My Cat Is A Little Troublemaker… And She Is Not Alone

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

It’s official. Zima is two years old — give or take a few weeks. Of course this means she is in her terrible twos. So of course she has turned into a little troublemaker.

Among other things, she loves to play with anything shiny. She also loves to play with pens, pencils or just about anything else she can get her little paws on — especially while you are using it. On Sunday morning, she was trying to play with an old paintbrush. Of course I wasn’t about to let her do that. Unfortunately, my hand was in the wrong place at the wrong time. So instead of biting the paint brush, she bit my finger!

For the record, it did not break the skin. But boy did it hurt. So under the circumstances, I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t end up at the emergency room…. and she didn’t end up at the vet.

Vets seeing lots of pets during COVID-19 pandemic

Apparently lots of pets are ending up at the vet these days. Experts say this is happening for two reasons.

First, pet parents are spending more time at home because of COVID-19 restrictions. This means they are spending more time with their pets. This also means they are more likely to notice when something about their pet or its behavior doesn’t seem quite right.

Secondly with the change in routine, pets are finding more ways to get into mischief. Veterinarians say some pets are getting hurt while they’re playing and some are getting hurt while they’re fighting.

Fluffy and Fido are stressed, too

Yes, our pets are stressed, too. And while some of them are taking it out on each other, some  are taking it out on us.

In Brief Legal Writing Services Mascot Zima plotting her escape. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

Randy Cross is both the medical director and a neurologist at VCA Advanced Veterinary Care Center. As he recently told USA Today: 

“There is anxiety in animals because you are changing their entire schedule and environment. They’re used to you going to work and you being away and not being there, but now they’re sharing (the house) all day.”

That can disrupt their sleep patterns and cause unusual behavior. In some cases, our pets will make their displeasure known by ignoring the litter box or misbehaving in other ways.

Adapting to vet visits during life in lockdown

As we all know, taking our pets to the vet is seldom easy and never fun — for us or them. Given the circumstances it was probably even tougher than usual in the last couple of months. With lockdown and social distancing in place, veterinarians have resorted to remote consultations and curbside car visits. They have also been forced to separate pets and owners during exams or treatment.

At some practices, owners are asked to bring their animals to a certain point, where someone on staff comes to take the pet inside. After the examination, the veterinarian will call the owner, , who stays in their car, to discuss any treatment warranted.

“The biggest change and disappointment in some ways is our lack of interaction with the clients,” said Cross. “We still get the patient interaction, but it’s amazing we forget just how much personal interaction occurs by seeing someone and watching them.”

Hopefully the restrictions will be lifted soon, and life for pets and their human companions will return to some semblance of normalcy. Not for nothing, but Zima’s due for a checkup next month! In the meantime, I sure hope she stays out of trouble.

Pandemic Perspectives

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Hi, Everyone!

I hope this finds you safe and well. It’s the way I start most messages these days. But then again, don’t we all? I guess it’s just part of the new normal, for now

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

“New normal…” I hate that phrase. Seriously. It really sets my teeth on edge. It is so ambiguous and so definitive at the same time. Anyhow, I guess I got a taste of it when I talked to my hairstylist last night. She called to return the message I’d left for her on Monday in hopes that I’d be able to get an appointment when her business reopens next week.

Yes, businesses will start to reopen here on May 20. But I won’t be able to get my hair done until May 29. My stylist has a small shop and has to stagger appointments in order to follow social distancing protocols. She also has to wear a mask and face shield. As far as I know we’re supposed to wear masks whenever we’re in shops.. and that ought to make it fun when she tries to trim around my ears…. I’ll also have my temperature taken before she cuts my hair. Now there’s a first.

Yep. Welcome to the “new normal.” Ain’t it grand?

Work, work, work…

At least things have not changed all that much from a professional standpoint. I have been working from home since I founded In Brief Legal Writing Services in 2015 — so if anything I have an advantage over everyone now forced to do the same. Fortunately, my workload has stayed fairly consistent — which means I have been busy. I am always busy.

That’s right. I have been hustling. I’m always hustling. Even in my “free time.” As a result, you can now find me on guru.com and fiverr.com. Of course, you can still find me on upwork.com as well.

