Thursday, May 31, 2012

Other Blogs Worth Checking Out

Today's the last day of May, which means that it's the last day of the Blogathon that I've been participating in (and successfully completed, by posting every day this month)!

I will still post on my blog, but it will probably be more like once or twice a week instead of everyday.

If you're worried about going into withdrawals you are welcome (and encouraged) to visit old blog posts. But some of you have already read them all (several times and commented) thank you!

So I wanted to end this month with links to some blogs that I follow that write about similar topics.

Extraordinary Dogs and Extraordinary Horses are two blogs written by the same person. They are full of resources: research to back it up, grants in case you're interested in working with those animals, and charities if you're looking to sponsor someone else. The author of the blogs is a fabulous person that helped me get set up on linkedin and offered me practical advice for my blog.

Animal Friends is a great blog for cat and dog owners looking for more information about their pets. They've posted about such topics as wet food vs dry food, animal allergies, and understanding cat behavior. They also often post about animals that are up for adoption if you are looking for a new pet.

I stumbled across Coop and Cottage when I was doing research for my Respect for Chicken Day post. And I am so glad that I did! The author is a wonderful writer that shares her stories about her chickens, her children, and most recently some horses. You should definitely check her blog out!

If you want to know what it's like owning a service dog, Life With a Hearing Dog is a good blog to read. This is another blog that I discovered while looking for information for one of my posts (Hearing Ear Dog). I appreciate that she writes as herself and not her dog so you really get to know what it's like.

Assistance Dog for Autism is a fun blog by the mother of a young boy with Autism. She writes about her son and his dog's adventures. I think I also enjoy this one so much because they live in Ireland so I get to learn about what it's like there.

Dog Nerd 101 is written by a woman that trains her dogs so it's a good resource to learn about training behaviors beyond the normal "sit. stay. roll over." She also is a psychologist so she goes into some of that as well.

Do you have any cool animal blogs that you follow?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Real Dog Therapists of Dallas

Baylor Health Care System has a team of 90 dogs that help the health care professionals get patients on the road to recovery. Here are some fun videos about the Animal Assisted Therapy program from the dogs' point of view.

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:

I wish that they created more videos but I guess they are busy helping people get better, which I'd much rather they do.

Do you know of another other programs like this that found a cool way to promote themselves?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Yesterday's theme for the blogathon was a wordle creation. Instead I did a post about animal heroes for Memorial day so I'm posting my wordle today:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

What do Rifleman Khan, G.I. Joe, Simon, and Upstart have in common?

You might think they are all cartoon characters from the popular 80's t.v. series but, they were all very real heroes. Heroes that happened to be animals.

These animals have all been awarded the Dickin Medal for "conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defense Units."
Photo from wikimedia
Rifleman Khan was a one of 27 dogs to receive the medal. He was a part of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and paired with Corporal James Muldoon. One night in 1944 the two of them were on a boat together on their way to an important battle when they were spotted and fired upon. Rifleman Khan was able to swim to shore, but he discovered that Muldoon was not a swimmer. The dog went back while still under fire and brought his handler to shore, dragging him far enough out of the water to be safe.

G.I. Joe was one of 32 birds to receive the medal. This pigeon saved an entire town in Italy from being bombed. Calvi Vecchia's bombing was scheduled for October 18, 1943 but G.I. Joe brought the message to the Allied Troops that the town had already been taken by some British Troops just in time. His speed saved over 1,000 lives including both the villagers and the British Troops.

Simon was the only cat to receive the medal. He started as a sickly stray cat that was stowed away on the HMS Amethyst. He quickly earned his keep on the ship by keeping the rat population in check. After an attack by the Chinese that killed Lieutenant Commander Skinner and seriously injured Simon you'd think that he'd retire. Instead Simon raised the men's morale by continuing his job of catching rats.

Upstart was one of 3 horses to receives the medal. He was a police horse on duty when a building was bombed near him. With the glass and other building parts flying around, not to mention the noise, you'd think that the horse would spook. Not Upstart. He was recognized for his ability to remain calm at that time, allowing his rider to direct traffic and maintain order.

If you're interested in reading about the other Dickin Medal recipients, wikipedia has a great list. Keep in mind that the award has been given out 63 times, so if you prefer a shorter list BuzzFeed has chosen 15 they think are the coolest. I previously wrote a post about Roselle, another dog that received the Dickin Medal, after helping her owner get out of the Twin Towers and to safety on September 11th.

Lastly, in my research for this post I found a beautiful poem called "The Soldier's Kiss". It's about a war horse dying and how the soldier responds. Here's a stanza from it:

"Only a dying horse! he swiftly kneels,
Lifts the limp head and hears the shivering sigh
Kisses his friend, while down his cheek there steals
Sweet pity’s tear, "Goodbye old man, Goodbye"."

