Gabe Gregoire

Gabe Gregoire

Dog Food Wisdom from Above

Many thanks to local veterinarian Nadia F. Conti, DVM, who wrote in to point out that I had unknowingly helped to perpetuate at least one misconception about canine dental care. We think it is worth it to print her letter in its entirety, and we are very happy to have been corrected by someone who knows. Dr. Conti writes:


Love your column — any article that supports the wellbeing of our pets is great. However, there are a few things I want to point out from a veterinary perspective.


You said, "Use dry food (kibble), not wet. When dogs eat kibble, the chomping, crushing action on the hard pellets naturally abrades plaque and tartar off the teeth. Wet food, on the other hand, not only does not provide this cleaning factor, but also can stick to teeth, actually accelerating decay. So give wet food on occasion as a treat, but on a daily basis, if possible, feed your dog a high-quality dry food from a reputable manufacturer."


The fact that dry food is better than wet food to reduce plaque and periodontal disease is a common fallacy and one that needs to be addressed. While foods such as Hill's Science Diet t/d have been formulated and documented to control tartar and plaque (clean) by its specially designed matrix, your standard dry dog food is unable to do this. Carnivores' sharp pointed teeth are designed to grasp, kill, and gulp food down, and the few flat-surfaced molar teeth they possess (none are present in cats) are designed to crush and grind. From a evolutionary standpoint, dog and cat teeth were largely designed to eat "wet" food (i.e. flesh from their prey) and the idea of it accelerating decay is a misconception.


You said, "Speaking of treats, you may have suspected that those oral-care focused doggie treats were nothing but a marketing ploy, but we have it from Dr. Michael Tuder, owner and director of four animal hospitals on the East Coast, that they do work. Snacks like Greenies or Natural Balance … microscopically rub against the teeth and remove debris. So compared with expensive veterinary procedures down the road, the price of dental dog treats is justified for loving dog owners."


Dental chews are a great idea, however I suggest that the ones chosen have a Veterinary Oral Health Concil (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance. This council of independent veterinary dentists receives voluntary data submitted by the companies that demonstrate the required dental efficacy - reducing the formation of plaque and tartar - and then awards the product the seal. The VOHC has a website that all can access to get a list of these products and other useful information:


Of course, despite our best efforts (brushing, water additives, dental chews, nutritious foods) dental disease can occur and that is why a yearly veterinary check up is important to assess the condition of teeth, and schedule a cleaning if necessary. Again, thanks for the good work of shedding light on this important topic and others.


Cheers to you,

Nadia F. Conti, DVM

Scarborough Animal Hospital

  • Published in Pets

Two Low-Impact Nature Hikes

Among athletes, the casual hiker is less hardcore than, say, the running devotee or the victory-driven baseball player. For the hikers, their sport is less about strengthening the muscles or increasing the heart rate than it is about getting out into natural surroundings and enjoying the sounds, sights and smells that only come with being outside the city or suburbs. Birdsong, breeze through the treetops, the scent of earth and pine. A strengthening of the spirit, if you will. Of course, there are those hikers who are ultra-outfitted and do things like walk the entire Appalachian Trail every few years just to relax and recharge. But for our purposes here, if you like the idea of a low-impact walk in the woods, these two upcoming free events are for you:


On Friday, May 12 at the Trout Brook Nature Preserve (47 Parrott St, SoPo) at 9 a.m., it’s Get to Know Your Trails, a series of walks sponsored by the South Portland Land Trust. On this one, participants will be guided for approximately an hour on an easy hike through the Preserve, becoming familiar with the trail system’s layout and learning about the rich history of the area. The focus will be on appreciating this part of South Portland’s wooded areas and its various forms of life, in a leisurely manner, so kids (and well-behaved dogs) are welcome. The event can also be found at on Facebook.


