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The Pet Doctor, Your Pet Health Matters on PetLifeRadio.comBernadine D. Cruz, DVM, host of The Pet Doctor

Bernadine D. Cruz, DVM
Veterinary Media Consultant

Stem Cells Help to Regenerate Your Pet

Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson, DVM...........Maryanne Dell

Julie Ryan Johnson......................Maryanne Dell


Stem cells promise to hold all the answers to curing disease and reversing the effects of time on our bodies and that of our pets, but seemingly with a very controversial price tag.

Scientists have found a way to reap the benefits of stem cells by utilizing adult cells rather than embryonic. Learn exactly what these cells are, how they function and what promise they hold for our pets.

We will also talk with Maryanne Dell of the California Orange County Register Newspaper. Maryanne loves pets and loves to read. This passion has made her the perfect person to review children’s books that deal with pets. She will be a regular guest on this show.

Questions or comments? Email Dr. Cruz at:


Announcer:  You’re listening to

Announcer:  Is your pet stressed out? Does you pet need annual vaccines? Which pet is best for your child? Would you know if your dog was in pain? PetLifeRadio presents the Pet Doctor where you learn everything about keeping your pet healthy and happy from pet care, pet med and grooming to pet food, pet insurance and dental care.

This is the place to find out everything there is to know about pet wellness. Whether you have a dog, cat, reptile or rabbit, you’ll find answers for your pets straight from the vets because your pet health matters.

Please welcome your Pet Doctor host - veterinary media consultant and veterinarian, Dr. Bernadine Cruz.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:       I’m Dr. Bernadine Cruz and you’re listening to and the Pet Doctor. Today, we’re going to be talking about stem cells.

Stem cells promise to hold all the answers to curing diseases and reversing the effects of time on our bodies and that of our pets if people listening to the news but they come with a very seemingly high controversial price tag. Scientists have [?] themselves by utilizing adult cells rather than embryonic stem cells.

We’ll be learning exactly what these cells are, how they function and what promises they hold. We’ll be talking today to Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson. And she’s with Vet-Stem. Vet-Stem is a company that is doing some fantastic work for horses as well as dogs.

We’ll be right back with Dr. Johnson right after the short break.
[Commercial Break]

Our guest today is Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson. She is the quintessential advocate for veterinary medicine and the advancement of animal health. She completed her undergraduate work at California Polytechnical School in San Luis Obispo, California then graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.

In her career as a veterinarian she has served the medical needs of not just cats and dogs but also horses, marine mammals, along with being the Shelter Director and County Veterinarian for Orange County, California.

She is actively involved in organized veterinary medicine at the local and state level. She was the technical veterinarian for the pharmaceutical company Merial. She is married to a veterinarian, Dr. Gary Johnson and they own a companion animal practice in Dana Point, California.

After all that, Dr. Julie, thank you so much for being with us today.

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Oh, thanks for having me.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Stem cells are something that we hear about constantly in the news and it always seems to be that people are up in arms because of this embryonic stem cells. First of all, what is a stem cell?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Well, a stem cell is pretty interesting. It’s basically an early progenitor cells that if you put in the right environment or coach it in a certain way, it can then become different things.

So, a basic stem cells can become muscle, it can become brain tissue, it become nerve, it could become skin. It just depends on which way it is tracked.

And what’s really interesting is they always said that it was just the embryonic cells. But it turns out that adult derived stem cells, which can be from muscle or fat or, you know, different places. I think just recently you’ve heard about the skin. Those in the correct medium can actually be driven to certain factors to become more tissue.

The other thing that’s very interesting about stem cells, it’s really not just about replacing the tissue. There’s a whole role that’s of the new part of research is coming about – talk about other things that the stem cells are signaling. And there is signaling like anti-inflammatory properties, reversing cell death - so cells don’t die as easily.