Please go here to read the whole poem.

Today is a day to remember all of our fallen heroes both human and animal.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Punk Rock

Yesterday when I got to the zoo, a man was dropping off a baby blue jay. The man had witnessed another bird picking up the little blue jay and throwing it out of the nest.

The little bird was in shock when we peeked into the box. He wasn't moving and we weren't sure if he was going to make it.

The man tried to make the box nice by
putting some leaves in the bottom.
So we left him in there in a dark room to give him some time to calm down with the plan that I would take him home to release him if he seemed ok.

A few hours later, I was getting ready to leave so I went to grab his box, but he wasn't in it! We started searching around on the floor for him, when someone discovered him perched on a picture.

I love that it's a picture of a tiger
 crouching, ready to pounce!
As we tried to catch him, we realized that he had no trouble flying. This was a good sign. He also cawed at us. Another good sign.

Once back in the box, I was sent home with the bird, some pellets and instructions to feed him and release him.

Unfortunately, the ride home must of shook him up a bit. (I do live in New Orleans, known for bad roads with many large, unavoidable potholes) He was again acting as though he was in shock.

Punk Rock with his food.
My husband was so excited to have the blue jay in the house. He named it "Punk Rock" and whistled his "signature bird call" to Punk in hopes that the bird would recognize him once released.

We left him in the box, with the pellets soaked in water, overnight to give him a chance to eat and calm down.

This morning we awoke to Punk Rock's calls. He was feeling better and ready to get out.

Punk Rock is getting ready to take off!
My husband took Punk Rock out of the box and walked a few steps with him before he took off. We were happy to see him fly away and call, but at the same time a little sad. Having that bird here for less than 24 hours was a great teaching experience for us. We aren't parents (yet) but allowed us to see how that might work. It was also a great lesson in compassion.
Punk Rock is released into the world.
If you are interested in learning more about blue jays, Cornell Ornithology is a fabulous resource with information, pictures, videos and audio recordings.

**Note** If you see a young bird on the ground, it's best to leave it there so the family can take care of it. Most birds do not have a sense of smell so you can also put it back in the nest if you can reach it. But it's not advisable to try and raise a wild animal on your own.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cat Café

Several public places are open to dogs, but in Japan and now Austria there are restaurants that do not allow dogs. And not for the usual reason. It is to protect the cats that call the cafés home.

Photo by: techmusicmagik
There's a whole collection of pictures here.

These cafés offer cat lovers, who might not be able to own a cat due to pet restrictions or allergies of a family member, a place to hang out with some friendly felines.

This interesting trend began in Japan as a way to allow people to relax.

One Japanese woman brought the idea with her when she moved to Austria. She was just able to open her shop recently.

When do you think they will make their way to the US?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Exercise With Your Pet- Balance

This blogathon (and my friend and fellow blogger, Veronica) are pushing me to do things with my blog that I've been wanting to do. Today's post is the beginning of a once a month series "Exercises You Can Do With Your Pet". Please let me know what you think!

Balance is an important aspect of fitness. Deficits can be an indicator that someone has a high risk of falling and will likely experience hip fractures.

As with other fitness related aspects, balance can be improved through practice, but who wants to stand on one leg for several minutes?

There's an easy way to integrate your pet into your balance workout making it more fun for both of you.

Balance can be practiced many different ways; I've listed some from easy to hard. I'd suggest starting with the easier ones at first especially if you are doing them with your pet. Once you both get used to it, you can move to the harder positions.

1. Stand with feet together.

2. Stand with feet in half tandem

3. Stand with feet in tandem.

4. Stand on one leg.

You can also make it more challenging by changing the surface that you are standing on. Find a foam cushion or rounded surface and go through the positions again. NOTE: when you're on uneven surfaces, make sure that you are barefoot, and start out with your feet shoulder width apart. Work up to the harder positions.

Now it's time to add your pet!

If it's a pet dog, play fetch while in the different positions. Throwing a ball is going to add to the workout and make it more challenging to balance.

If it's a pet cat, wave a stick with a ribbon on the end for your cat to chase while you're in the different positions. Again, moving the stick will challenge your balance.

If it's a pet horse, brush the horse while in the different positions.

Get creative if you have other animals as pets!

As you work on balance you are activating your core muscles to keep you upright. If you get to the point where you are standing on one leg, you are strengthening that leg. So you get increased muscle strength and balance and the best part is that you get to spend time playing with your pet!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Use your best judgement when you are participating in these activities. Do not try if you are already at risk for falls unless cleared by a health care professional.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hearing Ear Dog

I've heard that good things come in small packages. I think that Judy Springborn would probably agree, at least in the case of her hearing ear dog.

Apple Pie, a chihuahua mix, was living in an animal shelter, slated to be euthanized when someone noticed she had the great qualities like good social skills and confidence.