Clearly I have also decided to turn my attention to this long-neglected blog. I still plan to focus on animal law and related topics at least a couple of times per week. I’m also planning on upgrading this site and updating my long-neglected Linkedin page when time permits, so stay tuned for that. I may even revisit my professional Twitter page sometime soon, although that is hardly a priority at this point.

On a happy note

Finally, as most of you know, my best pal and In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot, Eli, died last June. It was a long, hard summer without that cat. He is still sorely missed and he always will be.

On a happy note, I adopted Zima (a Russian Blue/Turkish Van mix) from a local shelter shortly after I came home from Australia in November. Suffice it to say, she’s quite a handful — especially since she entered her “terrible twos.” But I love her to pieces, and I’m sure we’ll have a wonderful friendship for years to come. I’m also sure you’ll hear plenty about our adventures along the way.

With all of that being stated, I’d better sign off for now. Until next time, thanks for reading and be well…

Life Lessons I Learned From My Cat

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Hi everyone —

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. Unfortunately it has been a hectic — and frankly extremely sad — few weeks here at In Brief Legal Writing Services. As many of you already know, our mascot, Eli “The Cat” Bogdanovic, passed away a week ago at age 13.

He was fine when I got back from London — or at least he seemed fine. But during the first week of June we noticed he no longer wanted any kibble, which was highly unusual. Gradually he lost interest in his food altogether, but was still drinking. After a harrowing weekend, I took him to the veterinarian on Monday, June 10.

Eli the cat.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot, Eli the cat. 1/1/06 – 6/17/19

To make a long story short, his initial assessment showed evidence of significant dental issues and alarmingly elevated kidney values. He was hospitalized for four days and I visited him twice during that time. We brought him home on Friday, June 14 and he seemed to be doing well. But the next morning, he made it clear that he no longer wanted any medical intervention, even here at home.

So we made the incredibly difficult decision to let him leave us on his terms here at home, with us, where he knew he was loved. And that’s exactly what he did.

Life won’t be the same without him.

He was more than a mascot for my business. He was my best friend. He never let met down. He was a great listener. In fact, he was my officially unofficial “therapy cat.” He was a great teacher. I learned so much from him. I learned:

  1. Don’t give up on people, no matter how many times you’ve been betrayed or how badly they let you down.
  2. Once you do find someone you can trust completely, you’ll realize everything else was worth it.
  3. A true friend will always stand up for you no matter what.
  4. Live life on your own terms.
  5. When all else fails, turn on the charm.
  6. Sometimes, silence speaks volumes.
  7. Loyalty is one of the most precious commodities on earth.
  8. Those that you love most fiercely are the ones who need it most.
  9. If you get a second chance at anything, make the most of it.
  10. Life is wonderful, but it is incredibly unpredictable and incredibly short, so make the most of every day.

Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

The Importance of Working Hard — And Playing Harder: A London Photo Essay

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

It’s been almost four years since I officially started In Brief Legal Writing Services. And in all that time, I didn’t have any meaningful time off. Until last week. I went to London for a week, and I had a blast. Since you couldn’t come with me, I figured I’d share some of my favorite photos so you can live vicariously through me… You’re welcome!

View From The London Eye. Photo By Alexandra Bogdanovic
Peek-a-Boo View of the Thames. Photo By Alexandra Bogdanovic
Signs of the Times. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
This is for the birds. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Big Ben. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Shoreditch Street Art. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
As Seen on Brick Lane. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

 

 

The Cost Of Responsible Pet Ownership

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Lots of people love animals. But sometimes love is not enough.

Sometimes, a long distance (or even international) move forces owners to rehome or surrender their pets to local shelters. Sometimes old age or catastrophic illness prevents an owner from continuing to care for their pet. Sometimes a pet is surrendered because of a shift in family dynamics (such as a birth). And sometimes, the owner realizes that they can simply no longer afford to provide for their pet.

dog parade, puttin on the dog, 2018
An Adopt-A-Dog volunteer with a dog available for adoption. Puttin’ On The Dog, 2018. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

In  fact, cost  reportedly ranks among the top five reasons for pet relinquishment. And frankly, that’s just not right.