So, there’s this whole new area that it’s not just about replicating and regenerating tissue. It’s also about the other factors that go along that either coaches or signal other cells to come in and regenerate tissue. And that’s really what we’ve seen with the dogs and arthritis.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      What are the main reasons why these stem cells are being used now in dogs? You’re saying arthritis, are there other reasons why you’re using it for pets?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Well, right now the clinical trials we’ve done have all been in arthritis in dogs. And arthritis in dogs, one out of every four dogs in the U.S. has some form of arthritis.

A lot of the dogs, the early trials we did with dogs that had no other options. It had already been on medications, it had surgeries.

And so, it was easy for us to talk them into this as a last resort. We got [such] beautiful results that revolved out us nationally to all veterinarians to be able to utilize our services to provide stem cell use for osteoarthritis or basically dog arthritis.

There are many other applications that are coming on the horizon. But before we do them, we like to get careful research so we can tell everybody what they expected outcomes will be. If we see some really exciting things in the next year or two that will come out.

I mean, stem cells are amazing because they just really catch the imagination in you. Once you kind of understand the basic physiology, you can start figuring out how you want to use the stem cells.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Being a veterinarian, I felt as though I was really behind the learning curve and now trying to get myself up to the top so I can understand stem cells more.

I was always under the impression you were talking about this flurry [potent] cells, the stem cell that can become so many things. I was also under the impression that for [for instance] that that’s all it could do, but now you’re learning that it’s not that way. It’s that correct?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      And that’s a really new learning and it’s not wildly well-known. But in their correct medium with the correct factors, you can drive an [adipocyte] which is, you know, fat cell back-up to, you know, an earlier fat cell or you can drive a pre-fat cell into a muscle cell. It really depends on the median and then the factors, the growth factors and everything you put in that soup.

So, that wasn’t really well-know. And now that’s kind of the exciting part of research, is that there’s a lot more to it than we initially just thought it went down a linear curve – I mean a linear line. It went straight some pre-stem cells down to the initial tissue. But we’re finding out it’s not quite like that.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      So it really is a matter more of nurture versus nature.

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Yes, sometimes. And that’s why stem cells work so - It’s amazing. What we do is we take – the veterinarian will send us a sample of fat and it [unintelligible].

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      And why from fat? Why fat? How did you come up with that one?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Well, that’s pretty interesting. This is pretty much discovered by the plastic surgeons. And if you think about plastic surgeons, a lot of times they’re tucking fat into certain areas like on a face lift and they noticed that they got beautiful healing.

One the animal side, a lot of times when they do spinal cord surgeries, they’ll tuck fat into where they’ve taken out, you know, pieces of bones and things like that.

And so, what happened was they started looking at the wound heal and all that. And they thought, “Well, there’s got to be something in there that’s driving that beautiful wound healing.” And when they looked in fat, they found that there are actually stem cells in fat. And quite honestly, it’s kind of interesting. There are actually more stem cells in fat than there is in bone marrow.

And if you look in the literature, there are a lot of great papers about bone marrow. And bone marrow is a fantastic way to get stem cells. But there’s actually – fat is actually a higher resource or it’s richer in stem cells in bone marrow. So…

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      And most animals and most people have enough fat cells that they could offer some up.

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Exactly. And nobody minds losing it. And it’s a renewable resource we always say. So, it will come back. But basically what we do is we take the fat. The veterinarian will send us a fat sample and they send it overnight to our lab, we isolate the stem cells, we FedEx it right back to the veterinarian and then inject it to the animal.

Generally, for arthritis will be injecting them to the joint that is an issue. If it’s a tendon or a ligament issue, they inject it generally right into the tendon or ligament.

And what the stem cells do is they also help – rather than heal with a scar, what they do is they kind of reverse that whole process. And they signal other cells to come in. It kind of help clean it up, anti-inflammatory, and like I said before, stop cell death and then regenerate tissue.