The little dog was teamed up with a "hearing ear dog" trainer and a few months later Ms. Springborn was matched up with her.

Photo from L.A. Times
The purpose of a hearing ear dog is to alert their owner when the doorbell or the phone rings, when an alarm is going off, when a timer rings; really the list is endless. The dogs are beneficial because as the owner tunes into their dog, they are becoming aware of their surroundings. They see when something draws the dog's attention and they can follow the dog's gaze to locate the source.

Dogs for the Deaf is one group that trains hearing dogs. There's a application form available on their webpage as well as a list of things to consider before getting a hearing dog. I appreciate how "real" they are with their points to consider. They remind you that the dogs will leave hair everywhere, poop in your yard and can be destructive if you don't give them attention. You will also have to continue to train the dog for at least a year.

If you want to know what it's like to have a hearing ear dog, here's a blog post written by an owner of one.


If you'd rather watch a movie about it, check out Sunny's Ears.

The bottom line is that a hearing ear dog provides the owner with greater independence and self confidence to go out and live a "normal" life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Care Farming

My friend posted a really cool infographic about how much land you would need to be able to support your family.

If you choose, you can use that same amount of land to not only support your family but also help others heal along the way.

In the UK, they call this "care farming".

Basically it involves using your farm to "provide health, social, or educational care services" to people.

I love that the UK has a website devoted to it. Even more exciting is that Prince Charles held a recognition luncheon for National Care Farming Initiative's 5 year anniversary. Having that kind of support probably helps farmers find funding, which makes the choice to become a care farm a little easier.

Here's a video from one care farm called Highfields Happy Hens that works with kids involved in the court system.

I wish that we had some kind of directory of care farms here in the US.  The ones that I am aware of are:

Green Chimneys (I've posted about them before here)

Tranquility Farm

Forget Me Not Farm

McKenna Farms

Sanctuary One

Gentle Barn (I've posted about them before here)

Please feel free to add any that you know to the list. Maybe we can create our own care farming webpage for the US and then eventually around the world!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Abilities Through Agility

Earlier this year, TheBark wrote an article about a group of therapists, (physical, occupational, and speech-language) that partner their patients with dogs.

The patients' goals are met as they train the dogs to run an agility course.
Photo found at Paws & Effect's blog

What an awesome idea!

The kids use gross motor skills to set up the agility course, and the kids follow the dogs as they go through the course. The physical therapists can integrate things that they need to focus on during this time. Maybe having the kids make sure that as they  walk, their heels touch the ground, stretching out the calf muscles of "toe-walkers" in a fun way.

Occupational therapists focus on the fine motor skills, like taking off the leash and collar and brushing the dog. These movements require great finger dexterity, and can normally seem frustrating, but when you are doing it for your furry friend it becomes less of a chore.

As the dogs are learning to go through the course, the children need to direct the dogs. Speech language pathologists can have the cues involve certain word sounds that the child is working on.

Photo found at Paws & Effect's blog

I think this whole thing is brilliant and would love to get in contact with the physical therapists involved. Maybe I could do a clinical rotation with them.

You should definitely read the article to learn more about the Abilities Through Agility program. It's a pdf so it takes a little while to load, but it's worth the few extra second wait.

Monday, May 21, 2012


The theme for today is "Haiku" in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon that I'm participating in this month. Here's my contribution:

Porter, our male California Sea Lion
giving me a kiss for my birthday.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


It's been a long busy weekend for me. 

Luckily, my pets have reminded me about the perfect antidote.


I hope you get a chance to rest today.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Seeing Eye... Horse?

Most people have heard of seeing eye dogs, but what about a seeing eye horse?

For some, having a dog is not an option because of a fear, allergies, or even because they are considered unclean. But that doesn't mean that they have to miss out on the independence and comfort that a service animal provides.

The ADA revised the provisions on service animals to include the use of miniature horses. This is a victory for people that can't use dogs for whatever reason.

Horses are good choice for a service animal for several reasons. The average working life for a service dog is 6-8 years. Since horses in general have a longer life span than dogs, the same is true of their working lives, 25-30 years.

The sound of the horse's hooves also do a better job alerting someone of the changing ground cover than a dog's paws. Hooves echo differently on tile, wood, and carpet.

Another plus to miniature horses is that they don't get fleas.

I'm not suggesting that miniature horses are overall superior to dogs as service animals.

The horses require enough space for outdoor living when they aren't working. (Otherwise they can get health problems from being inside all the time.)

They also don't look for companionship in the same way that dogs do normally. And they aren't as playful as dogs.

Dogs have been trained to be service animals for people who are blind, deaf, diabetic, prone to seizures and the list goes on. Currently miniature horses have only been trained as guide animals for people who are blind.

