religious when they purchased the mutt, and they made the decision to do so based on “growing up with dogs.”

“Dogs give you so much affection, and there is just this bonding,” said Kaplan.

But most importantly, Kaplan thinks owning a dog is a good religious lesson for his children, ages 10 and 7.

“I think it teaches them responsibility,” said Kaplan.

Rabbis Jachter and Goldberg think so, too.

Rabbi Jachter said animals teach children compassion, kindness and responsibility. Having a dog to care for can help them learn how to care for other people.

Of course, there are laws about caring for animals, too.

“Besides from just feeding [the dogs] acceptable foods, it is a halacha that you have to feed your pets before you eat,” explained Rabbi Goldberg. “Your animals have to be taken care of before you are taken care of.”

The concept of caring for one’s animals is known as Tsar ba’alei chayim and is noted in the Torah. One of Adam’s first responsibilities as a human being is to name the animals. Judaism places great stress on proper treatment of animals. Unnecessary cruelty to animals is strictly forbidden, and in many cases, animals are accorded the same sensitivity as human beings.

The laws relate not only to feeding animals first, but also to ritual slaughter; we are not permitted to kill an animal on the same day as its young and are commanded to send away a mother bird when taking the eggs because of the psychological distress it would cause the mother.

And there are others, too. Said Rabbi Jachter, it is a big responsibility.

“People need to weigh carefully whether it is a positive or negative thing to own an animal,” he said. “I don’t own one, but I have many family members who do.”

Dogs Most Likely To Bark When They Should Not Be Barking
Yorkshire Terrier
Cairn Terrier
Miniature Schnauzer
West Highland White Terrier
Fox Terrier
Beagle

Source: “The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by Its Behavior” by Benjamin and Lynette Hart

BaWOOF Atah Hashem

It is arguably the most significant moment in a Jewish teenager’s life, marking adulthood, accountability and the ability to lead religious services.

The bar/bat mitzvah is a rite of passage for which boys and girls spend months (sometimes years) preparing. But is this something our furry friends can do too?

Enter the bark mitzvah®.

Some dog enthusiasts honor their canine companions with these pseudo-ceremonies to mark their 13th birthdays. Although 13 people years is late in a dog’s life, owners take no issue in dressing their pooches in tallit and yarmulke and holding a ceremony to bless them and mark the occasion.

Owings Mills resident Pam Frankle held a bark mitzvah® for her Yorkshire Terrier, Nacho, about five years ago. (Nacho has since passed away.) Her husband said the Shehecheyanu blessing, and they took photos of Nacho wearing his Jewish gear.

“When my son was bar mitzvahed, someone had given him a mini Torah scroll inside a Lucite box, and we did take a picture of the dog right next to it so it looks like the dog is reading the Torah,” Frankle said.

Much like the modern-day bar and bat mitzvah party, Nacho’s dog friends were invited to celebrate with him, and they went home with specially made dog toys, such as a camel that said “schlep” on it. There were two cakes — for the humans — one in the shape of a dog bone and one in the shape of a paw print.

Lee Day (left) celebrates at a recent bark mitzvah.® Day trademarked the name and travels around  the country performing these doggy ceremonies.

Lee Day (left) celebrates at a recent bark mitzvah.® Day trademarked the name and travels around the country performing these doggy ceremonies.

The bark mitzvah® was created in 1983, according to New Jersey-based pet entertainer Lee Day, who trademarked the term in 1986. She came up with the concept while joking with one of her clients, but then ran with the idea. She has since officiated at thousands of bark mitzvahs® around the world.

“It’s a blessing for the animals,” she said. “Every animal needs to be blessed.”

She estimates she has performed between 2,000 and 3,000 bark mitzvahs® and pet weddings. Day also runs a doggie dating service, but the animals must be spayed and neutered to participate.

In addition to blessing the animals, Day’s lavish ceremonies include dancing the Horah — the dogs are put on chairs and lifted in the air.

Day always brings her assistant, Rabbi Otis, a rescue dog that was found on the Long Island Expressway five years ago. Rabbi Otis has his own Facebook page.

Day has traveled all over the world and appeared on numerous television shows. She even bark mitzvahed® Joan Rivers’ dog; celebrities such as Betty White and Geraldo Rivera attended that one.

It sounds fun, but the question has to be asked: Is turning a time-honored, sacred tradition into puppy love sacrilege? Some rabbis are not too keen on the idea.

Rabbi Shaye Taub of Arugas Hab-osem, a Chasidic congregation on Park Heights Avenue, said that people who consider giving their dog a bark mitzvah® have lost sight of the real celebration and ceremony.

“I wouldn’t even call it a ceremony because it does take away from the
seriousness of a bar or even bat mitzvah,” he said “It becomes, for lack of a better term, a joke.”

At least one of his Reform counterparts agrees.

“A bar mitzvah is about coming of age in the Jewish community. It’s about attaining a level of responsibility,” said Rabbi Rhoda Silverman of Temple Emanuel in Reisterstown. “It’s not for our pets.”

She said the yarmulke, tallit and tzit tzit are symbols of God’s commandments to human beings, and applying those to pets doesn’t make sense.

“It’s a challenge to the integrity of Jewish tradition,” Silverman said.

Day doesn’t feel that she is desecrating tradition. She said those against the bark mitzvah® should lighten up.

“This is a blessing for the animals,” she said. “If you think the dog can read from the Torah, you’re out of your mind.”

Even those considering throwing bar mitzvah parties for their dogs don’t take it too seriously.

Pikesville resident Wendy Miller’s toy poodle, Coco, turns 13 this coming March. Having attended a friend’s doggy bar mitzvah recently, she brought up the idea of having one — “half-joking, half-serious,” she said.

“My husband would think I’d really lost it at that point,” she said with a laugh.

The bark mitzvah® doesn’t set off any red flags for Owings Mills animal advocate Marty Sitnick. As long as weather is taken into consideration when dressing a dog up, putting a costume on a pet and throwing it a party is far from abuse, he said.

“For many dogs, 13 years — human years — is a senior dog, and celebrating the dog’s life with some sort of festival sounds like a great idea to me,” he said.

The retired businessman is on the board of Adopt a Homeless Animal Rescue, is a former board member of the Baltimore Humane Society and trains shelter and rescue dogs pro bono.

“I would encourage anything that celebrates the lives of these companion animals,” Sitnick said. “It can only enhance the bond.”