Part of being a responsible pet owner — and I do stress responsible pet owner — is being fully informed before you buy or adopt a pet. That means you should know how much it will cost to buy or adopt and provide ongoing care for your pet before you get one. And you need to be honest with yourself about whether you can afford to have a pet before you get one.

That being stated, here is some general information about the costs associated with pet ownership.

  • Initial Cost: Adoption fees (which sometimes include the cost of spay/neuter procedures) will typically be approximately $100. If you are buying a pet from a pet shop or directly from a breeder, expect to pay several times that amount. Conservatively, plan on spending at least $400  to $500 for the acquisition of your pet.
  • Accessories: Brushes, food bowls, toys, litter boxes, leashes, collars, scratching posts… They’re all essential and costs can add up quickly. Budget at least $125 to $140 to cover these costs, depending on whether you get a dog or cat.
  • Preliminary vet check: Whether you adopt or buy your pet, one of the first things you should do is take your new pet to the vet for a thorough checkup. Some shelters or rescues will have arrangements with local veterinarians who will do these exams for a small fee. Plan on spending $50, for the exam and put an additional $200 or so aside for a spay/neuter if Fluffy or Fido hasn’t been “fixed.”
  • Ongoing expenses: Again, food, treats, and toys top the list of pet supplies that have to be replenished on a regular basis. Of course you should budget for these based on your pet’s unique needs. A general estimate is $150 to $200 or more per year for dogs, and $200 per year for cats.
  • Medical expenses: Let’s not sugar coat it. Veterinary care is expensive. Even “healthy” dogs and cats need routine shots and other preventive care. Budget at least $350 to $450 for annual check-ups and related matters, exclusive of emergency medical care.
  • Unexpected costs: Of course, there’s no way to budget for unanticipated events. But if you can, try to set some money aside for emergency veterinary care (for illness or injury). You should also consider health insurance for your pet, since even routine care (like teeth cleaning and lab work) tends to be expensive.
  • Additional considerations: Do you travel a lot? Even if you only leave home occasionally, you’ll need someone to look after your pet. In a perfect world, you’ll be able to count on a friend or family member. But if that’s not possible, you’ll have to get a professional pet sitter, or leave Fluffy or Fido at a kennel or cattery. In any case, it may be costly, so you should plan accordingly.

Speaking as a pet owner, I know exactly how expensive having a cat can be. I also know it’s worth it.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

Staggering Allegations Made Against CT Veterinarian

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

In the United States of America, all new veterinarians take the following oath:

“Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.”

But apparently some of them don’t take it seriously.

According to a recent news report, Dr. Amr Wasfi, a Bridgeport, Connecticut, veterinarian, was supposed to appear in court on Wednesday. He is facing animal cruelty and third-degree larceny charges based on his “treatment” of a dog named Monster.

The accusations are detailed in an arrest warrant and shared on an NBC affiliate’s website. As set forth in the warrant, Monster’s owner took him to the vet when he noticed Monster limping. That was on February 14, and the initial diagnosis was a sprained knee. Apparently, Wasfi prescribed some pain medicine and sent the dog home.

But when Monster hadn’t improved a week later, his owner brought him back to Black Rock Animal Hospital, where Wasfi again assessed the dog’s condition. This time, the diagnosis was a fractured pelvis. Monster’s owner learned that surgical intervention would be required, and Monster would have to stay at the hospital for five days (until March 7).

A stunning revelation

As NBC’s Connecticut affiliate reports, Monster’s owner told the authorities he contacted the vet that day, only to be told his dog couldn’t come home — yet. Instead, he was allegedly told, Monster had to “stay a few more days for monitoring.” Apparently, Monster’s repeated requests to see his dog after that were denied.  According to the warrant, he finally contacted Animal Control and retrieved Monster on March 25.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

According to the warrant, Monster’s owner then discovered that his dog, who 63 pounds prior to his stay at Black Rock Animal Hospital, had lost 17 pounds.

Monster’s owner then took him to the Emergency Room at Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine. That’s when he learned that Monster never had a fracture and he never needed operation, which included putting a screw in Monster’s pelvis. One of the veterinarians that treated Monster at Central Hospital For Veterinary Medicine also told police that Monster was being treated for “refeeding syndrome” and dehydration. Police then learned that the treatment is warranted when “an animal is without proper food or water for at least 10 days.”

