Too disturbing for words

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Why, yes…I DO feel like I’m going to be sick — how about you?

Sweet little tuxedo Tommy, before he was tortured and killed by some sick freak.

Seriously…a feline serial killer. Yet another good reason for people to keep their cats indoors.

Is there no end to the evil that our species is capable of? And they call the animals “beasts.” I don’t believe in Hell (at least not in the traditional sense), but if there is one, there’s a special corner of it reserved for the twisted individual (at least I hope it’s just one person) who’s doing this horrible thing.


Disabled, Not Disposable.

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Repeat after me: Special needs pets are disabled, not disposable.

Now, memorize it and repeat as often as necessary to well-meaning friends and family members, neighbors and co-workers, who think you’re nuts to spend so much time, money and energy on helping your “almost perfect” pet have a better quality of life.

Lisa Stahr

But don’t take it from me: take it from Lisa Stahr, someone who’s spent a LOT of time thinking — and now writing — about this very issue.

Lisa is the co-founder, owner and operator of Scout’s House, a rehab center for animals. No, not THAT kind of rehab, though it is located in Menlo Park, California.

No, Scout’s House is a place where disabled pets can go for physical therapy delivered by trained veterinary professionals. It’s also a place where these pets can stay while their human parents take some time off for much-needed R&R. (Anyone who cares for a special needs pet knows the value of a real vacation.)


Lisa started Scout’s House as a tribute to her own dear dog, who suffered mightily from the lingering effects of puppyhood distemper…that is, until Lisa got hold of her. But I’ll let her tell you that story — she’s a more-than-capable writer, given her background in marketing and PR.

All you really need to know is that Scout’s House rocks as a great resource for special needs pets and their families, and that if you ever need to find this great place, the link will always be here or in our blogroll.

Hey, Folks! Help Dokes!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Hi, everyone. Here’s something I never want to report, but I need to: a newly disabled pet.

On Sunday, May 24, the L.A. apartment of Jessica Amen and Kyle Kushner was devastated by an enormous fire that started by accident near their stove. They lost nearly everything they owned and loved, including their wonderful cat, Riggs.

Little burned Dokes lost his house and his best friend.

Their second cat, Dokes, was initially believed to have also perished in the flames, but was found later in the neighborhood. Though they were relieved that their dear Dokes was still alive, Jessica and Kyle realized he had suffered serious burn injuries. A community-based effort is now underway to support his care and rehabilitation.

Please check out his FaceBook page to learn what you can do, and to keep track of his progress. We’re pulling for you, little Dokes!

New Book on Communicating With Animals!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

My friend and fellow author Dawn Baumann Brunke has just released her newest book, Animal Voices, Animal Guides. I saw it on the show floor at Book Expo America last weekend, and was excited to see she’s doing so well.

I’ve known Dawn since we worked together at NorthWord Press in 1991 (Dawn, could it be almost 20 years now!!!???). There, we collaborated on a series of four coloring books for older children, titled Who Lives Here? Dawn wrote and I illustrated the books, which detail four different natural habitats and the animals who live in them. The concept was a really neat one, and I’m working on reviving the now out-of-print books under our imprint.

Anyway, Dawn’s new book is actually a newly revised edition of her earlier work, Awakening to Animal Voices, which was originally marketed to young adults.

The new version has been streamlined, given a new title and cover and design format, and also includes additional conversations with several animal groups (such as honey bees and polar bears). It is suitable for all ages. (One of the reasons the publisher decided to re-issue the book as a general title was because the material was not just aimed at teens, but to anyone–and everyone.)

The book not only looks at how we may open ourselves to communication with animals, but also explores how we may deepen in connection with animals, nature and ourselves in so many other ways: through animal teachers; through unexpected meetings with animals; through healing and the death experience; through dreams, shapeshifting and merging of consciousness.

Of course, for those of us with an almost inseparable connection to our pets, it’s no surprise that Dawn and others like her have discovered many ways to communicate and connect on deeper levels with these personal “mystics” we all have, if we’d just realize it.

Want to learn more? You can read several excerpts at Dawn’s website (here’s the direct link to Table of Contents and chapter excerpts.)

