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If your pet shreds toys, consider buying organic

AKRON, Ohio - Carol Wine had a rude awakening to the dangers of pet toys - not that she was unaware of the debacle that has become Chinese manufacturing.

AKRON, Ohio - Carol Wine had a rude awakening to the dangers of pet toys - not that she was unaware of the debacle that has become Chinese manufacturing.

This particular toy also came from the Orient, though that was far from her mind when she picked it up in a major pet store chain that she had always trusted. It's a subject worth reviewing as the holidays approach.

But first, let's meet her dog, CandiCane. The chubby English bulldog was an undisciplined, untrained bundle of love when Wine inherited her after her grandpa died in Florida.

Wine, a secretary with the Akron Police Department, apologizes about Candi's inherited name, but it seems so appropriate.

"She's roly-poly and all she does is eat," Wine said. "She snores so loud, my house vibrates."


She is clearly charmed.

"I had to train her at 6 years old," said Wine, owner of a formerly white carpet. "She learns quickly but she's very stubborn. I'm really glad I have her. ... They're worth it. They're so sweet."

The toy in question, a reindeer, had a nearly 3-inch-long needle buried lengthwise in the material.

Wine checked the toy out before she gave it to Candi, and it seemed fine initially.

"We were doing this tug of war and I saw this silver thing ... then something pricked my hand. ... I just happened to go home at lunch that day. What was especially alarming to me is if I had just given her the toy and then left the house. You know how they bite and try to get the squeaker out."

With a consumer like Candi in the house, Wine buys toys by the dozens and returned a bag of them to the company, along with the needle. Employees took a photo of the offending projectile and called corporate, which promised to get back to her. She wasn't surprised when no one did.

Wine can't get the image out of her head of a sweatshop worker afraid to tell her boss that he or she lost a needle while making the reindeer, she said.

"I wanted people to be aware to check their toys periodically." The issue transcends needles, though. If the toy is too small, it can go down the hatch.


Toys can get stuck

Anyone who watches "Emergency Vets" on Animal Planet has witnessed the horrors that can be wreaked when a stick caught just so gets stuck in a dog's throat.

Make sure all your pet's toy balls are too large for that.

Size is relative, of course. A St. Bernard could choke on a ball that's safe for a Pekingese.

And watch your dog to see how he plays with toys. If he tears them apart and then eats them, you'll want to avoid soft toys altogether because you don't know the content of the materials.

Are they made with safe - er, edible - stuffing materials, plastics, rubbers, dyes and chemicals? Probably not.

Buying safe toysI have found one source online, and there probably are others, for organic, dye-free and chemical-free natural fiber toys made in the United States -http://www.purrfectplay.com . Owners of rough-and-tumble beasties can trust the indestructible Kong toys ( http://www.kongcompany.com ), which the company promises are made here with U.S. ingredients.

Meanwhile, Wine and Candi appear to have dodged a bullet. They are, unlike many, looking forward to the first snow because Candi has never seen the fluffy, white stuff before.


Wine is enchanted by her, but said she has concerns about her future.

"I'm thinking, oh my God, with all that snoring, I'll probably never get remarried."

So there you have it.

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