To make matters even worse, Monster’s owner also told police Wasfi charged him more than $3,000 for Monster’s operation.

An emerging pattern?

As NBC Connecticut also reports, that wasn’t the only complaint lodged against Wasfi. A former Black Rock employee apparently reported that she “witnessed Wasfi hit a kitten that was under anesthesia so hard that the kittens intestines popped out of an incision.” As documented in the warrant, the same complainant  also said that Wasfi was “agitated” and threw surgical tools around the room.”

The warrant also indicates she confided in a co-worker and said she planned to file a complaint. She also told police she planned to resign the next day, but when she showed up for work the employee with whom she shared her concerns greeted her at the door, in gave her a box of her belongings, and informed her she had been fired.

At this point, Wasfi also faces an uncertain fate. In addition to the criminal charges he is currently facing, he will likely face disciplinary action by the Connecticut State Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Sec. 20-202(2) of Chapter 384 of the Connecticut General Statutes specifically states that the board can discipline a licensed veterinarian when there is proof that: “the holder of such license or certificate has become unfit or incompetent or has been guilty of cruelty, unskillfulness or negligence towards animals and birds.”

Sec. 20-202(3) of CGS Chapter 384 also authorizes the board to take disciplinary action based upon: “conviction of the violation of any of the provisions of this chapter by any court of criminal jurisdiction.”

However, the board cannot take any disciplinary action as long as the appeal of such a conviction is pending, or if the conviction is overturned on appeal.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

Exploitation In The Service Dog Industry And The People Who Pay The Price

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

This is a story about broken promises, broken dreams and a broken system. This is also a story about a little girl with a broken heart.

As the Associated Press reports, Sobie Cummings was just nine when a psychiatrist suggested that a service dog might help her cope with intense emotional anguish and loneliness.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Eager to help their little girl, Sobie’s parents agreed. And in the summer of 2017, they thought they finally found the perfect person to provide the perfect dog. That person was Mark Mathis, the then-owner of the Apex, N.C.-based kennel, Ry-Con Service Dogs. He owned a kennel fairly close to home, he is the parent of an autistic child, and he had stellar credentials — or so the Cummings thought.

They believed the claims in the online brochure. At the time, they had no reason not to believe that Mathis was “certified as a NC state approved service dog trainer with a specialty in autism service dogs for children” in 2013, as the brochure stated. And at the time, they had no reason not to believe Mathis when he quickly told them he had “the perfect dog” for their autistic daughter, even though he hadn’t met Sobie.

At the time, they had no way to know that based on her behavior, the dog — a Briard named Okami — never should have been sold to anyone, much less to  a family with a special needs child and two older dogs at home.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), service dogs must be “handler-focused, desensitized to distractions, and highly trained to do specific tasks. They should not be distracted by the public, as they should focus solely on their owner when working.”

The AKC also notes that safe and successful service dogs must have a specific temperament and abilities. They must be: calm but friendly; alert but not reactive; willing to be touched by anyone, including strangers; be willing to please; have the tendency to follow you around; be socialized to numerous situations and environments*; and have the ability to learn quickly and retain information. (*Emphasis added.)

On a webpage devoted to the breed, the AKC notes that Briards have some of these traits. Specifically, they are “confident, smart and faithful.” Because they are a herding breed, Briards may also have “a protective eye toward family (especially kids, whom they regard as their flock), and wariness with outsiders.”

Although their intelligence and athletic ability allows them to “excel at almost any canine role or sport,” the AKC notes that their independence may make them difficult to train. The AKC also says that socialization “should begin early and continue throughout the Briard’s life.”

But as the Associated Press reports, Okami “pulled at her leash and refused to lie down” while on  “training trips to local stores.” As the AP also reports, Okami “growled and lunged at people and defecated in a hallway” at a mall.

A dream becomes a nightmare

Still, Okami “graduated” in May 2018, and the Cummings bought her for more than $14,000. But when they finally brought her home on Mother’s Day weekend, nearly a year after they first contacted Mathis, their dream became a nightmare.

With no apparent provocation, the Cummings claim, Okami immediately attacked one of the family’s older dogs. And to make matters even worse, they say, Sobie saw the whole thing.