It’s always a happy day when any author sees their new book finally appear, and I’m just tickled pink for Dawn. And yes, that is Dawn — along with her pal Zak — on the front cover. So go check it out, won’t you?

Super story, semi-disabled

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Only one of the dogs in this story is disabled, and that mostly by old age. But I just had to share this heartwarming tale!

Blewett, Altruistic Animal Hero!

PLAIN, Chelan County, OR – Blewett, a dog rescued in March at Blewett Pass, has become a rescue dog.

Dozens of people tried to rescue the black Lab this winter after he was seen huddling in the snow at the top of Blewett Pass for a week. Wary of strangers, the dog accepted food and was finally captured and adopted into a home. Jay and Janie Smith of Plain adopted Blewett from the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society animal shelter in March.

Monday, Blewett returned the favor and helped rescue another imperiled black Lab.

Jay Smith said his wife was walking Blewett on a trail high above the Wenatchee River when Blewett started barking and raced down the steep bank to sniff out another animal close to the river’s edge.

“My wife thought it was a dead bear,” Jay Smith said. Janie Smith called Blewett back up and they went home so she could get a pair of binoculars. With the binoculars, she could see it was a large black dog, and it was alive.

Jay Smith called Chelan County Fire District 9 and returned with a firefighter and a friend to try to reach the dog, using ropes to climb down to the river.

Blewett again ran down and stayed with the dog while the dog was rescued Monday evening. The dog was weak, old and arthritic, but otherwise uninjured. Information on his red collar led to a Plain neighbor, Carol Hurt.

“The whole thing is a miracle,” said Hurt, who explained the 11-year-old dog, Pepper, had been lost since May 23. “One big, black, lost dog found the other big, black, lost dog. It’s pretty heartwarming.”

Pepper belongs to Hurt’s daughter, Susan Cox of Wenatchee, but was staying with Hurt over the weekend when he went missing. Cox and her husband, Mike, searched for Pepper, but had no luck. They now believe the dog was swept away by the river while taking a drink about a half-mile from Hurt’s house.

Monday night, Cox told the story to her best friend, Tracy Peterson, a second-grade teacher at Newbery Elementary School. Peterson relayed the story to her class and had them write an account of Blewett’s rescue of Pepper. Students depicted Blewett as a wonder dog who would bark and bark until his lungs were empty to get help. Peterson plans to compile the stories into a book to give to Cox.

“We’re happy beyond belief,” Cox said about the return of her dog. “And that Blewett, he’s quite the hero.”

Source: The Seattle Times

Mighty Maty: Star material?

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Maty at the Hotel Murano

Independent filmmaker Geoff Talbot is in the process of making a movie about a plucky, three-legged dog named Scrap, titled Lucky & Rich. He’s on a hunt for the perfect pooch to play the lead role, and right now, you can vote for one of the contenders.

I’d like to bias the vote just a bit by introducing you to Maty, one of the pups being considered for the role. This adorable dog is the absolute embodiment of “pluck,” and you’re about to find out why:

Maty’s entire life has been dedicated to animal welfare and demonstrating the abilities of disabled animals. She was abandoned in a motel and brought to the Humane Society of Central Oregon, where she nearly died from an infection that ravaged her body and destroyed her knee joint. Maty’s leg was amputated at 7.5 weeks of age. But that didn’t stop her. She became enamored of Frisbees, and now the flying discs are a huge part of her fun and her work.

Maty’s human parents have dedicated nearly 40 years to animal welfare, working at the shelter where Maty is the humane education dog. She helps educate thousands of children and adults every year at schools and events. Her mom and dad spend money they probably shouldn’t on traveling to disc dog and fun competitions, so Maty can demonstrate the abilities of disabled animals.

Maty’s email is filled with people wanting to know about amputations, and provides encouragement to people during a time when they must make this difficult decision. She has demonstrated the abilities of disabled animals and has in turn allowed her parents’ shelter to quickly adopt these animals without adoptees questioning the quality of life they can live.

We think Maty has what it takes to play the lead movie role because she has experience working in front of the camera, for national network production crews. She is calm, confident, dependable and very well trained, so she could make Geoff’s directing job easier. Heck, she’s been around the world on her very own geocaching coin!

