Ever have a day when things are strangely not appearing as they seem? Your hopes get crushed, your dreams seem so far out of reach and the many troubles that cloud the mind seem to take over until they are all that can be seen, blocking out any hopeful rays of would-be sunshine. Yep, I think we all have. As you can see from the relatively new addition to the website on the right hand side of the screen, I have added a tool called an “Etsy mini.” I have created this in an effort to bring together my two loves, art and animals. In an effort to further marry these two passions of mine I have included numerous photos of my very own Furry Freuds for purchase in my Etsy shop, “The Love We Make.” See one of my most recent pieces below:
It is through the use of this site as well as Etsy that I am hoping to reach out to the public and increase awareness of animal rescue as well as fostering a love for animals and proper treatment of pets throughout the world. I feel that we all have a part that is played in the effort to help these defenseless “forever children,” and this is my part, however small it may be. I guess my message in this short little blog entry is to follow your dreams, keep a death grip on your hope for it blooms anew every single day. Sometimes my heart gets heavy, and I find myself concentrating on all of the things that I haven’t done, all that is left to be completed, all of the hurdles that stand in my way, and I become disheartened and disenchanted with the entire world. Times like these I try to take solace in the tiny joys and attempt to let them resound and multiply within my heart. To quote one of my favorite movies, Ratatouille: ” There is excellence all around you. You need only be aware to stop and savor it.” – Chef Gusteau, Ratatouille
YES! It’s been 7 long months of potty training, crate training, leash walking, and patiently waiting for the perfect family to come through for this little girl, but now that the time is here I can’t believe how bittersweet it all feels. This IS what I was hoping for, right? They seem like something out of a fairy tale for a dog’s ‘happily ever after’…three kids to play with ages 17, 13, and 10, over an acre of land that backs to the woods for her to run free, a personal doggie trainer to help with her adjustment, what more could I ask for!?!?! Alas, much like the adoptive family that Nala is about to bless with her presence, she has also captured my heart, and now I feel those heart strings being tugged by the thought of not seeing her pretty puppy face every day, or curling up with her at night.
The picture at the immediate left is our Nala girl in her “Wicked Cute” Halloween T-shirt. She sure has come a long way from the skin & bones, heart worm infested dog that was on death row in Greenville, SC!!! I am proud to say that she has come so far in the past 7 months and also feel so grateful that I was blessed to be her Foster Mom for the short time that we had together. Through all of the struggles and difficulties that we came across along the way we were able to build a strong foundation for Nala that I hope will serve her well for the rest of her life and carry her well into her golden years with her new, adoptive family. Although Nala will be sorely missed by us, we know that she is going to a family that is a dream come true for her, the sort of family that dogs must dream of, and she will ALWAYS hold a very special place in our hearts.
For those of you that are thinking about getting involved in animal rescue in ANY way, I urge you to do so! There is a GREAT need for people to be voices for the voiceless, abused, neglected and abandoned masses of animals in this world. Sadly, Nala’s story is not unique, nor is it the last time you will hear about a pet in need that was dumped by her owner’s at a high kill shelter. Animal’s NEED us, we are their guardians, their protectors and champions. The reality is that without us, they do not stand a chance against the evils of the world that threaten their survival, so please, do not be an armchair activist, get involved! Here are some EASY ways that YOU can help:
1.) DONATE old blankets, towels, pillows or sheets to animal shelters and animal rescues. Oftentimes dogs are left with nothing but a concrete floor to sleep on in a cold, drafty shelter on death row. (Pretty depressing, right?)
2.) JOIN facebook and twitter as well as sites that advocate for animal rescue in your area and help them network for animals in need. This is a FREE and easy way to help and it DOES make a difference!
3.) VISIT your local shelters. I cannot tell you how many sweet animals long for a human touch, just a pat or even a kind voice to speak to them may be enough to help lift their spirits in their time of need. Better yet, while you’re there take some pictures and get them out on your social media sites, Twitter, email to your friends and help get those poor babies OUT of there! (For more ideas or inspiration about this, see my article about “The Charles Angels” a grandmother and granddaughter team from CA that does just this for animals that are on death row.)
4.) ADVOCATE for the animals! Remember, we ARE their voices! Animals were not gifted with speech, it is our charge as humans to help these defenseless creatures by using our freedom of speech. Oftentimes people are just unaware of the problem, we need to educate them about spaying/neutering their pets, the dangers and realities of kill shelters, and how they too can help the cause.
5.) SHOP for items that give back. There are numerous sites that gift a percentage of your purchase to shelters, animal rescue organizations and treatment centers so shop SMART! Remember that every penny counts, so if you have the means, pick up an extra dog bed, collar, box of kitty litter or cat food and drop it off at your local shelter or put it in a collection bin if available.
Together we can make a difference and help to eradicate animal abuse/neglect. Thank you for reading my article, please share with your friends, relatives and co-workers. Peace be with you.