With no other choice, the Cummings sent Okami back to Mathis. And that’s when they made another horrible discovery. Not only were the claims about Mathis’ state certification in North Carolina untrue, but there is no such thing as a  state certification for service dog trainers anywhere in the U.S.

To add insult to injury, Mathis allegedly refused to refund the Cummings’ money, prompting a lawsuit. And then last November, Mathis reportedly notified clients by email that he was closing the kennel because  it was “no longer sustainable.” The next day, the AP reports,  he filed for bankruptcy protection.

North Carolina authorities launched an investigation based on a slew of ensuing complaints. And the allegations are damning. According to state Attorney General Josh Stein, Mathis “falsified medical records and breeder information.” Stein also alleges that Mathis “may have ‘siphoned’ as much as $240,000 of the nonprofit’s money for personal expenses.”

Mathis, a biotech engineer who co-founded Ry-Con Service Dogs with his wife after a service dog helped their autistic son, has emphatically denied the allegations. He also contends that his clients have broken their contracts, fallen behind on payments and misrepresented “conditions in their homes.”

Only time will tell what the future holds for Mathis. In the meantime, all the Cummings can do is try to help their daughter recover from the PTSD she developed after witnessing Okami’s violent attack on their pet.

“Her life is not what it was,” her mother told the AP. “The light’s not back in her eyes yet.”

Apparently, Okami may also be facing an uncertain fate.  According to the AP, Mathis sold her to another family — with a similar outcome. That family has also filed a complaint.

Time to set some boundaries

Although there is a growing demand for service dogs to help people with autism and PTSD, experts say there is little to no meaningful regulation or oversight for the training of such service dogs.  As it now stands, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t even mandate that service dogs are professionally trained.

Until effective rules are implemented, families like the Cummings will be susceptible to incompetence… or worse.

“It is a lawless area. The Wild West,” David Favre, a law professor at Michigan State University and editor of its Animal Legal and Historical Center website, told the AP.

That needs to change.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

No horsing around: Well-Deserved Recognition For CT Rescue

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

For this Connecticut rescue group, there’s no such thing as a big problem.

Since 2010, the Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue (CDHR) has been saving horses from certain death. Today, the East Hampton, Connecticut-based organization has dozens of volunteers. It also has a recent commendation from the Connecticut General Assembly for its past and ongoing work.

“We went from very humble roots to what we are today,” founder Stacey Golub told the media.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

The effort began when Golub, a veterinarian, enlisted the help of some friends to save a Shire mare from a Pennsylvania auction and the slaughterhouse. Together, they scraped together enough money to transport, vet, and house her.

They also named her Cleo. And with their care, Cleo, who was initially in extremely rough shape, made an astounding recovery. Eventually, Cleo also got a new home.

And, as the Hartford Courant reports, the small, but dedicated group that saved her life “was hooked.” So in February of 2011, the CDHR officially became recognized nonprofit organization.

A place where size doesn’t matter

Although it is best known for rescuing big horses, CDHR doesn’t discriminate when it comes to helping animals in need. Since its inception, the group has also welcomed miniature horses along with goats and sheep.

Some of the animals have been neglected, and others are surrendered when their owners can no longer afford to provide suitable care. Then there are those that the group rescues from a weekly Pennsylvania auction where nearly half the horses on the block will likely end up at a slaughterhouse.

At CDHR, the first priority is the provision of healthcare, hoof care and training the horses need. Once those needs have been addressed, focus shifts to finding new homes for them.

“If we can’t do that, they stay here,” said Golub.

CDHR also encourages anyone who does adopt a horse to return it if they are unable to provide proper care for any reason, at any time.

An expensive endeavor

Even with as many as 12 volunteers per day helping to care for the horses at CDHR’s East Hampton property, costs add up quickly.

Golub estimates that the annual cost of hay alone easily tops $30,000. And then there are the expenses associated with veterinary care, special food, shoeing and related hoof care, and so on. On top of which, CDHR reportedly needs a new barn.

If you’ve got some spare change laying around and you want to contribute to a worthy cause, you  can help out by making a general donation to CDHR or a specific contribution for the barn project.

If you can’t make a donation at the moment, that’s fine, too. You can always volunteer, or even inquire about fostering or adopting a horse rescued by CDHR. You can learn more about these opportunities here.

