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"learn about a dog's character and how to treat them better. The stars can help determine when to buy the puppy," she said, "You can find a breeder that's going to have a litter of Cancers or something."

Vasquez has been consulting Belshaw for 10 years. Every member of her family has a chart. "It's just amazing that you can get the character of an animal," she said. "I recommend it. I know people think it's crazy, but it works."

Astrology is an age-old pseudo-science, although astrologers say it is a true science, dating back to the Babylonian and Chaldean cultures. Ancient astrologers studied the behavior of the sun, moon and five planets-the remaining weren't discovered until this millennium-and forecast how they thought the celestial bodies affected Earth and its inhabitants.

Astrology thrived in the 1300s and 1400s until astronomers Copernicus and Galileo proved that Earth was not the center of the universe. Despite that find and the discovery of more planets, however, astrology didn't die. In fact, a Gallup Poll showed that 47 percent of Americans express some belief in astrology.

That includes forecaster Star Night, aka Gerri Cadiz, editor of Hawaii's kennel club publication Ill & Poop. For her astrology column, she writes to entertain rather than predict the future. Some examples:

For Libra: A perfect time for romance. Make sure you have homes for puppies before you start making whoopee.

And for Scorpio: Visit your mother...and take her a bone. She may not remember you but she'll be glad to see you anyway.

"I love horoscopes," Cadiz said, laughing. "I read them, and then 30 seconds later I forget what they say. But they always give you some encouragement and some hope that things are going to get better."

Even Leslie Traill, a devoted astrologer and co-author of What's Your Sign? Astrological Tips for Dogs, treats canine astrology with humor. Her book features a light- hearted introduction into the subject for dog owners. "I see [my book] as an opp- opportunity to have a good giggle and perhaps learn a little about yourself," she said, "Astrology allows you to be aware of the positives and negatives in your personalities, and in your dog."

Astrology can be a useful tool in understanding your dog and meeting his or her needs, astrologers say. "For example, if you have a Capricorn, you need to stick to schedules,"

Belshaw said. "Or, if you have a party animal Aquarius, consider owning more than one dog. Astrology can help you go along with your dog's natural tendencies."

So let's get this straight. The position of Jupiter at the time a dog is born can help you understand your dog's personality? The theory has its critics.

"That's as plausible as, say, a dog's character being affected by the presence of a Boeing 747 somewhere over the world during the birth," said Andrew Franknoi, an astronomer at Foothill College near San Francisco.

"One good way to get people to think about the validity of astrology is to suggest a similar 'science' not so weighed down with tradition and history," he said. "I ask people to consider 'jetology,' which contends that the positions of all the world's jumbo jets at the moment a person is born affects their personality or destiny."

"Scientific studies have proven astrologers have correct predictions about as often as those who guess at them. But astrology attracts believers because they seek guidance and are taken with the idea charts are created especially for them," Franknoi said.

"They also seem to want the same personal attention for their dogs-a dubious precedent if taken seriously," he said.

"The danger occurs when your dog is ill and, instead of taking it to the vet, you've taken it to an astrologer and they say, 'This is just the way a Gemini dog acts.' If you are a dog owner, should you follow a 3,000-year-old superstition or should you be getting advice from doctors, trainers and pet owners who have a lot of experience?"

Astrology has become more mainstream in the past 15 years, in part because of its popularity among celebrities. Baby boomers, interested in holistic therapies and the New Age, have embraced astrology's spiritual side. If you believe dogs are affected by the stars, pick up a book on astrology and apply the sun sign's characteristics to your dog. You might find your Leo, born in late July or early August, is dominant, strong-willed and courageous or your Pisces, born in late February or early March, is gentle and compassionate. Paw Icon

Patricia Kime is a free-lance writer based in Twentynine Palms, California.

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