League opener is bigger than UH lets on

Catch the Cougars feeling frisky, and you might get somebody to say the game carries added weight because it's the American Athletic Conference opener. While the cast of characters has changed, most notably with the departure of UCF quarterback Blake Bortles to the NFL, the feeling has not for the Cougars, who came within 7 yards of pulling off a big road upset that might have changed the course of last season. UCF had the best season in school history, winning the inaugural AAC title, crashing the Bowl Championship Series party, and beating Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl to cap a 12-1 campaign. The stakes aren't quite as high in the rematch, although a win in the AAC opener could help the Cougars "start the train rolling in the right direction," senior linebacker Efrem Oliphant said. After losing to UTSA in the opener, UH has sandwiched a pair of wins against Grambling State and UNLV around a road loss to BYU. [...] as game day arrives, a bit of truth.

Preparing dog, self for snakebites is key

When a camo-clad, mud-spattered, sweat-soaked and seriously worried Fred Shannon hurriedly carried Maggie through the doors of Coastal Plains Animal Clinic in El Campo a couple of Saturday mornings ago, he was repeating a scene occurring, with minor variations, thousands of times each year in Texas. Marquardt, who has practiced veterinary medicine at Coastal Plains Animal Clinic since 1991, has seen scores of snakebit dogs, many of them hunting dogs. Texas sees thousands, almost all of them caused by one of three pit vipers - copperheads, cottonmouths (water moccasins) and western diamondback rattlesnakes. A diamondback was responsible for Maggie's situation, and the encounter illustrates how such misadventures often occur, steps owners should take should they occur, and protective and preventative measures dog owners can take to reduce the severity of a bite's effects and lessen odds of a dog's being bitten. Shannon and his companions were hunting teal on a shallow wetland near Palacios in Matagorda County and dropped a bluewing that fell onto a low, brushy levee rimming the pond. [...] forget the old practice of making incisions on the fang marks and hoping the bleeding will flush venom from the bite; the cutting can damage muscle and, in the case of snakes with strongly hemotoxic venom (such as rattlesnakes) that short-circuits blood's clotting properties, trigger massive and potentially fatal blood loss. The vaccine, on the market for little more than a decade, is made from rattlesnake venom and, many vets are convinced, lessens the toxic effects of bites from rattlesnakes and copperheads, two pit vipers whose venom shares many traits. Lancing to relieve pressure from swelling could trigger massive blood loss, so that's not an option with most serious rattlesnake or copperhead bites. Bailey spent a week under veterinary care, being pumped full of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, fluids, steroids, antihistamines and pain medication and carefully monitored for kidney problems that can be common with severe snakebites. Avoiding brushy levees or other "high ground" rimming or near wetlands, thick cover such as cactus clumps or jumbles of rocks, brush or other "snaky" terrain should be a priority for hunters using their retrievers, pointers or other canine companions over the coming hunting season. The best dog-owning hunters can do is prepare their dogs as best as possible for snake encounters (avoidance training, rattlesnake vaccine), keep dogs out of "snaky" habitat, know what to do if a dog it struck, and keep the names and phone numbers of area veterinarians handy.

City expands smoking ban to include Main Street Square

Main Street Square is now a smoke-free zone following the City Council's decision Wednesday to expand Houston's smoking ban to pedestrian plazas, marking the latest effort from the Parker administration to curb lighting up in public places. The changes to the smoking ordinance are twofold: it expands the ban to Houston's three so-called "public pedestrian plazas" - streets permanently closed to car traffic but open to pedestrians; it also adds "combustible" and "plant materials" to products included in the smoking ban. In researching how to ban smoking at Main Street Square, the legal department realized there were two other areas in the city that qualify as public pedestrian walkways: a small area on Dunlavy north of Allen Parkway near Beth Yeshurun Cemetery and a block-long portion of the Columbia Tap Rail Trail along Walker Street between Dowling and St. Charles. Previously, the city's smoking ordinance contemplated only tobacco, outlawing smoking within 25 feet of a public facility, places of employment, bars and restaurants, outdoor sports arenas and stadiums, city libraries and parks.

Rockets to unveil new luxury suites at Toyota Center for Rockets’ season

Fans at Toyota Center will have another option for luxury seating when the Rockets start this season. The 1510 Reserve, which is being constructed along the baseline that faces the stage in a concert set-up, will give fans the chance to have a luxury suite experience in a new atmosphere, Toyota Center VP of Sales and Services Gretchen Sheirr said. The new area has sections of four and six seats, set up theater box style. The new set up shouldn’t change the arena’s capacity. The 1510 Reserve also features two party suites. It will be open for concerts and Rockets games this season. Tickets for the new area, as well [...]