Open house slated for May 19

If you live in the area, you can also learn about the wonderful work this group does at an open house scheduled for May 19. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CDHR’s East Hampton property, which is located at 113 Chestnut Hill Road. For more information, you can always call the group at  860-467-6587.


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

This Never Gets Old: Connecticut Company Provides Animal Therapy For Seniors

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

To bring an animal into someone’s home and to see the smile on their face really does bring a joy to us. — Nick D’Aquila

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of starting the week on a positive note. So why not write a post about a Connecticut company that’s relaunching an animal therapy program for senior citizens? I mean, let’s be honest — it sure beats writing about politics. So here goes.

Introducing Marlow

According to published reports, a Meriden, Connecticut-based senior care company recently welcomed a new staff member. Her name is Marlow. She’s a blonde and she’s got a great smile. She’s also got floppy ears, a wet nose, four paws and a tail.

Eli the cat.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot, Eli the cat.

Yes, Marlow is a dog. To be accurate, she is a 10-month-old Golden Retriever. And she’s got a very important job to do.

“To bring an animal into someone’s home and to see the smile on their face really does bring a joy to us,” Nick D’Aquila, whose family owns and operates Assisted Living Services, told the media.

A big job for a little pup

Apparently, Marlow is following in some pretty big paw prints. D’Aquila’s mother Sharron, introduced the company’s first therapy dog, Sunny, to clients several years ago. And they loved her.

“She would do it free of charge and bring the dog there…and he would pretty much bring a smile to the client’s face,” said Nick D’Aquila. “Continuing my mother’s legacy in visiting clients as well as having her join is a great feeling.”

Sadly, lymphoma claimed Sunny’s life five years ago.

The good news is that Marlow is well on her way to bringing the same joy to people as her predecessor. She has already in training to become a Registered Pet Partners Therapy Animal and should soon be available to visit clients upon request.

The importance of pet therapy for an aging population

As reflected in U.S. Census Bureau data,  more than half a million people age 65 and older called Connecticut home in 2016 and accounted for approximately roughly 16 percent state’s population. That’s slightly more than reflected in the U.S. census data from 2000, when approximately 13 percent of Connecticut resident were in that age bracket.

As I recently blogged about, a senior citizen survey conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that owning a pet or interacting with an animal lessens stress, anxiety and feelings of loneliness. Among the 2,000 participants dogs were the most common pet.

Additional research has shown that just petting animals provided mental health benefits to seniors.

“It’s increasing interactions with the seniors and making them more sociable,” D’Aquila noted. “I think the interactions with the therapy dog brings out the inner emotions that people are holding inside that they don’t really know how to express.”

Personally, I know exactly what I’d say. Good dog, Marlow. Very good dog!


Alexandra Bogdanovic is a paralegal and the owner/founder of In Brief Legal Writing Services. She is also an award-winning author and journalist whose interests include animal welfare and animal law. All opinions expressed in this forum are her own. Any information pertaining to legal matters is intended solely for general audiences and should not be regarded as legal advice.

Along Came A Spider… And Caused A New York Car Crash

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

Time for another confession. I hate spiders. Hate! With a capital “h.” I’m not necessarily afraid of them. I just don’t like them. I don’t care how big they are. I don’t care whether they’re venomous or not. I don’t care how beneficial they are to the environment. I’m just not a fan.

Apparently I’m not alone.

Bringing a whole new meaning to distracted driving

According to numerous news reports, a spider caused a recent car crash in Cairo, New York. Or, more accurately, the driver’s reaction to finding a spider in her car caused the crash.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

The Town of Cairo Police Department detailed the April 10 incident on its Facebook page, saying:

“After investigating today’s crash on Silver Spur Road we feel it necessary to bring up a contributing factor that is not covered too often. It is believed that the operator of the vehicle noticed a SPIDER in the drivers area with her as she was driving. The operator panicked and crashed suffering a leg injury from the crash. We know that it is easier for some drivers than others but PLEASE, try to teach new drivers and yourselves to overcome the fear and pull over to a safe place. Lives depend on it.”

Police did not say whether the arachnid was injured in the crash, nor did they say whether  the New York state DMV has any plans to require “spider desensitization” for new drivers (sarcasm fully intended).