I was able to get a lot of information from The Guide Horse Foundation who actually supply guide horses free of charge after the person complete the training course. Unfortunately, they aren't taking any new applications right now because they are overwhelmed with requests.

But you can watch this video of Panda a miniature horse that was clicker trained as a guide horse and see how this works.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Remembering "Rex"

Today's Endangered Species Day so I thought it would be appropriate to share some pictures of one of our leucistic (white) Bengal tigers that passed away two weeks ago.

He was known as "Rex", and he lived with his brother "King Zulu" at the Audubon Zoo for the past 13 years.
Photo by: Maria DiFulco
Rex, unfortunately lost his battle to cancer at the ripe old age of 16. In the wild their life span is 8-10 years.

These two tigers had a special bond, which is unusual for their species.
Photo by: Sarah Rosedahl
Normally tigers are known to be very territorial and solitary animals, but these brothers seemed to genuinely enjoy each other's company.
Photo by: Emily Esposito
They acted as great ambassadors of their species to teach people about the declining number of tigers. Bengal tigers are the subspecies with the most representatives in the wild, but even they are running into hunters that see them as trophies or ingredients in medicine.

Visitors and Keepers alike will surely miss Rex, but I wonder if Zulu will miss him even more.
Photo by: Terri Casso-Witt

Huge thank you for all of the wonderful photos taken by vistors/adoring fans! You can see more on the Audubon Zoo's facebook page.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Grim Reaper Meows?

With the recent deaths of Maurice Sendak (author), Carroll Shelby (auto icon), and Mitchell Guist (Swamp People), I was reminded of a story I heard a few years ago about a cat that predicts deaths.
Photo from Oscar's page.
Oscar (the cat) lives at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence, Rhode Island.  In 2007, an article addressed Oscar's uncanny ability to determine when a resident was nearing the end of his or her life. At that time, the employees noticed that Oscar would sit on the bed and refuse to move which was completely out of character for this normally reclusive cat. The person in the bed that Oscar chose would pass away within the next few hours.

Of course the staff was initially horrified in this "odd coincidence" and they tried to keep Oscar from going into the rooms. But then they realized that he was actually doing good. Oscar was able to accurately predict the next death, allowing time for family members to be gathered to say their good byes. And if there was no family to be called, at least the person wouldn't be alone.

The New England Journal of Medicine published "A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat" written by David Dosa M.D., M.P.H detailing an occasion where Oscar performed his ability. The nurse noted his presence and called the family.

"Within a half hour the family starts to arrive. Chairs are brought into the room, where the relatives begin their vigil. The priest is called to deliver last rites. And still, Oscar has not budged, instead purring and gently nuzzling Mrs. K. A young grandson asks his mother, “What is the cat doing here?” The mother, fighting back tears, tells him, “He is here to help Grandma get to heaven.” Thirty minutes later, Mrs. K. takes her last earthly breath. With this, Oscar sits up, looks around, then departs the room so quietly that the grieving family barely notices."

Oscar's story sounds unbelievable but, he has proven his talent at least 50 times. He's been right when the staff thought that it was another resident's time. So now they've learned to trust Oscar's instincts. Although no one is completely sure how he knows, the residents and their families are grateful for Oscar's gift.

So what do you think? Would you want Oscar at your nursing home or the nursing home of a loved one?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Diabetic Alert Dog Coming to Louisiana

Good news for a family in Louisiana!

They mentioned the possibility of Jeremiah going into a coma, but there are other unfortunate side effects of diabetes as well. Long term effects can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels.

Teaming Jeremiah up with this dog will prevent some of this damage because he'll be able to keep from taxing his system. The other benefit is teaching Jeremiah how to work with a service dog. If his eyes fail him as a result of diabetes, he will know how to behave with a seeing eye dog, maybe he'll even be able to train the dog himself.

Thanks Veronica at The Eco Niche for sharing this story with me.

Good luck to Jeremiah and his family and Welcome to Louisiana, Warren Retriever!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Animals Give "Paws" to Grief

Today I have another guest blogger as a result of the 2012 WordCount Blogathon.

Kirsten writes a fabulously fun to read blog called Running for Autism about her life in Toronto, Canada raising two boys (6 and 8 years old). Her older son has autism which is why she runs to raise funds for the Geneva Centre for Autism. You can also catch her on twitter (@running4autism) and facebook (Running for Autism).

She shared the story of her father's death and how her mother coped with the help of their pets.


My first dog was a mutt named Judge. He was what we called a “pavement special” – in other words, we had no idea what his lineage was or what breeds were represented in his genes. He became my dog not by virtue of someone giving him to me, but because he decided, when he came into our family, that he belonged with my two-year-old self.

It was a beautiful friendship between girl and dog. Apart from the times I was at school, Judge and I were rarely apart until he died at the age of twelve.

