My Pet World: Vick hasn't earned a hero's stripes

Q: For the New Year I want to see you write that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick should never have a dog again. Will you do it? — S.H., Cyberspace

Q: Can you comment on the Michael Vick situation? I can't believe the president of the United States is hailing Vick as a hero. I'm a patriot, and fought in the Korean War. Vick is no hero. — B.J., Prescott, Ariz.

Q: Dog fighting is a major crime. It seems that a millionaire like Vick should still be in jail. He got off easy. Now he wants a dog? You've got to be kidding me. Can you comment? — B.H., Libertyville, Ill.

A: Vick recently told an interviewer that his daughters want a dog, and he believes a dog would help him in his rehabilitation. There's little doubt that Vick had an extraordinary year on the football field in the 2010-11 season, which ended Sunday with the Eagles' playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. He's already been named to the Pro-Bowl and he might win the Comeback of the Year Award.

The Humane Society of the United States, which partnered with Vick in his (court-ordered) community appearances, says three years after incarceration seems about right for Vick to get a dog. National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell says he's "proud" of Vick, and even President Obama has weighed in. The president phoned Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to commend him for taking a chance on Vick, and to comment (as a football fan) on Vick's great season.

In my humble opinion (since you asked), many judges do impose lifetime bans on dogfighters ever owning another pet. A lifetime is a long time, but I don't believe Vick is quite set to have a dog.

Call me cynical, but I believe that if Vick gets a puppy, his handlers will be able to convince potential (lucrative) sponsors that Michael Vick is now as warm and fuzzy as that pooch. If that happens, Vick (and those partnering with him, including the NFL) stand to make lots of money. At this moment, the NFL is profiting from Vick since his jersey is a top seller (What does this say about us?), and much more money can be made off Vick's name, particularly if he's on his way to resurrecting his image.

While I believe Vick has brought enormous attention to dog fighting, he hardly volunteered. He denied all possible charges until he no longer had a choice. His community service is court ordered, and while hopefully he is making a difference, his appearances are well orchestrated.

Heroes in 2010 include children who live with cancer, muscular dystrophy and other illnesses; cancer researchers (who make far less money than Michael Vick); reader B.J., a veteran of the Korean War (and all our men and women serving in the military overseas, and their families), and all the everyday heroes who go unnoticed in their efforts to make the world a better place. Doctors and veterinarians who save lives are heroes. Michael Vick is no hero.

Q: I'm concerned about the greenish fluid coming from the eyes of my cat Ninja. Since this started recently, Ninja is not as playful. He's is probably a "teen," as we've had him since he was about two months old. What should I do? I just can't afford a veterinary visit. — M.D., Cyberspace

A: It's wonderful you took in this kitty, and clearly you care deeply for Ninja. However, you'll have to find a way to have him seen by a vet, and fast. Perhaps, low-cost veterinary care is available through a local shelter or other organization where you live.

Dr. Nancy Park, a Chicago veterinarian specializing in eye diseases in animals, says, "It sounds as if your cat's eye may be infected. And infections require treatment. Without treatment, it's possible the infection could spread elsewhere, and the infection could affect your cat's long-term vision. Rarely, an infection in the optic nerve could impact the brain."

Whatever's going on is making your cat not feel so chipper. The eye may be painful. The problem may very likely be a common herpes virus, but could be a far more serious illness, such as feline infectious peritonitis. Basic blood work to rule out diseases such as feline leukemia and the feline immunodeficiency virus are also a good idea.

Q: Our Golden Retriever eats lantana, particularly the purple flowers over the yellow flowers. The result is an upset stomach. I've now read that lantana is poisonous to dogs. Any suggestions? — M.M., Henderson, Nev.

A: Lantana may be beautiful to look at but it's toxic if you graze on it. Veterinary toxicologist Dr. Steve Hansen, of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill., says that dogs typically aren't interested in lantana. The plant seems more appealing to horses, who might get very sick, though they'd to eat a lot of the stuff.

While all you're seeing is an upset tummy, Hansen is concerned about long-term liver damage.

"We do know lantana does affect the liver; what we don't know is low level affects over the long term," he says. "If it was my dog, I'd either put a fence around the lantana you know your dog can't break through; keep the dog in the yard only on-leash, or best of all, remove the lantana."

Learn more about the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at

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@steve Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.

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