Valentine’s Day is almost here and area residents are showing love to their furry, and not-so-furry pets. Read on for stories about a cat, dog and turtle.


Smush the Cat


Smush, the cat, had struggles as a kitten, but after a lot of love and medical care, she thrived, and is currently 19.5-years-old.


Smush was rescued from a farm west of Adel. The family heard kittens meowing in a wood pile. The rest of the litter was pulled out safely, but Smush had been crushed by a log. The log affected the left side of her skull and jaw, which is why she got the name, Smush. Smush could not eat at first, but the Adel Veterinary Clinic staff nursed her back to health.


Dr. Elizabeth Holland is one of the many people that cares for Smush at the Adel Veterinary Clinic.


Smush is the Adel Veterinary Clinic’s cat. In her younger years, she loved to sit on top of the fax or scanner machines. She loved watching the Decorah Eagles that the staff played for her on a computer screen.


“She also used to sneak into the kennels of pets staying with us to try their food on occasion,” Holland said.


Now, in her older years, she is often snuggled up in a cozy bed near a heat vent. She also wanders around the clinic when she wants treats, affection, or to greet the clients and patients arriving.


“Smush is spoiled! She gets personal morning greetings and evening goodbyes from almost every staff member,” Holland said. “When she shouts at us, we all scramble to get her treats.”


Holland continued, “She enjoys being held, having her hair combed, and her acupuncture treatments.”


Holland believes her longevity is due to regular preventative care, appropriate medications/supplements for her medical conditions, routine acupuncture for her arthritis, and a lot of love.


“One of the ways we see the quality of life improve most in pets, is by taking care of their dental health. Not too many people think about it, but just imagine if you didn’t brush and floss daily,” she said. “This is what happens in most pets leading to stinky breath, sore gums and teeth, and most concerning, systemic problems such as liver and kidney disease linked to the yucky bacteria in the mouth.”


Holland recommends focusing on preventative dental care by getting regular evaluations and dental cleanings, just like people do.


Smush just had her teeth cleaned in January and had one tooth extracted. The Adel Veterinary Clinic uses the same protocols for all pets including: pre-operative bloodwork, digital dental x-rays, and state of the art monitoring equipment.


Because of Smush’s dental cleaning, a treatable condition was caught and she is doing great on her new medication.


“We know that the anesthesia part of dental care in pets can cause anxiety for pet parents,” Holland said. “We love helping clients understand the procedure so they are comfortable and proud of the great care they are providing their pets.”


There are ways pet parents can help with dental care at home. Holland recommends brushing pet’s teeth with VOHC approved products.


Besides preventative care, there are everyday ways we can show our pets that they are loved.


“I think the greatest way to show our affection is to be near our pets,” Holland said. “Attention is what they crave and it can be given in many, many ways. A snuggle, brushing, treats, playing games, activities outdoors, even just talking to your pets helps them feel loved.”


For Valentine’s Day this year, Holland recommends a new toy, treat and time together.


“Cats love toys they can hunt and chase such as balls and laser pointers,” Holland said. “Cat nip and other treats are fun too. Dogs would love an extra-long walk, a game of catch, or a special treat.”


Riley the Dog


Riley, the dog, has been with the Whittlesey family for 13 years. She is an active and happy dog despite some challenges.


Harper Whittlesey, 8, is Riley’s kid owner. When Whittlesey was born, Riley would follow her around wherever she went and a close bond formed.


“I can always count on her,” Whittlesey said.


When Riley was roughly 12, she needed to have her left eye removed. She couldn’t produce tears in that eye. Her eyelid was like sandpaper every time she blinked. Riley didn’t like her eye drops and the eye would often get yucky.


“She still runs into things, but she’s pretty good with her one eye,” Whittlesey said.


To show Riley love, Whittlesey said, “I take her on walks. I love on her every 5 minutes. I take her outside.”


This summer, Riley can expect some long walks and many games of playing ball.


For Valentine’s Day, Riley will be getting a new tennis ball, which she loves!


Pokey the Turtle


Pokey, the turtle, is a pet that has spanned generations. She has been shared in elementary classrooms every decade since the 80s. Being that her species, a California Desert Tortoise, can live 100 years, Pokey will most likely continue to be in the family for a long time.


When Brett Phelps was roughly eight-years-old, he was living in California. His older brother rescued Pokey when she was crossing a busy intersection. They checked with animal rescue, the zoo etc.


“No one claimed her, so we decided to make her part of our family,” Phelps said. “That was 40 years ago!”


Phelps’ wife, Anna, and daughter Brenna, 11, and son Keegan, 8, live in Waukee and they all take part in caring for Pokey.


Pokey is estimated to be around 45-years-old. She is a very active eater. Pokey is a vegetarian and especially likes eating tomatoes. Her favorite activity is resting and soaking up the sun after a big meal.


Pokey is calm, inquisitive, and a bit affectionate. She likes her head, legs, and feet rubbed gently with the tip of a finger.


Pokey is not the most active, but despite her name being Pokey, she is fast when she wants to be. When roaming the backyard, she will spend time exploring, but usually stops when she finds some dandelions, which is her favorite snack.


“It is most interesting to watch her eat and to feed her. She’ll stick her tongue out to touch the food, then bring her head forward to bite into it and eat. This makes it easy to hold a piece of spinach or kale, or a sliced strawberry, and feed her,” Phelps said.


On a yearly basis, Pokey has two distinct phases. During the spring and summer months, she lives in a secure pen in Phelps’ yard, which is protected on all sides to keep her in and keep everything else out. Her pen has a covered house for her to sleep in, a water dish, a sunning stone, and sand to remind her of her natural habitat.


Pokey hibernates during the fall and winter. Her eating slows when it starts to get cold. She will signal that she is ready for her long nap, by stopping to eat all together. During the cold months, she lives in a large Rubbermaid storage bin with sand. There are air holes in the lid. She is placed somewhere that is cool and dark. She will sleep without waking for about 6 months.


When it starts to warm up in the spring, the Phelps family begins monitoring her. She will signal once more when she is ready to be awake, by moving around and being active. This is when Phelps will prep her outdoor pen and the process starts all over.


Pokey seems to enjoy the companionship of the Phelps family.


“She responds to our voices with an eager desire to get close,” Phelps said. “Some of that is food, sure, but sometimes she comes close and rejects food. I think she enjoys our company. She’ll also rub her head against affectionate touches, such as petting her with a finger or I sometimes even sneak in for a kiss.”


The Phelps family makes sure her needs are met. She gets plenty of fresh water, fresh vegetables every day, and protection when the weather is bad.


Pokey will still be hibernating this Valentine’s Day, so her special treats will have to wait.


“We’ll have a cornucopia of her favorites, fresh and ready for her, to celebrate her big nap and start 2020 off right for her,” Phelps said.