From the very early days of my life, my parents were “animal people”. There was no abandoned animal that went untended by them. The vast majority of our animals were rescue pets, from Sebastian the cat who was found in a parking lot with a list of injuries that went on for two pages, to Jessie and Bessie, the mother-and-daughter pair of dogs who didn’t have a home. On one occasion, my mom pulled over on the highway and darted into the traffic to rescue a budgie that was in the middle of the road.

My mom and dad treated the animals in much the same way they treated people. When cookies were distributed, the dogs got some too. Breakfast was not complete until all of the dogs and cats had received some milk and a sliver of toast topped with anchovy spread. The four-legged members of the family were not banned from any part of the house as long as they left the mud outside and didn’t scratch the furniture – much like us kids.

My brother and I grew up, we left home and eventually, the country. My dad retired, life events happened. Through everything, the animals remained a constant factor in my parents’ lives.

Seven years ago, the landscape of our lives – including the lives of the animals – was completely altered by the death of my dad. After the funeral and the cremation, after the ashes had been scattered, and after everyone who had gathered to say goodbye had gone back to their own lives, my mom found herself in her long-time home with only the animals for company.

The loss of my dad was devastating for my mom, who had been born in the generation of girls who left home to get married. In her youth, she had not gotten to experience any of the independent woman stuff that we have today. She had gone from the parental home straight into the married home. And therefore, when my dad died, my mom was living by herself for the first time in her life. She and my dad were two months shy of their fortieth wedding anniversary, and it had been a harmonious marriage.

My mom credits the animals for getting her through her initial stages of grief. They just seemed to know what my mom needed, possibly because they were grieving themselves.

They started following my mom wherever she went in the house. Dogs and cats alike were always with her, keeping her company. And yet, when she needed a good cry, they stayed a respectful distance away and gave her grief the space it needed. If the crying went on for an extended period of time, the big Belgian Sheppard would approach her and rest his head in her lap, as if to say, “That’s enough now. You have to get back to living for while.”

At night, the loneliest times of all, one of the cats would curl up with my mom, his body right up against hers. He would start to purr, and my mom just knew that he did it to soothe her, that he understood the calming effect that the purring had on her. She would fall asleep to the sound of the purring, and once satisfied that his human companion was all right, the cat would then fall asleep himself.

Having the animals to care for gave my mom purpose. It gave her a reason to get up in the morning. Some days, the idea of having to feed and care for four dogs and three cats seemed too overwhelming, but she did it anyway. If she hadn’t had the four dogs and three cats, she simply would have stayed in bed.

The fact that she was able to move on with her life in spite of her grief is a testament not only to my mom’s own strength of character, but to the role the animals played in her grieving process. Today, my mom is an independent woman with a rich, fulfilling life. She misses my dad every day, and occasionally, she still needs to have a good crying bout.

But the two dogs who are left over from my dad’s days (Jessie and Bessie, the mother and daughter pair who are miraculously still alive and ridiculously old) are there to help her through.
Jessie, Bessie, and Chelsea

Monday, May 14, 2012

Alternative Medicine Helps Heal Animals Too

I've been wanting to include a segment once a month about how to care for your animals that care for you. With the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon that I'm participating in I've found the perfect person to kickstart this series for me.

Peggy J. Noonan is a health writer for national magazines, newspapers, and websites whose interest in alternative medicine led her to create a blog where she shares news and tips about how to use alternative medicine on

Here's her post:

Alternative medicine isn’t just for people – it can be a great help for animals, too. In fact, a dog introduced me to alternative medicine and convinced me that this ancient method of healing could – and did – actually work. (If you’d like to read more about that, take a look at Vitamin E Opened The Door.

Alternative medicine is also called holistic or natural medicine. And there’s a new version called “integrative medicine” that blends the best of both -- conventional and alternative medicine – to use whatever will work best or be most appropriate in a particular situation. 

Finding the remedy that worked for Duffy opened the door to a whole world of healthier, more natural healing methods.

Some alternative medicine treatments such as acupuncture should be performed by a veterinarian or other trained expert. But there’s also version of this 4,000-plus-year-old technique called acupressure that people can learn to do at home.

It works the same way except instead of using super-fine needles, you use fingers and hands to apply pressure to acupuncture points (or “meridians”) that ease pain and promote relaxation, flexibility, mobility, and healing.

Therapeutic nutrition – using diet to correct various health problems – may involve foods or vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. Many problems dogs and cats have can be traced back to what they eat. Food sensitivities and allergies can cause many different symptoms – everything from dull, brittle coat with excessive shedding and bad odor to irritability and behavior problems.

If you try it, start with supervision or a good reference book to guide you. It takes patience and determination to work through the process of finding out which foods are triggering your animal’s symptoms, and then to create and stick with a diet that will relieve the problems and keep your critter healthy.