The fear is real…

Arachnophobia is generally defined as “an abnormal and persistent fear of spiders.” It affects approximately 30 percent of Americans and ranks third in terms of phobias affecting people around the world. Only the fear of death and the fear of public speaking are more common.

So why the universal fear and loathing? There are several theories. Some say it can be traced back to ancient times, when many civilizations viewed them as a source of water and food contamination. Others say it stems from the once widely held belief that spiders caused the deadly outbreak of bubonic plague in the 14th century. Another, more recent theory is that  it’s simply a matter of perception; people who suffer from arachnophobia are unable to accept that only a tiny percentage of the 63,000 known spider species pose a serious threat to people.

A (very) short list of harmful spiders found in the United States

When most Americans think about scary spiders, three come to mind. These are the black widow, the brown recluse and the hobo spider.

The black widow

In all, there are approximately 30 different types of black widow spider. Of these, three are commonly found in the United States. These are the Northern widow, the Southern widow and the Western widow. As you can tell by their names, these spiders are fairly widespread. It is also widely regarded as “one of the most dangerous spiders to humans,” and is known to be “the most venomous spider in North America.”

Fortunately, only a fully grown female’s venom packs enough of a punch to affect people. You can recognize (and  therefore avoid) a female black widow by her shiny black body and distinctive red markings resembling an hour-glass that are found on her belly.

With sufficient provocation, an adult female black widow can inflict a venomous bite that can cause the following symptoms in people:

  • chest pain
  • stomach pain
  • anxiety
  • painful, cramping muscles
  • numbness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • light sensitivity
  • headache
  • heavy sweating and salivating

However, severe reactions and fatalities are not as common as we may fear. As statistics provided by the National Poison Data Center indicate,  approximately 1,800 Americans were bitten by black widows in 2013. More than 1,000 of them did not seek medical treatment. Of the 800 who did,  there were only 14 “significant” cases, and there were no fatalities.

This is not to say you should ignore any symptoms you are experiencing if you have been or believe you have been bitten by a female black widow — or any other spider for that matter. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

The brown recluse

Talk about  a spider with a bad reputation. These arachnids, which are universally feared due to the potentially devastating effects of their venom, are most commonly found in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.

Although they do have distinctive markings that resemble violins, experts say the best way to identify a brown recluse is by its eyes. This is because the brown recluse has only six eyes, as opposed to eight. Although the shade of brown varies, these spiders have uniform coloration on their bellies. They are approximately  three-eighths of an inch long and about three-sixteenths of an inch wide (about 1 centimeter long and half a centimeter wide). Females tend to be larger, but males have longer legs.

Like most spiders, the brown recluse will only bite if it is accidentally disturbed or deliberately provoked. Because its venom can pack a wallop, the National Institutes of Health advise anyone who is bitten to seek medical treatment immediately.

Experts stress that symptoms of a brown recluse bite will vary based on the person’s sensitivity to venom and the amount of venom injected. In people with heightened sensitivity or in cases where a lot of venom is injected, a blister may form at the bite site. The blister may burst and become an ugly, open, gangrenous wound. Recovery from such a severe bite can take weeks, and sometimes months.

In less severe cases, symptoms may  include itching, chills, fever, nausea, sweating and generally feeling lousy.

The hobo spider

Although they have a fearsome appearance, these spiders may be less of a threat to people than once thought. Originally from Europe, they are now found in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah).

Hobo spiders have long legs, a brown body, and a grayish abdomen with yellowish markings. On average, they are  1/4 to 1/2 inch long with a leg span of approximately 1-2 inches. Even so, proper identification is tricky because they resemble so many other species found in the region.

Although they are sometimes called an “aggressive house spider,” hobo spiders don’t bite people unless they are actively hunting or deliberately or inadvertently “trapped” against someone’s skin.

Symptoms of a hobo spider bite include redness and pain at the bite site and involuntary muscle movement lasting for several hours. However, experts say there is no longer any reason to believe that hobo spider venom causes the same type of tissue damage as brown recluse venom.

I’m still not convinced…

That’s all well and good. But as far as I’m concerned, I’ll just keep my distance from anything that looks scary and has more than two eyes. And hopefully they’ll stay away from me.