So, it was a lot more than just going in and maybe replacing cartilage, because all these other cells signaling going on and we’re just kind of beginning to learn about that. It’s all pretty new.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      With the fat cells, does it have to be from the same animal or can you take another donor animal for instance, another species or another dog, or another cat for instance?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Absolutely. It can only be my dogs to my dogs. So, you have to keep it within your own dog. Otherwise, we haven’t done the studies yet, that’s going to be something interesting over the horizon. But at this point, it would come from the donor dog, it goes right back into that dog.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Does this require a surgical technique in order to get the fat?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      It does. With horses, we usually do it standing. The horse is basically are blocked with local anesthetic. And we’re able to get the fat from them. With dogs, we’re going behind, usually the shoulder blade or in the inguinal area. In most dogs won’t lay still for that.

So, it is general anesthesia. The dog has to be a good healthy patient for general anesthesia. It’s a very quick and, you know, very simple procedure. But generally, a lot of these patients, because they’re arthritic are also older and they have kidney and liver issues.

So, it’s really important that a complete work up to stand by the veterinarian blood work, x-rays, whatever they need to do to feel comfortable with the general anesthesia. Even though that time under anesthesia is very short, it’s just good medicine to, you know, cross all the T’s there.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      I have many dog and cat patient that has these large fatty lumps all over their bodies, a lypoma. Can you use a lypoma as a source?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      You probably could, but quite honestly I ask you not to because the lypomas don’t have that good a vascular supplies. And the better the vascular supply, the more the stem cells.

So, I wish we could use the lypomas. It would be a really fix for a lot of the skinny Dobermans walking around. But quite honestly, you can’t. We would prefer you to take that fat right – there’s a nice fat patties.

And if you ever – we did it three times [unintelligible] today. And if you have skinny little dog, you can either go behind the shoulder blades, there’s a nice full fat pad there.

And also, if the dog was being stayed, the fat around the ovary is a great place for stem cells or also the fast [unintelligible] ligament inside. And then, without going inside the body while [unintelligible] the inguinal fat pad.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      So, there’s fat all over.

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Yeah.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Now, you’re mentioning [uliziness] for arthritis. So, arthritis we know is a degenerative process. It often times comes on with age, sometimes every trauma, it can be genetic reasons like the young dog that has hip dysplasia. And the change that is going on with the bone is quite marked sometimes on an x-ray. When you’re giving this stem cell injection into the joint, what can we expect from it, and how long will it last?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Well, that’s a really good question. Generally, you’re not going to see a change in the x-rays. And that’s why we know it’s more than just regenerating tissue.
Because generally, the comments we get back from the clients that “you give me back my puppy again.” And that overall, the dog is feeling much better – increase in appetite, better hair coat, more playful.

And a lot of that has to do with it. It’s either chronic pain that they’ve been in. But those stem cells, besides just going in and trying to help regenerate cartilage, there are also very strong anti-inflammatory component to them. So they make the dogs feel better.

So, if architecturally, that dog had bad elbow, the stem cells is not going to fix that bad elbow as far as the way it walks if those bones were mal-aligned. But what they do make the dog feel is a lot better, more playful. It usually to get weight off, those types of things.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Can they stop taking for instance, their non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or do you find they still need it but maybe not as much?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      You know, we usually have them when we initially do the work, we don’t change a thing. And then see what you can do. And generally, quite a few of them are able to come off their non-steroidal or their other pain medications.

One of our researchers, Dr. Jamie Gainer, he’s in Colorado. He’s fantastic pain specialist. He is a boarded anesthesiologist and a pain specialist. You know, his cases are the really tough ones because people have referred or veterinarians refer to him because they cannot get pain under control in animals.

And he’s become a huge advocate of ours because of the fact that, you know, a lot of these dogs could come off drugs. It’s been really great.       Now, you asked also how long it works just kind of…?

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Yes.

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      …[depends on the individual]. Some of the dogs we’ve done have been one to two years out. What generally is seen is you get this huge in the first month to two months, generally within the first month, the owner will really notice a big difference.

And then it starts to plateau. It doesn’t get worst. But they get really, really good. And then they start to plateau. So, a lot of them like to come back for another touch up.