If you don’t have a vet who can help you with this, check books on alternative medicine for pets and other animals. The one I liked best and found most helpful for nutrition therapy and many other conditions was Dr.Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, and Susan Hubble Pitcairn (Rodale, 1995). It’s still available on and in some health stores and book stores.

Many plants are used in various forms of herbal therapy and can be very helpful for people and pets. Some are brewed as tea for drinking or applying to skin. Some work best when mixed into a paste or cream. Others may be taken in extract or capsule form. Many herbal remedies such as calendula (marigold flower) for irritated, injured skin and aloe vera for burns are easy for most people to prepare and use. But others require more knowledge so, for your animal’s safety, it’s a good idea to consult a holistic vet or read several books on herbal medicine for animals before you try herbal therapy.

There are many types of massage and touch therapies people can use to relieve their pets’ muscle soreness and stiffness, improve circulation and speed healing. Even gentle stroking touch such as petting or brushing can soothe, comfort, and calm your pet.

Some people swear by chiropractic manipulations for their own health and have no qualms about using in on their animals. Others consider it too risky. If you’re thinking of trying it, make sure the person who provides the service is a qualified professional who has ample experience using chiropractic animals like yours.

And there’s so much more… If you’re interested in learning how you could use alternative medicine to help your animals, you’ll find a handy guide to the basics at The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA)’s What Is Holistic Medicine?. And there are lots of books available at health stores, book stores, online retailers, and public libraries. You’ll even find how-to videos on

© 2012 Peggy J. Noonan All Rights Reserved

Thanks again Peggy for helping me get started! Make sure to check out her website to learn about other alternative healing methods that are good for you.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Animal Mothers

Being a mother doesn't mean you physically gave birth to a living creature. In fact, you don't even need to be the same species. These stories are about some unlikely mothers:

Photo by Tom Harvey and Keith Philpott
A golden retriever takes care of three Bengal tiger cubs that were rejected by their mother. They stayed together until the cubs were a year old. You can read about their last time together here.

Photo by Johanna Kerby
This little piglet has become one of the litter, in fact, he's "mom's" favorite. His story is actually a children's book called The Pink Puppy
Photo by Peter Greste
This young hippo was orphaned after a tsunami and when he was brought to a reserve the first animal he saw was the tortoise. The tortoise took the young hippo's attention and affection and stride and their relationship was explored by NPR.

Koko's relationships with kittens made the news. She named her first kitten All Ball because to her that's what the kitten looked like.

The real "criteria" for the term mother is the endless love, and giving of self to another. These animals display this in a beautiful way. Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cat and Crow

Today is International Migratory Bird Day and Hug Your Cat Day so I've found a story that touches on both.

One day in 1999, Wallace and Ann Collito were sitting on their front porch when they noticed a very little stray cat. The next day that same cat came around again but, this time a crow was nearby. At first the couple were worried that the crow was bullying the little kitten, but it turned out he was acting as her protector.

Over the next few weeks, they witnessed the crow finding bugs and feeding the cat. The crow also showed her where she could find water. He even scolded the cat when she hung out in the street. He would try to push her back out of the road if she didn't listen to him.

The more they saw the more they realized, he wasn't just a protector to her, they were friends. They'd wrestle and play games with each other.  And when they were going somewhere, they walked side by side. The Collitos named the crow Moses and the cat Cassie.

When they told people about this odd couple, they were met with disbelief. So the Collitos videoed Moses and Cassie interacting.

Eventually, the Collitos were able to get Cassie to trust them enough that the cat started spending the night in their house. Every morning, Moses would be there to collect Cassie and the two would enjoy each other's company all day. This relationship continued this way for over 4 years.
One morning Moses didn't show up. The Collitos think that he found a girlfriend and he knew that Cassie was in good hands.

What we do know for sure is that Cassie and Moses found each other at a time when they needed each other the most.

***Update*** There's a book about this friendship called Cat and Crow. Here's a review of that book.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Love Heals Everything

While searching for inspiration I came across this picture in Microsoft Word Clip Art. (Who knew?!)
I added the lovely quote that I think sums up their relationship quite nicely. 
The love from an animal is unconditional and very healing. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I'd Catch a Grenade For You...Jump in Front of a Train For You

Lilly has that kind of dedication, a point that she proved literally by saving her owner from an oncoming train.

Christine Spain, had a history of depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. That's why her son (David Lanteigne) adopted Lilly, a pit bull, 3 years ago, so that she would have a companion. Lilly has proven much to be more than that.

Since acquiring Lilly, Ms. Spain has cut down on her drinking. She doted over Lilly and seemed to be in a much better state, until a few days ago, when she got some bad news and her old habit kicked in. As she was walking Lilly that evening she passed out.
On railroad tracks.
And a train was coming.

