Jeff Precourt with dogs

Jeff Precourt on the trail with Marshall, left, and Hachi. Waiting at home are Shady, a 19-year-old cat, and a Betta fish who's been named Lil' Rambo. 

Greetings readers, and thanks so much for reading our second year of "All About Pets."

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, we Oregonians rank fourth nationally in pet ownership by state. That fourth-place finish comes with 64% of Oregon households represented. To put that plainly if you don’t own a pet it’s likely the neighbor on both sides of you does.

So, whether you’re one of the 36.5% of US households that has a dog, the 30.4% that has a cat, or some other pet combination of all or none, we hope you’ll find enjoyment in reading this section. As a pet owner myself, this topic is near and dear to my heart.

My partner, Bonnie, and I have a stable of pets. Our pack includes two dogs, a cat and a fish. The elder statesman of the group is Shady, a 19-year-old cat who’s been with Bonnie since college. He’s quite happy for his age, although he’ll only eat one kind of canned food these days. We often get stares in the checkout line as we buy 30 cans of chicken pate. Our thought is simply that he’s so old he can have whatever he wants. He’s still quite cuddly and will yowl like a cranky old man if he’s not fed on time. I often joke “apparently this chest needs a cat” as he cuddles up for some love.

Our youngest is our fish. He’s a Betta who won’t eat anything but blood worms. This is not balanced nutrition for a Betta. However, it’s all he’s ever been willing to eat. We thought he wouldn’t last long on this diet. He was originally named Sapphire but we quickly changed his name to Lil’ Rambo. It seems as though “he decides when he dies.” He’s made it a whole year on partial nutrition. His nickname is Zombie Fish.

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The older of our two dogs is Marshall. He’s a basset hound-rat terrier mix who weighs in around 35 pounds. At 9 years of age he’s going strong and loves a good Oregon hike. Marshall’s nickname is “sturdy little trail dog” and he’s never as happy as when he’s leading the way on a trail. This dog has so many miles under his belt he’d put many well-hiked Oregonians to shame. Bonnie and I are avid hikers and over time we wanted another dog to join the three of us on hikes.

This led us to Hachi. He’s a mix of a Pomeranian and Alaskan Klee Kai, which is pretty much a miniature husky. Hachi looks like a tiny wolf puppy and weighs a mere 8 pounds. At first sight, we weren’t sure if he would be able to keep up. We discussed the possible need for a doggy backpack when he joined the family. He does have an athletic little frame so it didn’t seem too odd that he’d be a good trail dog. We just weren’t certain his tiny legs would carry him for miles upon miles with elevation. He has been an extreme success on the trail. Given, he’s still bounding with puppy energy, but a 7-mile hike to Green Peak Falls didn’t slow him down one bit. His nickname is “fancy little trail dog” as he prances alongside Marshall in pure joy.

This year’s edition of "All About Pets" also includes our cutest pet photo contest. Peruse the pages near the center of this section and let us know what you think. Yes, we all think our pets are the cutest. We’re all right about that.

"All About Pets" has been a labor of love for one of our staffers, Kay Roth. She’s written nearly every piece in this section and we are grateful for her hard work and dedication to Linn and Benton counties. Thanks Kay, we’re all enjoying the fruits of your labor.

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Jeff Precourt is publisher of the Mid-Valley Media Group.