It’s also used a lot with the [canine sports] medicine. A lot of the agility dogs have a lot of repetitive injuries. So the dog that’s constantly performing, they may generally use this more often. But a lot of dogs, it’s one possibly two treatments.

The interesting thing about the dogs versus the horses is we get a lot more fats sent in from the dogs that’s – than we do the horse meds.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Maybe it’s all that good living that the dogs are doing.

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      We’re able to get – yeah. The horses we do are generally very, very athletic in competition and very, very lean and usually very healthy. The dogs generally have to, you know, they’re companions, they sit on the couch. They’re not as quite the athletes. But the fat we get, we can also bank it which is really nice. So if you sit in the fat sample for one of your patients, we can possibly have doses saved for future use. So that’s really nice.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      So, you only really need to put them under one time, and then the fat can be banked for about what length of time?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Well, I know that studies have shown up to 15 years.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      That should last the dog.

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Yeah, the lifetime of the dog shouldn’t be an issue.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Are there any possible side effects or complications with using the stem cells?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Well, that’s what’s really interesting is because you’re putting the cells, but you’re basically concentrating that dog’s stem cells and putting them back into the same dog. There’s no rejection factor like there would be within a possible embryonic stem cells when you’re getting it from an unknown donor.

But, every time, you know, it is an anesthesia process, I can’t tell you it’s not without risk. And a lot of times, you are injecting in to the joints, a good sterile techniques has to be done. But generally, there really have not been any issues.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      And now the question that a lot of people [create], “This is marvelous. I want it for my dog. My dog has arthritis. What is the approximate cost for this? What’s the investment you’re making in your pet?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Right. And that is an investment. And the good news about that investment, like I said, is you’re going to have banked those for future uses. And a lot of these dogs can come off non-steroidal which are costing a lot of owners somewhere about $60 to $90 a month.

So, if you look at that way, it’s generally going to be somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000. And I’m giving you a huge range because depending on the dog and the work that that’s needed and the anesthetic protocol that will have to go in place. And a lot it also depends on where you live and the socio-economic factors on where you live and what they’re going to be charging.

But I would say $2,000 to, you know, $5,000 would be the high end.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      And if somebody wanted this done, are most veterinarians doing this or they’re – what’s the prevalence in the veterinary market?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Well, we started it with the boarded surgeons and we went out and we did training courses with the boarded surgeons so that – because the injections are done into the joint. But we’ve gotten so much response from the general practitioner. We’ve actually put our course. The veterinarian would need to take our course before they can do a case.

But at this point, we’ve had over 700 veterinarians respond to our course. So, I hope to get to a thousand by the end of the year. There are 55,000 veterinarians in the country.

So, I’m scratching the surface.  But any veterinarian can take our course once they have passed and completed the quiz. And they can go ahead and start with, you know, an appropriate case.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      So, if a pet owner is listening to this podcast and says, “I want this”, where can they go for information? Where can they send their veterinarian for information if their veterinarian is not certified by Vet-Stem?

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:      Well, they can go to our website. And on our website, which is, if they go on to our website, there’s actual list of credentialed users that we update daily.

So if the veterinarians have passed the course or has done their continuing  education training in stem cells, we add their names to the list and you can search by zip code.

But pet owners can encourage their veterinarians. We haven’t gotten a word to every veterinarian. So pet owners talking to their veterinarians, the veterinarian would just need to go to the website and right on the home page, they just click the button for this minimal credentialing course and they sign up for the course online.

It takes about three to four hours to complete the course. At the end, they’re given continuing education credit and able to do a case.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:            And I've stated doing the modules myself so hopefully soon...

Dr. Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:            Okay.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:   name will also be on that list of veterinarians.

Dr.Julie Ann Ryan-Johnson:            I'm sure.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Dr. Julie Ryan-Johnson of Vet-Stem, thank you so much for being with us today. This is just very exciting, new technology. A great way of helping our pets to keeping them functional, keeping them happy, out of pain and ways that are using their own bodies, their own stem cells to give us a better quality of life.