The next day, go to the Bird & Nature Walk at Pleasant Hill Preserve (302 Pleasant Hill Rd, Scarborough) at 5 p.m. to check out their brand-new trail and experience the multitude of birds that call these woods home. The hike is for all ages and will be led by area business leader and conservationist Eddie Woodin. To give you some idea of Woodin’s local cachet, there has been an award given in his name yearly since 2006 that recognizes families for things like having the smallest carbon footprint. He will discuss Pleasant Hill’s plants, trees, and wetlands and help attendees explore wild birds’ roosting, nesting and feeding places. Find more at .


So go and let Mother Nature speak to you. Listen, and you might just learn a few secrets.

  • Published in Sports

Outside the Box for Mom

Upon hearing the phrase "Mother's Day," many women who are raising or have raised children will scoff and say, “Everyday should be Mother’s Day,” the implication being that moms are the hardest working people on earth (and the veterans of the most pain). It is an assertion against which it is hard to argue. So to make this year special, here’s a spin on the usual breakfast in bed, card and flowers, comprising three events nearby this weekend:

On Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to noon at Michaels (490 Payne Rd, Scarborough), the Kids Club crafting activity will be making handmade Mother’s Day cards, with supplies provided. Ask any mom whether she prefers original drawings or slickness from the drugstore on the cards she gets for Mother’s Day and you can see why this is a good idea. Parents do not have to be in the crafting room with their kids (ages 3 and up), but they must remain on Michaels premises. (If you’ve seen their inventory, you won’t be at a loss for things to look at.) There are only ten seats available for this Kids Club, so register at (click on Kids’ Programs) for only $2.

Okay, the cards are made and hidden, to be given the next day, to Mom’s adulation. Now it’s time for a Mother’s Day Brunch, specifically, the one at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine (142 Free St., Portland) on Sunday, May 14, from 10 to 11 a.m. The meal is free with admission to the museum, which is $10 per person (under 18 months free). The menu? Delicious fresh fruit, and hotcakes shaped like hearts. And the best part, nobody has to clean the kitchen! So enjoy brunch, and take a gander at some of the other offerings at the Museum.

But don’t stay too long, because for the ‘flowers’ part of the program, you’ll be heading to the Spring Wildflower Walk at Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park (426 Wolf Neck Rd, Freeport), that same day at 2 p.m. You’ll need to pay for admission to the park (for Mainers, under 5 free, 12–64, $5, 65 and older free), but the walk doesn’t cost anything extra. A friendly and knowledgeable guide will spend an hour with your family, discovering and enjoying Maine wildflowers, from the common Blackeyed Susan to the secretive Jack-in-the-pulpit, much to the delight of the one who’s probably already wondering what she’s going to feed her crew for dinner.

Dads and partners, you might want to do the dishes.


  • Published in Kids

A Mobile Meal for Mutts

One could say that the presence of regularly appearing food trucks in a city is an indication of its having arrived on the national scene in terms of culinary offerings. Our town, even setting aside Portland’s darling status as a foodie city for its traditional restaurants, has certainly met that mark. From Mami to El Corazon, even Love Kupcakes with their truck, if you’re walking near downtown, you can probably find something to eat without ever leaving the sidewalk.

But a food truck for dogs?

That’s right. The nationally touring Good Stuff Pet Truck will be making its Portland stop at the Quarry Run Dog Park (1026 Ocean Ave) on Thursday, May 11 from 4 to 7 p.m.

The attractions offered by Good Stuff are threefold: First and foremost, they will be offering free doggie treats to all who bring their canines to Quarry Run. Since the truck and the tour’s sponsor is American Pet Nutrition, the selection will no doubt include their Vita Bone® Artisan Inspired® Treats, Biscuits and Chewy Sticks, and their Beggar Dog™ Biscuits. Grab a handful for later.

Second, attached to the truck will be a backyard-like area with a picket fence and ‘grass,’ where dog owners will be invited for a photo opportunity with their pets in front of the admittedly very eye-catching vehicle. And who couldn’t use a few more pictures of their preferred pet? These will be good ones. The hashtag, in case you’re wondering, is #GoodStuffPetTruck.