See what you think. Watch Maty’s audition video below, learn more about her story, read her resume – then go vote yourself!

From Endangered to Empowered

Posted on by Mary Shafer

The term “disabled” can mean many things. There are lots of ways in which a creature can be disabled. In terms of this story, the “disability” was that of leatherback sea turtles being unable to live and reproduce in peace, due to fishing, pollution and — mainly — to being hunted for their meat, flippers and eggs — the latter believed by some to have aphrodisiac qualities.

On a personal note, I am always disgusted beyond belief when humans believe it is somehow their right to maim or kill other creatures solely for the purpose of enhancing their own sexual experiences. Not only is this a repulsive practice from pretty much any perspective, but it says a WHOLE lot about the people engaging in it. Like that maybe they should work harder on their characters than their organs. But back to the real story:

For years these huge, ancient animals were being poached when they came ashore on Trinidad’s Matura Beach to lay their eggs. Once poachers took what they wanted, they left the gigantic carcasses to rot in the tropical sun, stinking up the otherwise beautiful beach. The sight finally become too much for resident Suzan Lakhan Baptiste. And she did something about it.

I’ve just posted the link to CNN‘s story here, so you can read the rest for yourself. But suffice it to say that this woman is a courageous hero who clearly lives her convictions. I hold her up here as an example of what one person can achieve in helping disabled animals when she puts her mind to it.

Brava, Suzan! May you be a shining example to the rest of the world. You certainly are my hero.

Social Media Saves a Disabled Dog!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Okay, I admit it: I’ve caught the Twitter bug. I’ve been spending a LOT of time on this web-based, mini-blogging app that I once disdained as silly and useless. But at that time, it pretty much WAS silly and useless – just a place for friends to catch up on each other’s lives in 140 characters or less.

But when I’m not wearing my author or publisher hat, I’m a marketing consultant, and about two months ago, I realized that the immediacy of this medium held some real promise as a promotional tool. So I signed up and things have never been the same.

So, what does this have to do with disabled pets? Well, in this case, a whole lot! According to our intrepid blogging reporter friend, Megan Drake:

Two College Station, Texas roommates who are already ‘pros’ at rescuing animals found an injured dog left by the side of a road. Since the dog is a pit bull the duo knew he would be euthanized if they brought him to a shelter so they decided to rescue him by first bringing him to a veterinarian for the necessary care of his injuries. His left front leg and part of his tail required amputation. They named him Caesar.

What is really interesting is the ingenuity Jamie Whitt and her roommate Connie Donnellan used in posting Caesar’s plight on their Twitter accounts. Hoping to get maybe a quarter of the money needed for Caesar’s vet bill, they received $485 in four days! This covered the vet bill of $400 and the rest will be used for his food during his rehabilitation and foster until he finds a forever home.

You go, grrlz!

So, never underestimate the power of technology to help us do good things, even on a personal, individual level. That thought alone is comforting, given the number of ways it is constantly used to do something nasty. It’s always our choice, how we will use the tools available to us. I think we just need to be careful about the motivations we allow to guide us in that endeavor.

Hopefully, this story will give you ideas of your own about ways to use social media to make the world more…well, social! I’ll leave you today with this long-before-its-time quote from pioneering anthropologist, Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

A Memorial Day Tribute: Senior Pets

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Today is a national holiday in America, when we remember the men and women of our armed forces who have fallen in battle or who were lost while playing supportive roles for those on the battlefield. I want to say thank you to all the people who gave their children and brothers and sisters and moms and dads and other relatives to us—their larger American family—to do what needed to be done, however unpleasant and difficult and sad. Thank you to those brave souls who stood against the wrong that others would do to us as a nation, and who went forth toward something they believed in, for a cause larger than themselves.

Anything I can say here would be a poor imitation of what I believe is the best, most eloquent and elegant elegy ever given to these people, so I’ll simply link to Abraham Lincoln’s haunting and inspired Gettysburg Address. I ask you to take the three minutes you’ll need to read through it, even if you’ve done so before. I dare you not to be moved again by the spare prose, the carefully chosen words, the absolute feeling of true awe and responsibility this president clearly had as he composed this tribute to the men and women (yes, there WERE women who not only fought, but also died, in the American Civil War) who gave their lives to see that the great experiment that still is America did not fail.