Thank you so much for being with us. And if people have any questions, go into, they can learn more about it.

[Commercial Break]

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      One of the highlights for me of having Pet Doctor on is being able to speak to Maryanne Dell.

Maryanne Dell is responsible for coverage for The Orange County Register, with a special interest in dogs since 1994 - I think she started when she was a kid.

Maryanne Dell:        [Unintelligible].

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      She's a Certified Pet Dog Trainer. She competes in agility with her chow mix, Fly – who must like doing flyball – and does pet therapy work with her Tibetan spaniel, Jitterbug – great name for a dog.

Maryanne Dell:        Yeah.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:       She's an avid reader. She loves to read children books also about pets. So Maryanne, what marvelous books do you have for us this time around?     

Maryanne Dell:        Well, let's see. Let's pick up where we left off last time because we couldn't quite finish. We were talking about some of my all-time favorites, which of course during this season, can make wonderful gifts for the children or the children at heart even who might have kids or have friends with kids. So I...

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      And I'm one particular grandma that doesn't like buying toys but I will buy books until their bookshelves just sag.

Maryanne Dell:        Oh, like mine, yes. I'm with you on that one. People having new babies always get a book because I think there should be a book fair before the child even arrives at least one, so that they're getting off on the right foot whenever that happens.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Great idea.

Maryanne Dell:        I think so. Did we talk about dogs for kids last time?

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Nope.

Maryanne Dell:        Okay.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      We haven't. Sounds good.

Maryanne Dell:        This is a great one. This is by Kristin Mehus-Roe and the publisher is Bowtie Press. It's $14.95. And it's just a wonderful book for all ages. It even would – it talks about all things dog.                       

It talks about different breeds, what you need to think about before you get a dog, the kind of questions you need to ask yourself and your entire family. It talks about training and how important it is, how to train various obedience things like sitting down, about house training, about good nutrition, the importance of veterinary care.

It also talks about different kinds of dog sports like agility and flyball and rally that you can do with your dogs. And for, you know, the child who has been pestering mom and dad for who knows how long now, “Let's get a puppy. Let's get a puppy.”

Rather than bring the dog home during the hectic holiday time, this book under the tree with a promise to look at it as a family and ask some of the questions that are in there and decide as a family what kind of dog to get – go and get that dog as a family AFTER the holidays are over and things have settled down. And to me, is just the perfect alternative.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      This is a book I'm definitely going to have to get for my granddaughter because she has been pestering her mother and me to get a dog. And I've been trying to explain – well, they have a brand new baby in the house – this might not be the best time.

Maryanne Dell:        Yes, because we've got one new one in there. It's always – it's like I say to people who have that great idea. They think of getting two puppies at once. Let the one new being come in and join the family and get settled in and then bring in the second one - one thing at a time or one being at a time.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Because puppies take so much time. They are marvelous. It's great getting them socialized. They can be a blast, but they are so time-intensive.

Maryanne Dell:        Yes, they are. Just like new babies.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Yes.

Maryanne Dell:        And, you know, too – I cannot personally imagine having both at once.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Or having twins, no.

Maryanne Dell:        [Laughs] Yup.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      But you don't really have a choice in that.

Maryanne Dell:        No, that you wouldn't. But that would – you definitely wouldn't want another puppy to that mix. You've got your hands more than full there, but yeah, this is just tremendous.

It's got a lot of fun stuff in it. It's even got a CD in the back that has some dog-related games, bookmarks, kids can printout cards. They can printout on their computer and send to people. Just a whole lot of fun and a whole lot of really good solid information.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Sounds marvelous. So, “Dogs For Kids” by Kristin Mehus-Roe and it's published by Bowtie Press and $14.95.

Maryanne Dell:        Yes.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Great book. Sounds marvelous.

Maryanne Dell:        Absolutely. Now, this next couple that I have here are aimed at teaching about the importance of training and staying and neutering, how we need to be responsible for the animals we bring into our lives, for the time there in our lives.