Finally, attendees will be invited to participate in training demos and question-and-answer sessions with tour trainers, who use positive-reinforcement methods and have expertise in problem areas like chewing and soiling. A note for those who aren’t already aware: positive reinforcement involves rewarding good behavior to encourage its habitual repetition, as opposed to negative, or aversive, reinforcement, which professes to eliminate bad behavior by punishing it (think of the ancient method of ‘rubbing the dog’s nose in it’).

So reward yourself and your dog, and check out this funky truck.


  • Published in Pets

Now that You're Warmed Up ...

Many of our local runners have broken in this season’s shoes, worked out the kinks in their joints, and participated in their first timed race or two of the year. A few even took the winter to have nagging injuries repaired, and are now finding their strength again. But all, it seems, have been infected by the life, the green energy, that is once more coursing throughout the world outdoors. Earth is once again starting to tilt toward the sun, and that fiery star is drawing athletes like a magnet. Let the warmth and the longer days entice you to one or more of these local runs as the season continues:


The 11th Annual Run for Hope: Taking place at the Maine Girls’ Academy (631 Stevens Ave) on Saturday, May 6 at 8 a.m., this run benefits the James and Maxine Pouravelis Memorial Scholarship, which financially supports the intellectual, spiritual and athletic development of young women seeking to enroll at the MGA. For the race itself, there are three options: a 5K run, a 2.5-mile walk, or a 1K kids’ fun run. The prize? The top three male and female finishers in the 5K will be put in a drawing for a pair of Boston Red Sox tickets. Stick around after the event for food and fun at the post-race celebration. The event URL is .


The Polar Bear Triathlon & Duathlon: This one’s in Brunswick, on the campus of Bowdoin College (Farley Field House, 35 Watson Dr) on Saturday, May 6 at 8:30 a.m. It’s a good way to break into the triathlon season without a shock to the system from icy water, as the swimming part of the sprint triathlon will be held indoors at Bowdoin’s sixteen-lane pool. That’s 525 yards, followed by an 11.5-mile bike ride along coastal country roads, and a 3-mile run on wide hard-packed trails and quiet residential streets. Even the transition area is pleasant; it’s flat and grassy. Visit the USA Triathlon-sanctioned race’s web page at .


The Maine Walks with Haiti 5K Walk/Run: Half race and half festival, this 5K starts at the Back Cove parking lot across from Hannaford, on Saturday, May 13 at 8:30 a.m. Funds raised will benefit Konbit Sante, a Maine-based organization working to improve health in Portland's Haitian sister city, Cap-Haitien. There are prizes for top runners, unspecified in nature as of press time. But the focus is really on family fun, with plenty of live entertainment, food, Haitian art, and more. It’s the best of both worlds. For more information, visit .


If you’ve been thinking about your running shoes as you read, go with the instinct. Get out there.

  • Published in Sports

BFFs Make It All Okay

If you grew up in the U.S., chances are that you have fond memories of Sesame Street, the characters you loved, the things the show taught you. And Sesame Street is where word-magician Mo Willem got his start, as a writer and an animator. Now, years later, his characters Elephant Gerald and Piggie have leapt off the pages of Willem’s books and onto the stage at Merrill Auditorium, in the rollicking children’s musical, Elephant & Piggie's "We Are In A Play!" The production this weekend takes place Saturday, May 7 at 1 p.m., tickets are $15. Children ages 4+ will be the ideal audience.


In a nutshell, the play is about how what happens next is less important than who’s going to be there with you, namely, your best bud. Elephant and Piggie go through such tribulations as what to wear to a fancy pool costume party, how long to wait for your friend before you eat all the ice cream yourself, and how mad you’re going to stay at that same friend because they threw your favorite toy. Then, through the wonder of words and music, Elephant and Piggie come to an important epiphany: this whole time, they’ve been in a play, and hey, look out there, all our other friends are really here! At that point, the audience-participation factor gets ramped up by a factor of ten, and, long story short, your kids bring home the best, worst earworms since Frozen. Orders have been known to come up from young captains to get on Amazon and buy all the Elephant & Piggie books. Fair warning. But don’t worry, all the reviews are saying that adults have fun at the musical, too.