The train driver saw them and tried to slow down, but heard a thump and knew he hit them. When he went to check, he saw that the woman was miraculously untouched by the train.
Lilly had pulled her to safety!

In doing so, Lilly bore the brunt of the impact and was taken immediately to Angell Animal Medical Center where the doctors had to amputate a front leg and put steel plates in her shattered pelvis. She is doing well, despite all of that and even wagged her tail and tried to stand when David came to visit.

If you are interested in helping this amazing dog on her road to recovery, you can go here to offer your financial support.

I'm so glad that Lilly is a pit bull. They've been getting a lot of bad press in recent years and have become the breed to hate. Lilly proves that breed has nothing to do with it! Her love and devotion speaks volumes. When that train was coming at them, it went against every natural instinct she had to stay there. Lilly is definitely a guardian angel!

Bella, a shar-pei/pit bull mix, displays the angelic quality of dogs
(regardless of breed).
Thanks Kat Godfrey for letting me use a picture of your adorable dog!
If you're interested in reading about some other dog heroes check out these stories.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Healing Species

Bullying, violence and crime are very real problems.

The Healing Species is dedicated to addressing these issues through their Compassion Education program.

They rescue dogs, that are themselves victims of neglect and abuse, and after the dogs become healthy some are chosen to go into classrooms. This 11 week program empowers students when dealing with bullies and it teaches a whole lot about empathy.
This program has been validated by research, for people that like numbers instead of anecdotal stories. In fact, they've been so successful that they have satellite programs in Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and even New Zealand!

I would love to see one here in New Orleans, "Murder Capital of the United States". There's a lot of bullying, violence and crime here. Also, it would give the kids a chance to see the positive side of dogs as opposed to the dog fighting and the use of dogs for intimidation that goes on.

The story behind Healing Species is another inspiring one for me because the woman that started this was actually a lawyer before she decided to quit her job and start this program. She saw a need, and took it upon herself to change things. Thanks Cheri Brown Thompson, for making the world a better place!

Who's going to be that someone in your neighborhood to "be the change"? It could be you!

***UPDATE*** I just got a lovely e-mail from Marie Milhouse at Healing Species:


Thank you so much for your wonderful blog about Healing Species!!!!  You are making New Orleans and this world a better place, inspiring others to be changers and aware of issues that affect people and animals. 

We would love to have Healing Species in New Orleans!  Please let us know if you or someone you know is interested. 

May God bless you.

Marie Milhouse

So now the challenge/invitation is out there! Any takers?!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cats in Prison

Last summer I wrote about Puppies Behind Bars, a program where prisoners raise future Explosion Detection Dogs, Service Dogs and companions for returning veterans. But I just found out there's a prison that houses cats that need a home.

Larch Correctional Facility in Yacolt,Washington started a pilot program pairing two "unadoptable" cats with prisoners. A local animal shelter supplied the cats, who have issues with people and other animals. The prisoners were chosen based on a pre-set time period of good behavior. Some admit that they signed up for the program because it got them out of the group living quarters and into a double.

It's only been a short while since Princess Natalie and Clementine joined the men there, but already they are showing improvements in their behavior. The men working with the cats are also seeing a change within themselves. It's no longer about only looking out for yourself, a living creature is relying on you.
I got this photo from the slideshow on SVG Tribune's website

The prison is planning on getting 4 more cats for their "Cuddly Catz" program. I think it's a great idea, not only does it teach about caring for others, but it's also a great lesson in patience and building trust. The change that the cats go through shows the men that it is possible to change your ways.

PS. I LOVE that they are walk the cats! I used to walk my cat when he was younger.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Stress Relief During Finals Week

This is finals week for me and countless other students. This is the week that our stress level is through the roof, and for some schools suicide rates increase. This is the week that we are low on sleep and high on caffeine.

None of this is good for our health or our grades, so schools have been coming up with ways to decrease the tension. My undergrad had a designated scream time where you could get out your frustration and despair vocally. But a recent trend spares the vocal chords.

If you feel overwhelmed, or just need a study break some colleges, universities, and even a couple of law schools are offering to give you a hand. Or a paw, really.

Starting today (May 7th), students at U.C. Berkeley can visit with animals outside Moffitt Library all week as a way to relieve stress. They aren't the only school to offer this escape, Yale Law School, Tufts University, Emory Law School, University of California-Irvine, University of Akron, George Mason University School of Law, University of Tennessee, Georgetown University and Sam Houston State University have all enlisted the help of animals.

The cool thing about these programs is that the animals benefit as well. Several of the schools use animals from shelters. This allows the animals to be seen by potential future owners (or people that know someone looking for a dog or cat). And it's a great way to socialize the animals (a key component in being seen as adoptable).

So it's win-win for everyone. I hope next semester more schools will be on the list. Maybe my school!