This book called “A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray” by Ann Martin is for older kids, I'd say ages eight or nine and up. It's a longer book. It's a chapter book that, you know, might take a little while for someone to get through, but it's told from the point of Squirrel who is born a stray, never knows a family for almost her entire life, lived with her mother until her mother dies, her brother until her brother disappears.

A few people attempt to catch her and constrained her and it doesn't work out. She's treated badly. She always ends back on the run until much late in life, she finally finds a human who is kind to her and takes her in and it winds up being two older girls living together in the twilight of their years.

But it's a really interesting story because I think Martin, you know, we can't be in the minds of dogs of course then we can only guess at what's it's like being a stray, on the run, scrambling for food everyday, but it sure reads through.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Right.

Maryanne Dell:        And for those people who's saying, “Well, it's just a dog. I don't want it anymore. I'll leave the gate open.” This is again, another one like dogs for kids that actually some adults could benefit from reading. Because I think there's a lot of people who don't realize how tough it can be on stray animals. They're domestic not wild and they can't survive out there very well.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      People doing the same thing with cats also, just take them to the dairy, just letting them go, you know, they'll be able to catch mice.

Maryanne Dell:        Yup.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      And in reality, these animals suffer so much being out on their own. And occasionally, we'll have a ferule community of cats where people are trying to take care of them, but you see these cats and they're not in good condition and they're not getting the love and care that they need.

                              So, too many times people say that they want to have their children see the miracle of birth and I'll tell them I'll take them to the shelter and have them see the tragedy at the other end of the spectrum.

                              And if you want them to see the miracle of birth, a great DVD system by National Geographic, “In the Womb: Animals.” You can watch it at home.

Maryanne Dell:        Yes.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      You can watch those puppies go in and out as many times as you want to.

Maryanne Dell:        Yup. And I've never quite understood that argument. I'm not sure those same people would have their children in the delivery room while they were delivering a sibling. So I'm not quite sure why wanting them to see puppies or kittens being born is so important.

And particularly, as you say when you can watch it on video, stop it, explain what's going on, talk about reproduction from an even more somewhat clinical, if you will way of talking about it, you know, straightforward.

I don't know why the other would be necessary, I mean it's certainly not [nice] give them the same argument you do. That's one of my favorites.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      DVD, great idea. Yes.

Maryanne Dell:        Yup, absolutely. Absolutely.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      So that is “A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray” by Ann Martin, Scholastic Press, $16.99, ages 18 up.

Maryanne Dell:        Yes. Yes. Well, a good read, a really good read. This next one also touches on responsibility for pets and it's one of my all-time favorites. It's called, “Fred Stays with Me!” by Nancy Coffelt. Publisher is Little, Brown. It's $16.99 and it's for ages three to six.

And it's narrated by a girl who is a child of divorce. And she says sometimes, “I live with my mom, sometimes, I live with my dad.” But Fred, her dog always goes with her. When she goes to dad, Fred comes along, when she goes to mom, Fred comes along.

But unfortunately, in this story Fred starts causing a bit of trouble, at both mom's and dad's houses. And mom and dad say, “You know what? We can't have Fred stay her. He's eating socks, he's chewing on the furniture.” And the little girl says, “Excuse me, but Fred doesn't stay with either of you. Fred stays with ME.”

And her parents being wise parents fortunately, realized that she's right and they work things out. So that Fred doesn't chew with the furniture and doesn't steal socks and Fred does stay with the little girl.

And not – I love this book because not only does it have the underlying message of animals are not disposable commodities, but there is also a look at how important a constant can be to kids who's parents have split up.

And I can only imagine that having a beloved pet who stays with you and who mom and dad both care for along with the child, their children, can really help to make that transition from a family unit to a split family be a little bit easier. So I...

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Children definitely do need something to hold on to when it can be so disruptive for their lives to have this divorce because they don't understand so many times why their parents have broken apart. And they need somebody that they can talk to sometimes in the middle of the night and that pet is right there.