  • Published in Kids

Wassamki: The Westminster of Maine

‘Rumor’ the German Shepherd took home Best In Show a couple of months ago, and deservedly so. If you’re like us, Westminster inspired dreams within you as a dog lover, of jogging around that show ring with your intelligent, loyal animal at your side, remaining serene under the spotlight, and finally standing next to your best friend, as the judge, with his or her arcane canine knowledge, pokes and prods. Will your purebred rise above the rest?


Well, when you come out of your reverie and give your dog a smile and a treat in real life, also get out your schedule and clear some room for the Eighth Annual Southern Maine Coastal Classic Dog Show, to be held at Wassamki Springs Campground (56 Saco St, Scarborough) over the four days between Thursday, May 18 and Sunday, May 21, starting each morning at 8 a.m. Admission is $5.00 per car, with ample parking in and around the campground.


This event is proof that even though National Purebred Dog Day has passed (it was Monday the 1st), the spirit of canine showmanship lives on in Maine this spring. The Coastal Classic is the state’s largest dog event. Hundreds of purebreds will converge on Wassamki, bringing their owners, breeders, and/or handlers, of course, to show off their poise and instinct to obey. Sponsors The York County Kennel Club of Maine and Vacationland Dog Club promise that a large percentage of the AKC’s 180 recognized breeds will be present for spectators to meet. Over the show’s four days, which will go on rain or shine, events will include daily All Breed Dog Shows and Obedience and Rally Trials; a 4 to 6 Month Beginner Puppy Competition; a Junior Showmanship competition in Open, Intermediate and Novice classes; a Best Bred By Exhibitor Competition, and more. This is the real deal.


Convinced? Just one more thing. Learn more and get directions if you need them, at

  • Published in Pets

Three Early-Season Road Races

Fire up your FitBit; the foot racing season is in full swing. Stretch out, warm up, and check out these three upcoming area races:


A new event, the Presidential Seaside Duathlon, takes place in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport on Saturday, April 29 starting at 8:30 a.m. The full race consists of an 18-mile bike ride sandwiched between two 5K runs, a USAT sanctioned duathlon with a $1,000 purse. Alternatively, you can stick with just the 5K run/walk at the start. Of course, the route passes by the Bush family’s beautiful Walker’s Point Estate. Organizers, the Kennebunk Rotary, have been putting on some iteration of the Presidential Road Race for 25 years now, but this incarnation is the first of its exact sort. For complete information, visit .


For the ladies, this year’s The Power of She 5K is at the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport (95 Ocean Ave) on Sunday, April 30 at 11 a.m. This is directly before the Maine Women’s Expo at the resort, admission to which is included in registration for the fun run. In addition, $8.00 out of every registration will go directly to benefit Crossroads for Women, helping to combat substance abuse in our state. The 5K will be done Boot Camp style, with coach Leslie Carroll-Flemming leading participants in cardio exercises along the run’s riverside length. It’s an important and empowering experience, so bring your moms, daughters, aunts and nieces. Check out for more.


Finally, there’s the Falmouth Foreside 5K Run and Walk, beginning and ending at St. Mary’s Church in Falmouth (43 Foreside Rd), on Saturday, May 6 at 8 a.m. This is a race with cash prizes put up by sponsors ReMax and WEX, among others, all to benefit the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland, who are currently building a 13-home mixed-income neighborhood in Scarborough. A straightforward race. Learn more at .


That should keep those heart rates up!

  • Published in Sports

New Mothers, This One's for You

Back in the day, when a woman found out she was pregnant and decided she was going to raise her child, her sources of information were basically limited to her own mother’s and grandmother’s collective advice, and reading Dr. Spock. Those are still two very good ideas, but in the past several decades, science has advanced, industry has done its best to keep up, and now there is a whole world of resources available to mothers-to-be and new mothers who have already met their babies. If you fit into either of those two categories, go to the event that is custom-tailored for you: the Portland Mom and Baby Expo, at the Portland Expo (239 Park Ave) on Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6 (noon – 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., respectively). Admission is $5.00, with valet parking available for $10.00.