Sounds like a great idea, right? A nice furry friend to help us humans out when our lives get tough (which is often!) A little bunny to curl up with you on the couch while you watch a movie and cry after being dumped by your boyfriend. Or maybe a well-behaved friendly dog that visits senior citizens at a nursing home on weekends wagging his tail and giving puppy kisses. Whatever the case may be, surely there are a wealth of positive feelings attached to that mental image that just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. The idea might even leave you feeling as though you want to train your own Fido to give back to the community in just the same way. But there’s just one problem…how does he become “certified” as a pet therapist??? Does he have to go to school and get his Psych degree? Seems a bit outlandish, no? Is he going to have one of those couches for humans to lay on while he smokes a pipe and listens to all of our woes? Hmm…not too sure he has the attention span for that, or the patience for that matter! All jokes aside this is a question that I myself have looked into, and I thought that it would be neighborly of me to share some of the fruitful pieces of info that I was able to dig up.
Dogs of any breed, size and shape can become Therapy Dogs as long as they have one important characteristic: An excellent temperament. They must be patient, gentle, calm and well mannered, and like all kinds of people. Since they’ll be petted and handled, they also must enjoy human contact. Dogs must also be healthy and at least one year old. I personally thought that this was very cool! There’s no bias against pitties or any bully breeds, no ageism or preference with regard to color or demand for a “purebred” dog over a “mutt.” (Jeez, if only the whole world could be so open minded!)
I also learned that Certification and training varies by organization, but typically requires behavioral and obedience tests. Therapy Dogs International (TDI), the oldest and largest therapy dog organization in the U.S. (located in Flanders, New Jersey) requires a therapy-dog evaluation for suitability, which includes the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test, among other tests that assess the dog’s behavior around people. These are really the very first steps that you should take if you are interested in getting your dog certified as a therapy pet. After completing these steps you can then look into the individual state requirements and training centers near your residence. I was able to find some good local resources within my home state through an online listing provided by dogplay. One of the newest (and I think cutest) ways in which therapy dogs have come to serve us humans is through a program for children called “Tail Waggin’ Tutors.” This program helps kids that are nervous about reading publicly by giving them a very accepting yet captive audience of a four legged furry friend that listens patiently without judgement. Now tell me, just how precious is that?
I apologize that it has been so long since my last article…. as some of you may know my “day job” consists of managing the marketing, events and daily operations of a private auction company. That being said it has been difficult for me to steal any time for my Furry Freuds. BUT, that does not mean that it’s not something that’s constantly on my mind. Being that I have four furry freuds of my own at home, it is something that I am constantly thinking about, most recently that of fostering and adoption issues. My foster dog, Nala, has been put up for adoption by Moondog Rescue (the non-profit that I work with) and I have mixed feelings about this. Not unlike many other foster moms and temporary homes of death row animals, I have become very attached to my “Nala girl” (her affectionate nickname.) Over the past four months that she has been with us, Nala has truly become one of the family. She is part of the daily routine that we have at home and we have taught Nala how to behave like an “adult” doggie. Like most parents, we learned about Nala’s needs through trial and error….for example we learned that she had to be walked on a leash after our neighbors called us saying that Nala had leapt over the fence in the backyard. To make matters worse, someone had called the police to report a loose dog and when the officers attempted to corral her, she growled at them (obviously out of fear) and they threatened to take her to the pound. Thankfully since my neighbor’s son is a sheriff’s officer and she assured them that Nala lived with us, they let her go. This was just one of the many misadventures of Nala that made me fall in love with her mischievous yet endearing spirit. Not to mention the relief that I felt once I knew she was safe! There have also been “adventures” in potty & crate training (if you can call that an adventure, and I use that term loosely.) As well as lessons in walking on a leash, socialization among other animals as well as dogs….not all of them going as planned! So, all in all when I got a call from my contact at Moondog Rescue reporting that she had an adopter that was “seriously interested in Nala,” my heart dropped a bit. How can I let her go after all we’ve been through? What if she thinks that I’ve abandoned her? What if she misses her foster brothers and sister? These were just a few of the many thoughts that were running through my head as I heard my mouth utter the enthusiastic words: “That’s great!” It didn’t help matters that I had just finished reading the book A Dog’s Purpose, an in-depth novel about the dog’s experience as he goes through life with humans. Throughout this novel it is reinforced that, according to the author, the dog’s purpose is to take care of humans and ensure that they are happy and content. He also goes on to weave some amazingly beautiful and heartfelt stories centering on themes of loyalty, honor, trust and love. Fearful of letting my “Furry Freud” leave my home feeling lost, abandoned or worse, betrayed, I am very wary of the implications that this decision have for the remainder of her life course. And yet, as I continue to contemplate all of these aspects of her departure, the words of my Moondog Rescue associate echo off the walls in my mind, “It doesn’t have to be bittersweet, you can keep her!” I suppose that I still have a great deal more thinking to do in the weeks to come.
