HAPPY UPDATE: Edwina Lives!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Those of you who’ve been with us a while here at Almost Perfect Pets will remember that back in September, 2009, I posted an angry rant about the cruel person who took a hunting knife to a sweet white-and-gray cat who came to be named Edwina, after the generous benefactor who not only covered her extensive medical treatment but also put up $5,000 as a reward for identifying and catching the perpetrator of this most vile deed.

I doubt anyone will be able to forget the pitiful image of Edwina looking over her shoulder at the camera with wide, scared eyes and that dreadful patch of exposed viscera on her skinny back. I’m not going to re-post it here because it still makes me sick and angry. Instead, I’m posting this wonderful photo of a happier, much healthier Edwina, now named Zeki, by her new adoptive mom, Arden Moore:

As the newly adopted daughter of animal lover/journalist/supporter Arden Moore,
Zeki (formerly Edwina) will never again have to worry about cruel treatment.

Originally rescued by a neighbor, Edwina was fostered by celebrated animal writer Dusty Rainbolt, and slowly nursed back to health through the late months of 2009 and into this year. In November, I had the great good fortune to share a table with Dusty and Arden during a members recognition dinner and keynote address at the Cat Writers Association annual conference in White Plains, New York.

I had just met them and caught snippets of a conversation they were having about the possibility of Arden adopting Edwina through Animal Allies of Texas. I introduced myself as having blogged here about the tortured cat, and was very interested in what they were discussing. Of course, there were many considerations to work out, so it was purely conversation at that point.

But for as recently as I had met these two women, I knew in my heart that if they could work it out, Edwina would have a wonderful new home with someone clearly willing and able to love and care for the injured cat. I was so happy and excited, and asked if I could spread the news here. They asked that I kindly refrain until everything had been worked out to ensure Edwina’s health and safety, and I happily obliged.

And so it is with great joy that today I am able to finally tell you about Arden having adopted Edwina and renamed her Zeki, which means “clever and courageous” in Turkish, perfect for this Turkish Van mix survivor. Arden shared the news in the January issue of her wonderful eNewsletter, “Arden Moore Knows Pets.” I feel I’ve given it plenty of time out in cyberland to prevent me stealing any of Arden’s thunder (not that she would care, because she’s not like that, but I did this out of respect), so I’m sharing the news with you today.

So if you’re looking for something to celebrate today, celebrate the triumph of love over hatred, good over evil, caring over destruction. Zeki lives…and happily! Thanks, Dusty. Thanks, Arden. You ladies rock.

Here Comes the Sun…

Posted on by Mary Shafer

No, the hydrangeas aren’t out yet, but they will be soon…

Hey, everybody — Happy Spring! I can’t remember the last time I was this glad to scoot Winter out the door and fling the door wide open for Spring to come through. Here in eastern Pennsylvania, we enjoyed a solid weekend of sunny skies and temps near 75° — and Boy Howdy, did I need that! Idgie, Weaver, Winkie and Boo Kitty also enjoyed the reprieve, lying in the open windows for the first time this year. LOVE that sight!

Idgie’s never far from my office window when the weather’s nice.

It was a long, cold, snowy winter (cue the strains of “Here Comes The Sun“) — still is for plenty of folks — and I’m so thankful for this gift of golden days so early in the season. We cleaned up the broken branches from the yard, fixed all the places our gutters went askew from the heavy ice load after the blizzards, brought out the patio furniture, grilled our first burgers for dinner, and ended the evening enjoying a fire in our chiminea while birds chirped in the soft, orange glow of dusk. What a renewal for our flagging spirits!

Speaking of spiritual renewal, I’d like to invite you all over to our new Almost Perfect Facebook Fan Page. Less than two weeks ago, I thought it might be fun to put one up and see what would happen. What happened was 370 fans already! How incredibly wonderful to realize how many folks there are out there who believe, as we do, in the importance of calling attention to the misinformation surrounding disabled animals, and the positive power they can have on all our lives if we only let them.