Another memorial is being faced every day by the pets of older people, and I want to talk about that today, on a day of remembrance. We need to not forget that suffering doesn’t just happen in war, but also on the home front. And I feel it’s important to give voice to those who suffer, and who have no voice of their own. The memorial of which I speak here is that of the companion relationship between older Americans and their pets, when that bond becomes irrevocably severed.
I’ve mentioned on this blog that one of the things that can “disable” a pet is advanced age, just as it can with people. But aside from the regular aches, pains and things that stop working, there’s another way that age disables pets: In our hyper-youth-oriented culture, older pets are often considered undesirable and disposable. One of the more common ways an older pet is left homeless is when its owner either dies or enters a nursing home, where their pets are not allowed.

Now, don’t even get me STARTED on the sheer stupidity of this policy, given everything we know about the proof that living with a pet lengthens lives and improves their quality. For the purposes of this post, we simply need to acknowledge that the problem exists, and realize there’s something we can do about it.

That “something” is adopting—or at least fostering—one of these older pets who, for one reason or another, finds itself abandoned. Many of these animals have nothing wrong with them other than the fact that they’re advanced in years. Some do have their own health issues, but all of them have one thing in common: Through no fault of their own, they are left without a family and someone to love them—usually rather suddenly—and no one to help them make the transition from beloved companion to unwanted burden.
Enter Senior Pets: All They Need Is Love, a newsletter published quarterly by Joan Antelman, also available in blog form. This newsletter is dedicated to finding permanent, loving homes for older dogs and cats in the New York City area. Joan’s organization, as we do, believes senior pets make wonderful, loving companions no matter what their age! She encourages her readers to visit the rescue groups and shelters mentioned in the newsletter to see all the great, devoted cats and dogs who will be grateful and happy to live out their remaining days with someone just like you.

Please take a moment to visit this great little site, and to consider adopting or fostering one of the dear critters listed there. I know the economy is bad, and I know we’re all tightening our belts quite a bit these days. But ask yourself honestly: Is there not one thing you could maybe do without this year that might allow you to provide a home for one of these sweet pups or kitties? Perhaps it’s time for you to make a large deposit into the Karma Bank: Here’s your opportunity!

Even if you honestly can’t welcome one of these animals into your home, please pass the site’s address on to at least one other person you think might be able to. Better yet, take a few minutes and work your contact list like a phone tree, asking that each recipient pass it on to just one other person. It’s such a small thing to do that could help so much.

Thank you, and I hope your Memorial Day was meaningful and reminded you of how lucky we are to live in this country, despite its flaws and missteps. I am reminded each time I’m able to post something here without recrimination for my thoughts, that there are countries where I wouldn’t be allowed to reach out to you about something we all care about.

America rocks. Thank you, veterans, for keeping it rolling, too.

Dear Deja: A Sad Farewell

Posted on by Mary Shafer

A sweet memory: Deja at the beach

As I get ready to have a multi-day, out-of-office experience (read: a working vacation), I find I must sign off on a sad note today.

Four years ago, my sister and I took off for some bonding time alone, away from our families, to grieve the loss of our mom. We visited a beautiful, wonderful private retreat now called Villa La Bella. It’s an American-owned bed & breakfast on Isla Mujeres, just off the tip of the Yucatan, a 20-minute ferry ride off of Cancun, Mexico.

Ashley and Curtis, our hosts, were the most gracious and kind people ever, taking always into account our rather fragile states of mind at the time. Though the circumstances were truly awful, I can’t imagine another place that would have been such a balm on my psyche, and that place will forever be ingrained on my heart as a place of healing and restoration.

It so happened that a couple from a New Orleans ‘burb, Jeanmarie and Dan Cozzi, were occupying the honeymoon suite at that same time. As VLB is not a large resort-type place, we couldn’t help but meet them at breakfast and see them from time to time throughout our stay. As the week wore on, my sister and I came to look forward to seeing the Cozzis. They were such affable, funny and genuine people, and we so desperately needed such an influence to take some of the sting out of our deep sorrow.