Have you ever thought that the “tag”, “share” or “like” that you imposed on an animal’s picture didn’t make a difference? Well these ladies would beg to differ! Meet Celeste Charles and her granddaughter Alexis, the dynamic duo from Downey California that works to rescue numerous pups from their local shelter every single day. Her weapons of choice? A digital camera and a personal Facebook account. I had the privledge of speaking with Celeste and interviewing her in preparation to write this article. I must say that although her reputation for being an animal lover, rescuer and true champion of animal rights did proceed her, it did NOT prepare me for the conversation that we were about to have. The depths of this conversation reached far below the surface of human interactions and delved into the depths of what it means to be not only an animal rights activist, but a compassionate, empathic individual whom believes that animals have feelings just the same as you and I do. It was truly an honor to be touched by this woman’s life, and a generous gift of her to let me into her world by sharing her story. Celeste began by speaking about the remarkable network that she was introduced to through Facebook, recalling how as recently as a year ago she was under the impression that shelters were a “safe place for animals to go, I had no idea that they killed them there. Some people might think that’s naive but that’s really what I thought. I learned how to work Facebook for the dogs as I started to put pictures up there to network them. I remember seeing these people that were called “crossposters” on Facebook posting pictures of these shelter animals and I just thought, what do they mean they are going to be killed!? I would cry like a baby at my computer as I learned of all of these horrible things that humans do to animals, how they are killed how people treat them, I mean I would be sitting at my computer sobbing but I had to watch these horrific videos because that was how I learned the truth of what is really happening out there.” Celeste’s primary involvement has been at the Downey shelter in Downey, California. She and her 9 year old granddaughter, Alexis, volunteer their time there and devote their energies to networking, rescuing and advocating for the animals trapped in this high-kill shelter. As she began to recount her first experience at the shelter I could feel her anxiety, despair and passionate determination through the phone. “I will never forget the first time that I was at the shelter, it was October 2010 and I was there for a pit-bull rescue with a friend and it just so happened that I got to the shelter before she did. I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot and I was literally shaking out of fear of what I might see in there because I could hear all of the dogs barking and howling from outside in the parking lot inside my car.” As luck would have it, Celeste’s friend was networking with a rescuer that just happened to be out of the state at this time and although she had been to the shelter 3 times in attempt to pull this dog, she had yet to have any success in getting her out. Serendipitously, Celeste had just happened to befriended a puller from the shelter and the two were able to get the dog out successfully that very day. When Celeste got home, her ears were “still ringing” from all of the barking and howling of the anxious pups and she was so distraught by everything that she had seen and experienced that day. “I realized that I couldn’t just bring them all home and I just kept thinking, how else can I help them?” Celeste came up with a great idea right then and there, she would use Facebook’s ever growing popularity and worldwide reach to gain massive amounts of exposure for these trapped dogs on death row.
As I sit here now in a busy café in Montclair NJ, I can’t help but over hear the discussion that is going on at the table directly next to me regarding the love of family pets. The three housewives next to me were animatedly chatting about their individual familial issues and debating about how they could possibly teach their children about death and discuss the passing of a pet. One of the women brought up her two kitties noting that one is black and one is white and expressing emotionally that she has difficulty “even thinking about uttering the word dead…” when talking about her precious kittens. She preferred to tell the children that they had “gone to heaven.” Without trying to eavesdrop on their conversation, I was nonetheless temporarily drawn into their world by the passion with which these women were discussing the importance of their family pets and the impact that they have had on their families and children. I must note that these are women of a very affluent area of New Jersey whom do not have to work (as per their conversation) and completely devote their time and attentions to their children, husbands, families and community activities. That being said it is intriguing to me that the women of this socio-economic stratus were so touched by their animals, which, to others may appear seemingly insignificant or unimportant. As a fellow animal lover and animal rights activist and therapist this really struck a chord with me. It reminded me of one of the basic principles which I believe in that led me to create Furry Freuds animals are universal. By that I mean that animals cross all boundaries that we humans try to create in order to make ourselves feel safe, separate, superior or otherwise different than others. The love and appreciation of animals cuts across ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic strata, races, religions, sexual orientations and many other, if not all “groups” we humans like to categorize ourselves in. It is this very powerful and beautiful love that can heal us, it breaks down the barriers that we put up around ourselves, it warms our hearts and allows us to let down our walls and take off our masks. We can be free to be our true selves around our Furry Freuds because we know that they will accept us for who we are. They do not care if we are rich or poor, skinny or fat. They don’t mind if we forgot to bring home the dry cleaning, if we lost our job or forgot their birthday. In this there is peace, there is the wonderful feeling of truly being loved, of being accepted for who we really are, not who we are trying or pretending to be. They love us for us, just the way we are and that is truly a gift that is priceless. Maybe we aren’t so different as we think, and maybe it’s not all that black and white…