I hope you’ll join in the many interesting conversations taking place there. One that I found particularly renewing was the video posted of Zoey, the award-winning whippet.

I leave you with the reminder that it’s less than a month-and-a-half until National Disabled Pets Day is celebrated on May 3rd. We’re planning a little event, about which we’ll share more details as the day draws closer. What are you planning to do to observe/celebrate this great day? Let us know, and we’ll share your news here at Almost Perfect Pets.

Go Go Update

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Okay, just a followup to a post from late last summer. Those of you who were with us here at Almost Perfect Pets then will remember the story I shared of my cousin getting a new (actually used) Jack Russell terrier named Go Go. Remember the skinny little girl whose photo I shared then?

Well, no more. Ms. Go Go is now a healthily filled-out, happy little dog who lives the Life of Riley with Cousin Chris. And here’s the pic to prove it!

Go Go. She has a warm, stylin’ jacket for the winter when she goes for walks, but indoors, it’s au naturel!

Now if that ain’t typical Jack Russell I’m-the-boss-of-you-and-everything-I-survey ‘tude, then I don’t know what is! She’s definitely become the master of her domain. The light hitting her in this shot streams in from the front windows which are, happily, down at her level and allow her to see outside all day long — pure puppy bliss! I think whoever designed them had a small dog.

I had the pleasure of the company of both galz — Chris and Go Go — a few weekends ago, when we all went for a long walk in between our most recent blizzard and this weekend’s flooding rains. As we passed through the ever-cute village of New Hope, Pa., it was clear Ms. Go Go has stolen the hearts of all the residents and business owners she meets regularly on her sojourns into town. I am pleased to report that she has found a happy, loving home and my cousin once again has a sweet little Jack to share her life.

Find a friend at Jan’s Funny Farm

Posted on by Mary Shafer

When things get busy, I save up links for when I’ll have time to post. Today’s post is one of these. Back in late October, I came across a great post from Jan’s Funny Farm, a blog about…oh, what else? Critters!


This particular post is titled “Rewards of Disabled Pets.” Guest blogger Dr. Susan Wright discusses the extra effort required to live with disabled pets, and the extra rewards one earns through this type of care. Sound familiar? Thought it might. You’ll enjoy this one.

Dr. Wright, a licensed veterinarian, writes on various topics for DogFenceDIY.com, which provides do-it-yourself underground electric dog fencing solutions and training for owners. Now I must admit, the jury’s still out for me on the whole electric fence thing. I struggle with whether it’s ethical — it seems to me it must hurt the animal — but then again, if it’s the only viable solution to keep pups in the yard and out of the street and harm’s way…isn’t an electric sting better than a bumper bash or worse?

Dr. Susan Wright

But from what I’ve seen on the Web, Dr. Wright knows her stuff, and she talks here about having extra patience if you intend to work with special needs pets. She also gives a pretty good overview of common issues that can cause disability in dogs. Worth a read.

Day of Service

Posted on by Mary Shafer

It’s been a while since I posted, and I wanted to catch up on something I did last month.

As a freelance writer, I get assignments to write about all sorts of things, many of which I know little or nothing about. That was the case when I was assigned a story about volunteers in my home area, Bucks County, Pa., for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. The gist of the story is about programs that take advantage of this relatively recent federal holiday, during which people turn a day off of work into a day on in service. Specifically, following Dr. King’s legacy and example of self sacrifice and service to community on a day given over to reflection of his ideals.

I thought it was a fantastic idea, and enjoyed learning how my fellow countians practiced this observance. When I turned in the article, I sat back and took a look at my own life, and was frankly ashamed I had never thought to volunteer myself on this day. So I did something about that.

It seemed to me that one should put one’s effort toward a cause one feels is somehow neglected, so of course my thoughts turned immediately to animal welfare. I recalled that during one of our kick-off events to promote Almost Perfect, we had hosted several local groups related to animals.