More than eighty vendors and exhibitors are scheduled to be offering their goods and services, all dedicated to the well-being of pregnant women and new families. The list of exhibitors includes Au Pair in America, Coastal Women’s Healthcare, Juice Plus, Mom to Mom of Maine, Sneak Peek Baby Boutique, Maine Cloth Diaper Company, and dozens and dozens more.

Among the nearly limitless things to do at the Expo: A Babywearing Corner, staffed by leading national expert, Kristi Hayes-Devlin, owner of Wrapsody and the founder of the BCIA (Baby Carrier Industry Alliance); a Storybook Corner created by award-winning Islandport Press; and free seminars with titles like, “Healthy Sleep, Happy Family,” “Breastpumping 101,” and, “Ignite Your Mojo as a Mum,” among many others.

The bottom line is, this 2nd annual Mom and Baby Expo is a great place to go, no matter what may be making you wonder about the immediate future of yourself and your child, or even if you’re completely at ease, and just want to learn more and meet other mothers.



  • Published in Kids

Doggie Dental Care: What To Do

Everybody knows that feeling of disappointment that sets in when the dentist says, “Yup, you’ve got a cavity. We’ll schedule you for a filling.” You think, “Damn, I could have prevented that if I had flossed more.” Then you realize how much that new filling is going to cost, and by the time you’re back in your car, you’re already mentally cutting date night out of your budget for the next couple of weeks, wondering if you could be convincing, making an Amazon-and-popcorn night sound just as fun as Ed Sheeran at Cross. And that’s like a relatively successful dental health experience.


As unpleasant as that is, your dog isn’t that lucky. Without human intervention, veterinarians warn, dogs are likely to develop dental disease, which damages their gums, the bones beneath, and the ligaments that hold the teeth in place. The bacteria of which dental tartar is mostly composed can even enter a dog’s bloodstream, eventually infecting the kidneys, heart, and other vital organs. Needless to say, this is not a pain-free experience for your pup.


Obviously, a program of preventive care is a much healthier, less expensive alternative. Here are some things that animal experts say you can do to keep those fearsome fangs smiling:


  1. Use dry food (kibble), not wet. When dogs eat kibble, the chomping, crushing action on the hard pellets naturally abrades plaque and tartar off the teeth. Wet food, on the other hand, not only does not provide this cleaning factor, but also can stick to teeth, actually accelerating decay. So give wet food on occasion as a treat, but on a daily basis, if possible, feed your dog a high-quality dry food from a reputable manufacturer.

  2. Speaking of treats, you may have suspected that those oral-care focused doggie treats were nothing but a marketing ploy, but we have it from Dr. Michael Tuder, owner and director of four animal hospitals on the East Coast, that they do work. Snacks like Greenies or Natural Balance “... microscopically rub against the teeth and remove debris.” So compared with expensive veterinary procedures down the road, the price of dental dog treats is justified for loving dog owners.

  3. Watch for behavioral indicators from your pet that would stem from dental discomfort, so you can spot any problems early. If your dog is chewing on one side only or avoiding chewing in general, or their breath is uncharacteristically smelly, or you detect swelling on the jaw or around the eye, the teeth are more than likely involved. Time for a vet visit.

  4. Finally, and most importantly, brush your dog’s teeth as often as possible (once a day is ideal). Yes, at first, it can be as much work as getting them into the bath. And yes, we know that you are a busy adult with limited extra time. But if you and your dog can work together and ingrain this habit into your lives, you will head a lot of trouble off at the pass. (Note: use enzyme-based canine paste, not human paste, as fluoride is harmful to dogs.)


Of course, no matter how conscientious you are, serious issues can rear their ugly heads. Rosie (see photo), Phoenix reader Jenny D’s Chiweenie (chihuahua/dachshund mix), is in need of some help with her teeth. So if you are in a position to do so, go to her fundraising page at and lend a hand.


Sources: ,

  • Published in Pets
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