Maryanne Dell:        Yes. And that pet loves them and gives them wonderful, unconditional love and a shoulder to cry on when they need it. And if mom and dad are having a bad time, the child or children can go off with the dog or the cat or the hamster or whatever, and have someone to focus on, play with, spend time with and...

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      And that's so true Maryanne. It's doesn't have to be a dog, it can be so many other little creatures that are out there, that small ...

Maryanne Dell:        Absolutely.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      ...little pocket pet that you can take with you.

Maryanne Dell:        Absolutely, that can just sit on the bed and run around the bed and – or getting it's little ball and roll around the floor, and make a child that's going through the tough times forget all about that even if just for a couple of minutes. Sometimes that's all we need. We forget...

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      That unconditional love.

Maryanne Dell:        Yup. And I think we forget sometimes that kids in these positions feel like they have the weight of the world on them, just like we farther along in life with all our stuff going on and doing this and that, and trying to balance 14 different things at once, feel like feel we have.

That can be tremendous stress and pressure on those kids. And some kind of relief like that can make all the difference.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      So if somebody has a child who's going back and forth in a divorced family, “Fred Stays with Me!” by Nancy Coffelt. Publisher, Little, Brown and at $16.99, ages three to six – sounds like the perfect gift. The whole family...

Maryanne Dell:        Yes.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      ...should read it together.

Maryanne Dell:        I agree. I agree. And here's another one, love this one, it's called “The Dog for Life” by L. S. Matthews, publisher is Delacorte Press. It's $14.95 and this one is for older kids to – ages eight and up.

And this one says it's based on a true story. So it'd be interesting to know the real story behind this. It's about two brothers, [John] and [Tom], who live with their mother and their dog (Mouse). And the two brothers and the dog share a really special relationship. The brothers say they all can talk to one another and they can understand one another.

And [Tom], the older of the two brothers becomes very ill and the doctors tell his mother that they can't have the dog in the house.  [Stray] dogs carry germs and the germs can make the boy sick and he might die. And mom says, “Well, we're going to have to have [Mouse] go somewhere else. She can't stay here.”

But what the brothers know that the mother and the doctor don't is that if [Mouse] is really made to go, [Tom] will die because he'll die of a broken heart. They have such a bond with the dog.

And the bulk of the story is about the younger brother going off with the dog to take the dog to his uncle because they think that their uncle will be able to give the dog a home and if she's stays in the family, then at least once [Tom] gets better, she can come back and live with them.

And it's the big adventure that the boy and the dog go on. They ride on a train. They [traipse ] through the woods, across pastures – it's kind of reminiscing of that book, I think it was called, “The Incredible Journey.” It was about two dogs and a dog...

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Yes.

Maryanne Dell:        ...that traveled, you know, across Canada, I think to get back home...

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      “Cats rules, dog drolls”, yes.

Maryanne Dell: their family...

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Yes.

Maryanne Dell:        ...moved, [yeah]. And it's just a marvelous, marvelous book. And, you know, in the end, we realized that in this case, the kids knew better.

They knew that the dog was part of the family and she had to stay with them for the family to stay together and everything turned out okay. And being a book for youngster, they – it does turn out okay at the end.

 Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      I wanted to ask, you know, and what's the ending story? I hate to be the one that pulls, you know, the book out, looks to the back - few pages to figure out how the story ends, so thank you for telling us - it has a happy ending.

Maryanne Dell:        Yeah, we don't want to leave anybody hanging and we don't want people to not get the book because they've be afraid of that. But you can read it for yourself to find out HOW it turns out okay.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      So the book is, “A Dog for Life” by L.S. Matthews. Publisher is Delacorte Press, $14.95, ages eight and up. Anything ...

Maryanne Dell:        Yeah.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      ...else fun for us?

Maryanne Dell:        I've got another one and this one is – it's a take on that good, old Rolling Stone song, “You can't always get what you want...

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Yes.