One of those, Tabby’s Place, is located across the Delaware River in New Jersey. A representative had brought the organization’s mascot, Tashi, to visit with our attendees and be an ambassador for the no-kill sanctuary. That was such a cool thing, watching people at first freaked out by the quadriplegic kitty, quickly come to realize that Tashi was every bit as bright, aware and sentient as any animal they’d ever known. He just couldn’t move anything but his head.

Since that time, Tashi has — through much love and physical therapy — begun to actually get around on his own. He’ll probably never “walk” in the ordinary sense, but his lively spirit and determination to live to the fullest has given him the impetus to at least move about on two legs. I had read about his progress in our local newspaper, and in fact written a letter to its editor in response to a disturbing letter that decried Tashi’s care as somehow wasteful and wrong-headed, since human beings weren’t even getting all the care they need. As if the two are connected in our healthcare systems (they’re not). So, I decided to see his progress for myself while performing my first MLK Day of Service at Tabby’s Place.

I had asked to be able to work specifically in the area dedicated to special needs cats. As it turns out, Tabby’s Place realizes that since these critters are the least likely to get attention from visitors (while probably needing it most), they don’t sequester special needs cats off in some separate area. Instead, they let most of them walk freely among visitors in the lobby. Unless there’s a reason to keep the cat separate, it eats, sleeps, walks about and gets lovin’s from people there to check out potential adoptees, fill out paperwork or simply visiting the residents (and yes, I did see one gentleman doing exactly that).

So, I ended up playing with and brushing them a lot (I know – rough job, but someone had to do it). But there was also real work in the laundry and cleaning out enclosures (they only use cages for transport or quarantine — otherwise resident cats are housed in light, airy rooms or enclosures, with full length windows visitors can see through to watch their antics). One of my favorite jobs was helping to socialize kitties who had been brought in from feral colonies with the belief that they may still be able to become adoptees. I talked softly to them, brushed them (when they let me) and played with their little toys.

I did get to see Tashi and to speak a lot with his caretakers. I got to see the day-in, day-out lives of the dedicated staff who work with him and all the other residents. I got to meet the founders, and the people who work relentlessly to place residents in forever homes (boy, talk about the need to have a bottomless well of faith to come to work every day!).

And most of all, I got to spend time in a sanctuary where I knew that, whether these cats found a forever home or not, their lives were valued, they would be loved and cared for and housed for as long as they lived. It was the first time I ever went into a shelter that I didn’t come out crying with sorrow and frustration about all the animals I knew would never be adopted or loved.

It was one of the highlights of this year so far, and I look forward to doing it again. I encourage you to consider doing your own Day of Service. We don’t need to wait for a specially designated holiday. Shelters and sanctuaries need our help every day of every year. If you can’t afford a full day, do what you can.

If you can’t do it all at once, consider spending a few hours here and there collecting old towels, rags, washcloths, blankets and afghans from your friends and neighbors. These items, too old and stained and ratty for humans, are greatly needed and appreciated by these groups, who use them to line carriers, pad enclosure floors and other areas to keep critters warm and comfy. Do a toy drive, asking friends and neighbors to contribute old cat and dog toys their “kids” no longer show an interest in. Gather them all and run them to your local shelter, where I guarantee they’ll be appreciated and played with.

Donations of treats, canned food and dry kibble, bedding material and cat litter are also extremely appreciated. I’ve calculated that our cats cost us about $100/month each (sounds cold, but one must budget) to keep in good health and well fed. Can you imagine multiplying that by the dozens, if not hundreds of animals that shelters and sanctuaries must maintain each year?

Anyway, I’m really glad I did it and urge anyone who needs to feel less impotent in a world that makes us feel we can’t do anything to help, to do the same. We CAN make a difference, however small. And it matters.

A Quack Grows Quiet

Posted on by Mary Shafer

As you know, AlmostPerfectPets is a blog about all disabled pets, not just cats and dogs. Today, I’d like to share with you the too-short story of Sebastian the Duck, discovered struggling just to stay alive by her adopted mom, Sharon.