By the end of our stay, we had all become friends, learning that we had much in common, including a deep love of our pets and animals in general. We swapped email addresses and have since kept in touch over the years. We maintained a cyber-vigil when the Cozzis had to evacuate during Hurricane Katrina, and were so relieved when we got our first email from Jeanmarie when they regained electrical power.

It happened again last year, when they took no chance with the approach of Hurricane Ike. This time, Jeanmarie kept in touch through her hotel’s wireless connection. We were glad to be able to have more immediate news, and one of the highlights of that time was the photos she sent showing their two beloved Boxers, Bruno and Deja.

The pictures showed the handsome pair sprawled across the bed like they owned the joint, clearly avoiding any kind of deprived refugee life. Jeanmarie described a situation most of us are familiar with who just can’t say no to our pets: the dogs taking over the bed at night, to the point where she and Dan sometimes had a hard time finding a place for themselves. I could only smile, so glad that this was one family whose beloved critters weren’t left behind to fend for themselves, as had so often happened during the hell of Katrina.

Deja uses her beloved Bruno for a pillow in their last photo together.

Today, though, I got a different kind of post from Jeanmarie, and it just stopped me in my tracks.

“It is with much sadness that I write this note,” her post began. “Our beautiful boxer girl, Deja, passed away last night.”

My heart skipped a beat and I felt a lump rise to my throat. It’s been just a month since my cousin lost her dear little Jack Russell, Nip, and I immediately recalled the wrenching sadness of that day.

“Many of you knew that she has been struggling with a demyelinating disease that has been slowly weakening her hind legs,” Jeanmarie continued. “We knew it would eventually rob her of the use of her legs completely, but never wanted to think about that day. That day turned out to be yesterday.”

Oh, no…here it comes, I thought.

“Through the day she struggled and gave such a valiant effort, but ultimately could not walk. She kept falling and stumbling and it was just heartbreaking to watch. She was so frustrated and nervous because she didn’t understand why her legs would not work. She could not even get comfortable on the couch. We could not let her go on like this.”

Yes…yes, I know, I thought. Oh, how can we bear these desolate moments, these wrenching decisions that we can’t take back?

“We took her to the vet last night and along with the vet, Dan, me and Bruno surrounded her on a soft blanket and spoke softly to her as she slipped away peacefully. She gave us a look that let us know she was ready to go and to be free to run and play again. It completely broke our hearts and needless to say Bruno, who was her constant companion and best buddy, is completely lost without her.”

By this time, the tears were coming. What do you say? What can you do? If you’ve been through the loss of a pet before, you know all you can do is listen and offer gentle thoughts.

“It is very sad,” Jeanmarie said, understatement of the year. “Those of you who knew Deja, knew how special she was. She was just a pleasure. Sweet, loving, loyal, frisky and fun. We will miss her ‘flying nun’ ears and her ‘singing’ to us when it was time to eat. We will miss her prancing like a pony on the beach and her wiggle-butt when we she was happy or excited to see us.”

I pictured that happy, wriggling boxer, with those big, brown eyes and those expressive “eyebrows” they all have, and my heart ached for the Cozzis’ loss.

“Especially when Dan came home from work, that is when she was happiest,” the post went on. “She was our girl, but she was especially close to Dan. He is just heartbroken. We all are.”

I never had the pleasure of meeting Deja in person, but I feel I knew her through the loving portrait her mom painted for us. And so I’m posting this here for the world to see; an image of sweet Deja, as my way of sharing with her grieving parents the pain of losing her — as they shared with us the loss of our mom. Grief is grief and loss is loss. It hurts, I don’t care who or what it was you loved. And perhaps in this way, with this little memorial, I can say a small “thank you” to Dan and Jeanmarie for having reached out to people they didn’t even know when those people so needed a kind word, a friendly smile.

It’s said that grief shared is a burden halved, and so this is my way to try to take on some of what I know must feel overwhelming to Jeanmarie and Dan right now. I know all who read this understand that loss, and that we all, collectively, send our wishes for soft-edged memories and a reminder that those dear critters who pass over the Rainbow Bridge wait—always—for us, on the other side.

Run fast again in the glorious sunlight, Deja, and jump high without pain now. Your family will always remember, and they’ll return for you one day.