Maryanne Dell:        ...but if you try it sometimes, you get what you need.” “Fancy Nancy” is a series of books by Jane O'connor and they've gotten really popular. They've just started making Fancy Nancy dolls and she's this little – well, she's a fancy little dress up girl. She likes her bubbles and pearls and her dress up and her jewels and everything.

And her family decides that they can finally get a dog. And while Nancy of course wants a fancy dog. And she wants a dog like her neighbor's puppy, [Jewel]. [Jewel's] a papillon. And Nancy asked her neighbor if she can maybe pet sit the papillon for a day so that she can see what's it's like to have a fancy little pup.

And what she learns is that while the puppy is very fancy in the way she looks, she's also very fancy in what she needs. And Nancy has quite a time keeping up with her and keeping her happy.

And – so when her family goes to the shelter, they actually get a dog named [Frenchy], who Nancy says is a LaSalle spaniel. “A very unique breed,” she said. “Looks something like a poodle and a spaniel and maybe a little bit of terrier found in there.” And he were – in other words...

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      It's a designer puppy.

Maryanne Dell:        ...little, all-American mutt.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      All right.

Maryanne Dell:        Is what you get, which of course says many of us feel is the best things going out there. And it's kind of neat because Nancy doesn't get what she thought she wanted but she got a dog that really fit with her. And just was as much fun as she could for. It's just a fun little story about how you shouldn't close your mind to things and you should always keep it open and see what's out there waiting for you.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      And it's wonderful where it says going to a shelter instead of having to get a designer dog.

Maryanne Dell:        Yes.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Some of these dogs can be so extremely expensive and people will go ahead and go to a pet store and finance a dog. And sometimes disasters happen and you're still paying off the pet.

There are so many fantastic dogs. Some of them who maybe that all all-American mutt, that you find at a shelter who can make the all-American fantastic pet.

Maryanne Dell:        Absolutely. And it's – to me, it's so not what the dog looks like, it's what the dog is. It's like people. It's personality. And what a lot of people don’t realize is a good 25% of the dogs that are at shelters are pure breed.

There are a lot of pure breed dogs at shelters. And if people just would look, they might find a dog that is what they’re looking for and save a life instead of putting more money toward people who are breeding bad animals who are sick, as you said, and end up having tremendous health problems.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      And often times, people don’t realize the investment they’re putting into this pet even if they get a free pet from a friend, those animals are going to be costly in one way or the other. So, save your money, get pet insurance but do plan ahead because there will be expenses associated with that pet now and for the rest of its life.

Maryanne Dell:        Absolutely.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      So this was “Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy” by Jane O’Connor and its publisher is HarperCollins Publishers, $16.99, ages four through seven.

Maryanne, you again have told us about just some awesome books. I see a book that I’m going to be getting for my granddaughter [Lindsay] “Dogs for Kids”, that one is definitely written just for her and any other children who want to have a dog.

Maryanne Dell:        Yes. It’s a great one. It’s a really, really fun book. And actually just for the adults on your list, the same author Christine Mehus-Rowe wrote a book called “The Dog Bible” which is also published by Bowtie and it’s a lot of fun stuff about dogs aimed at adults.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Excellent.
Maryanne Dell:        So another good one.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      We can always learn. And if people want to learn more about you and all the work that you’re doing with pets at the Orange County Register, where can they email you, where can they learn more about you?

Maryanne Dell:        They can email me at They can check out the register’s website at and click on the live tab and then the pet’s page and they can find of good stuff about pets there.
                              And every Monday in our live section, we have two pages to vote at the pets. And we have pets that need homes, pet events, stories about pets, lots of good stuff there for folks.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      Well, Maryanne, thank you again for being one of the regulars on The Pet Doctor on Hopefully, you’ll be back again with us next month with another book review.

Maryanne Dell:        I hope so too.

Dr. Bernadine Cruz:      You’ve been listening to Bernadine Cruz and The Pet Doctor. We’ve been talking today to Maryanne Dell of the Orange County Register with her book report. Hopefully, you’ve had a marvelous day, a marvelous week. Take care of those wonderful animals of yours because it’s their life health matters. Have a great day.

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