Sharon and baby Sebastian


She picked Sebastian out of a garbage pile and raised her without even an inkling of what to do with a duck, especially one that couldn’t walk. But the persistence of a mother’s love, dogged determination and the help of good friends brought them successfully through all the challenges, and Sebastian grew into a beautiful, friendly, happy duck.

Sebastian in her go-cart

Alas, unlike dragons, ducks don’t live forever. Sebastian waited just long enough to spend a last Christmas with her mom before crossing the Rainbow Bridge at the ripe old age of 12. Please visit her memorial page at HandicappedPets, because everyone deserves to be remembered. Even a little white duck who never knew the joy of paddling her legs in a pond, but managed to steal the heart of a full-grown human. And mine, I might add.

Here’s a beautiful YouTube tribute to Sebastian’s life here on Earth.

Splash on, Sebastian. Love endures.

Transformation As The New Year Turns

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Okay, so everyone loves the stories about the cute little well-groomed puppy, right? Well, this ain’t that. This is a story about a snarling, shaking, nervous dog with matted fur on the front and almost no fur toward her back, trying to bite the camera. But then…

This is about a miracle. A three-day miracle that took a little dog named Chase from terrified to…well, watch the vid. It’s a little tough at first, but get through to the end, and you’ve earned your reward.

This is about a would-be disabled pet. Please pass it on to your network, because everyone should see this. And then go VOTE.

A New Book You’ll Want To Check Out

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Here’s an appropriate title to start out a Happy New Year with:

If you’ve been with us for any length of time here at AlmostPerfectPets, you’ve read my mentions of another author of books about disabled pets, Barb Techel. She writes and blogs and gives speaking presentations about her dear little dachsie, Frankie, the Walk ‘n Roll Dog. Well, Barb’s gone and done it again, folks! Her new book is titled Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure before I go on, you should know Barb did send me a complimentary copy of her book to read and keep. And I’m darn glad, because what a great book is it is! I cobbed this passage from Linda and Allen Anderson’s review, because it’s right on:

Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog keeps rolling along in her doggie wheelchair. This paralyzed dachshund’s unabashed healing, exuberant spirit, and spunky personality is a blessed gift to everyone she befriends. In this true, inspirational story, Frankie tells how she became a registered therapy dog and shares her visits to Libby’s House, a senior facility where many residents have Alzheimer’s or dementia. Frankie teaches us that patience, listening, and understanding opens our hearts to what matters most—love.

But what this passage doesn’t reveal is that the story is appropriate, entertaining and educational for all ages. And what it’s difficult to communicate is how lavishly it’s illustrated with the unique and charming renderings from Victoria Kay Lieffring. These pictures capture in stylized detail the range of emotions Barb writes about as the residents of Libby’s Place discover, enjoy and finally, love Frankie.

The one of Daniel staring into the eyes of a rapt Frankie on page 30 is just perfect: sweet and the absolute embodiment of a clear conduit of bonding between members of separate species who nevertheless have discovered that matchless common ground of shared experience. And that’s what this touching book is about, that which makes us all fellow travelers on this earthly plane: our shared vulnerability, and the reality that when all else is stripped away, all we have is each other and the comfort we can humbly share.

I challenge anyone to read this book and come away with dry eyes and without a smile of recognition. And it’s that juxtaposition of the sometimes difficult realities of life with the always hopeful knowledge that each of us brings something of value to the world that we can share with each other that makes this little story something that will stay with you long after you’ve closed the cover.

I urge you to get a copy of Frankie Visits Libby’s House for yourself, and consider it as a rich but affordable gift for those you care about. Kids will understand the straightforward lesson that therapy animals can reach older folks whose worlds may have contracted from their previous horizons. Teens and young adults will see a potential opportunity for public and personal service beyond their daily worlds. Adults will appreciate the many subtle messages of hope and inspiration.

There’s no one who can’t find an important and hopeful message in this true story, handled with such respect and grace by Barb Techel. Personally, I found it the perfect antidote to the insincerity of so much of today’s mainstream “entertainment.” Those so-called “reality shows” are nothing but some cynical people’s ideas of what we should accept as reality instead of the overblown, drama queen-fests they are.