 For now, I've recruited my cat to act as my stress relief.

Good luck on finals everyone!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dog Participates in Marathon

Spring is definitely marathon season, with big local races like the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and the Crescent City Classic here in New Orleans, and then national races like the Boston Marathon. For one man, this marathon season is extra special.

Mr. Kelly has run in 19 marathons, which is already impressive to me, so why will his 20th be any different or more spectacular? Because a lot has happened to him between then and now. This will be his first full marathon since an industrial accident, stroke, and bicycle accident shattered an arm and limited the use of one foot, among other things. Oh, and did I mention that he was born blind in one eye?

As you might suspect, he has not let any of his medical issues stop him, but he is also smart about it. Four years ago he got Murphy, a Rhodesian ridgeback dog, to walk with him. Murphy was made for walking he found out after doing some research. It turns out that this breed of dog was used to hunt lions in Africa and they need long walks to be at their best.

Normally, dogs aren't allowed in the marathons, but Dan Kelly was able to get special permission for Murphy to accompany him. They will both be wearing t-shirts with "assisted walker" and their race number to identify that they are together. Their pace might be a little slower than the other runners, but they should still be able to finish the race. (They've been walking a mile in 12-13 minutes and the sweeper truck does a mile in 13 minutes and 42 seconds.)

So if you get a second today, think about Dan and Murphy as they race in the Pittsburgh Marathon.

***This is another big race going on today as well, the Maryland Half-Marathon. Last year, it passed by Dozer (the goldendoodle's) house and he got through his invisible fence to join the race. There's video of him crossing the finish line after running 8 miles. This year, he's fundraising on behalf of the half-marathon and the donations are going to the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.***

***UPDATE*** They've posted the results of the Pittsburgh Marathon and Dan Kelly finished the race! Congrats to him and Murphy!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I Know it's Cinco de Mayo but...

There are so many options of places to volunteer or intern to do animal assisted therapy around the world, I didn't want to just limit this list to Mexico. (although one called Casi has a fabulous photo gallery you should check out)

I do want to put this disclaimer out there, I've not used any of these companies nor am I being paid by any of them. I just thought it would be something interesting to post about since summer is coming up. Maybe you haven't figured out what you want to do in your time off. Maybe you're due for a vacation. Here are some options that you can look into.

You can travel to Chile and practice Equine Facilitated Learning as you work with children with mental and emotional disorders. (Make sure you can speak Spanish well and have at least 4 weeks that you can commit to being there.)

If you want to focus more on the physical benefits of working with horses, Argentina has a good project in place for you. They focus on movement, posture, and muscle control of the rider, to aid physical recovery. Another plus about this one is that you don't have to commit to a full month.

Maybe your Spanish isn't so good. Then Aldeas de Paz in Venezuela might be more your speed. They also work with horses, this time with disadvantaged youth, and they allow volunteers with limited Spanish. You can also go through Frontier to set this placement up.

Working with horses might not be all that you want to do. In Ecuador, you work in an orphanage in the morning and then assist with "Horse Guided Empowerment" lessons in the afternoon. The cool thing about this one is that the money you pay ($500 per month) to volunteer there, actually finances clients who can't pay.

Costa Rica sounds more like a vacation destination for some people. You can volunteer there too! Eden Ranch teaches you all about horses, as well as gardening. On their website they mention "each year Eden Ranch provides riding lesson, day camps and adventure trail rides to children who are at risk, disabled or have special needs." You can stay for as short as 2 weeks.

Speaking of disabled, Cape Town offers equine therapy to physically disabled children. This program have been in place since 1983 so it is well established. If you're looking for something to do for the majority of the summer, this might be it. The time span can be anywhere from 8-26 weeks.

I know not everyone is interested in working with horses. The Institute for Cultural Ecology has an animal assisted therapy placement for you lovers of other animals. Some of the animal shelters that you can intern at have visiting pet programs, where they take the shelter animals to nursing homes and health care facilities. I'm not sure which locations offer this but the company has placements in Fiji, New Zealand, France, Thailand and Napal to name a few locations.

And of course, for some of you the US is "abroad". Here's a list of Animal Assisted Therapy volunteer, internship, and educational opportunities available in the United States.

***Update: I just got an e-mail back from CISabroad. They advertise that they can create internships to fit you so I had asked about animal assisted therapy and this was their response:
Hi Sarah. It's very likely, but we can't know for sure until we know your credentials and can begin the search process in our placement networks! We customize each internship based on your background, relevant skills and what's available in our host locations. That may be a new placement type for us, but nothing is impossible! In the case we can't find that specific type of placement, you don't lose anything. It might be easier to correspond via email/phone, so please visit the following link to start the process:
They too have placements all over the world, so check them out if you don't see what you want already listed.
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