I don’t know about you, but I choose to live in a world where people still care for each other and try to soothe hurts instead of exploiting them; where humans can count among their proudest moments those they spend reaching out to creatures of other species; and where we can all recognize that those gifts can and do come full circle back to us from small, brown doggies on wheels, with big, floppy velvet ears and eyes that glow with the deepest understanding and concern for every living thing.

Frankie-land is my reality show. And I intend to stay tuned in for as long as my brain can still absorb the lessons of love and acceptance she and her mom have to teach us all. Treat yourself to Frankie’s love in all its high-def glory on the pages of her latest expedition to Libby’s House. You’ll be glad you did.

Holiday Edition – Thinking About Thankful Things

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Wow, can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last posted! Sorry, y’all — I was on the road and then the holidays got here and now…it’s almost Christmas!

Here I am addressing a marketing breakout session at this year’s annual Cat Writers Assn. conference in White Plains, NY, just before Thanksgiving. I met some fabulous new friends and decided to join the group. What a passionate and fun crowd!

So, I’m thinking about things to celebrate. Here’s a brief list off the top of my head:

  1. I am a great aunt. I mean yeah, I am a great aunt — I dig my nieces and nephews and I think they feel the same about me. But this year I became a Great Aunt, as in the title. Meet the Shafer clan’s newest puppy, Connor Mark Beaudet:
  2. Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, so it’s all uphill toward the light from here! For those of us afflicted with SAD (seasonal affective disorder, also known as light deprivation syndrome), this is great and hopeful news. Hope you all had a great Solstice. Speaking of which, here’s an awesome song that perfectly captures the wonderfully ethereal feel of being out in a snow-covered forest, surrounded by trees with ice crystals sparkling in the air: It’s a song by Anuna, titled “Winter Fire and Snow.”

  3. There’s at least one little boy with his heart in the right place about Christmas. This evening, Orlando, Florida Cub Scout Zach Wilson was interviewed on NBC Nightly News as part of its “Making A Difference” holiday segment. He started an animal food pantry and it gave out an average of 800 pounds of food a week until Thanksgiving. The past four weeks, the demand has spiked, with the pantry distributing between 1800 and 2000 pounds of food per week. Read more at Animal Crazy.
    Zach is kewl. And couldn’t you just squeeze those cheeks?

  4. This one’s about me, but it’s pretty cool: I learned yesterday that I’ve been nominated to receive the 2009 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award for editing Almost Perfect! This award best highlights the special bond between people and their treasured pets, promoting the strengthening of this bond and highlighting the special relationship between a dog and its owner, as well as between dogs and veterinarians.

    I am so honored even to be considered, and especially among such awesome company (our pal Barb Techel, Frankie‘s mom, won this year and she sure deserves it)! If I win, I’ll probably explode with excitement as soon as I believe it’s true. Of all the kinds of things one’s work can be recognized for, I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be acknowledged for than helping critters in some small way. Here’s the announcement from Dog Writers Assn. of America.

Okay, so among many things, those are the ones I’m thinking about being thankful for right now. How about you — what’s warming the cockles of your heart with gratitude as you look back over 2009 and ahead to the New Year?

Grab a hanky…

Posted on by Mary Shafer

A friend of mine sent this link to me today, and now I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. This was one of the most lucid, and just plain true, pieces I’ve ever read on the subject of dogs.

It’s an excerpt from the book Old Dogs Are the Best Dogs, text by Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Willamson, based on a longer excerpt that originally appeared in The Washington Post.

There is one passage in it that infuriates me, and you’ll know what it is. But everyone makes mistakes, and that this person had the courage to write about it in this way — with such unflinching honesty, without excuses, and to be willing to open himself up to the criticism he surely knew would come — allows me to imagine myself having done something like it and to have compassion.

What is it about dogs that makes us want to be better people?

Posted in old dogs | Comments Off on Grab a hanky…