A Saturday Smile – Pets, Creativity and Healing

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Disability can come in many forms — not just physical — for animals and humans. Sometimes psychic trauma leaves greater disability than any physical malfunction can cause. It’s much more difficult to tell if an animal is emotionally damaged than it is with people, since people can verbalize what they’re feeling. But if you pay attention, you can certainly tell when a critter has been traumatized, as well.

Regardless the species, emotional trauma can result in physical illness. We’ve all experienced the milder forms of this: a headache brought on by extreme emotional tension, a stomach ache or nausea caused by stress or anxiety. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of documented cases of what used to be called “psychosomatic” illness, now studied as psychophysiologic disorder.

Trauma can be passive as well as active. I think neglect is one of those passive trauma-causers. All you have to do to see what it can do is walk through a shelter for homeless animals — or people. And neglect of the innate urge to create, which I believe we’re all born with, is one of the worst of those passive damagers.

I’ve long believed that there’s a strong connection between expressing one’s creative self and remaining healthy. I believe that refusal to honor the creative urge is a major contributor to horrible diseases such as cancer and auto-immune afflictions. Not the only cause, but a big one. Why do I believe this? Because it makes sense:

Creative expression in any form — visual or performing art, science experiments, cooking — is a way for us to explore the deeper parts of our brain that, for whatever reason, gets neglected in the rest of our lives. As with dreaming, it’s a way to give rein to our subconscious mind, which is often far more creative than our beaten-into-conforming-submission conscious mind. It is also a way for us to have a voice in a world that may otherwise make us feel silenced, impotent, unimportant…unheard.

If we don’t give in to the urge to create, I believe the energy that initiates that urge gets forced down into some yet-undiscovered recess in our psyche and somehow begins to change form from a positive force to a negative one, such as anger or resentment. And there, it begins to fester, manifesting as one of those diseases that makes our bodies begin to turn on themselves.

There is plenty of science going on right now that connects mental illness to physical ailments. Though my description here is crude, I believe it will one day be borne out by empirical scientific research that proves we can and often do manifest psychic wounds physically, at a cellular level.

So, what does this all have to do with disabled pets? Two things, actually.

One is that I believe choosing to invite an animal of any kind into our lives as a pet is a form of creative expression in itself — much as I believe childbirth is the ultimate form of creation in which humans can engage. Either way, we’re taking on the responsibility to guide and help form the child or the creature as it will exist in this lifetime. The second is that I believe sharing our lives with animals can help — even encourage — us to honor our creative urge.

After all, I would never have had the idea for Almost Perfect had I not invited Idgie into my life. And now she daily oversees my writing activities!

So, I’d like to share with you a blog I discovered this morning by a woman named Lisa Taron. Lisa expresses her creative urge at her blog, The Pet Book Lady.

Lisa is the founding director of Heritage Makers, an online storybooking and digital scrapbooking company. She says she’s “a kid-at-heart businesswoman who helps other people celebrate their lives through Story.” She also honors her creative urge through a career as an illustrator. She illustrated a children’s book, Three Grin Salad, a finalist in the 2007 Indie Book Excellence Awards. It’s a book about encouraging kids to lead happy, healthy lives.

I was delighted to find a page on Lisa’s blog that not only tells, but SHOWS how animals can encourage our creative expressions, and just had to share it with you. Take a look for yourself!

Crayola for Kids™ markers are water-based and non-toxic.
No pets were harmed in the making of this photo. 🙂

Woo-Hoo! Another of our authors makes a splash!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Our own Cheryl Caruolo is making headlines in her Boston-area hometown blog, Wicked Local! She talks about her piece, Battle for Life: Krieg, that appears in our Almost Perfect anthology.

Little Krieg, the runt of his litter, didn’t stand
much of a chance when he was born.

This affecting piece about how a runt-of-the-litter German shepherd managed to beat the odds to live a fulfilling, inspiring life is truly a shining example of what this book is about. Way to go, Cheryl!

Come. Sit. Stay!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

What an original and excellent idea!

Artist Kimberly Kelly Santini is an artist, specializing in pet portraiture. She has been painting daily dogs (and cats and horses and guinea pigs and bunnies) since 2006. Proceeds from the sale of these paintings support Kim and often animal-related causes, as well. Anyone who knows what it takes to create ANY kind of work of art—much less skillfully accomplished portraits—will appreciate the immense amount of work and dedication it takes to keep up a commitment like this. And yet, she keeps on, with dogged determination (yes, pun intended).

Well into her third year of this endeavor, and inching toward 700 finished paintings, Kim admits that she often asks herself, What the heck!?

“Yeah, I ask myself that constantly,” she writes in her blog. [It’s] insanity, yes, but good times all around as well.

Certainly, you can’t miss the joy she packs into her paintings—all you have to do is look at one. The images are powerful and impactful. The American Kennel Club was so taken with Kim’s work that they used a colorful collage of her Dog-A-Day images to adorn its 2007 Eukanuba National Championship poster:

Kim’s all about the animals and the art at her blog. She takes commissions for your own special pet portrait, talks about her works-in-progress, features an “In Memoriam” section for animals she’s painted who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and even tells us what she’s currently reading. Speaking of which—yes, you CAN buy a book containing her Dog-A-Day imagery!

There’s more there, as well, my favorite part of which is the “Been Rescued by a Rescue?” section. Here, Kim invites visitors to share their rescue story with her, and your furry loved one may appear in a future Dog-a-Day painting. Now, I happen to know at least eleven ladies who have a story like this…

Get on over to PaintingADogADay. You’ll be glad you visited this little corner of the blogosphere, I promise.

Ruby Runs Again in San Francisco

Posted on by Mary Shafer

…well, at least in the pages of its paper, the San Francisco Chronicle!

Our own Vicki Tiernan, who wrote about her wonder dog, Ruby, in Almost Perfect, was interviewed on Chronicle writer Eileen Mitchell’s Pet Tales blog in mid-March. It happened amid a flurry of PR work going on here at the Word Forge Books/Enspirio House offices, and I neglected to get the story posted here.

So—hoping that Vicki and Ruby will forgive my shortcomings—I share this triumph with you now. Ruby is our “cover girl,” and we’re so proud of all she accomplished in her too-short life, and what she continues to accomplish now…namely, getting people to pick up the book and buy it! Thanks, Ruby!

Roberta Makes Headlines for Greek Animals!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Roberta Beach Jacobson, one of the illustrious contributors to our Almost Perfect anthology, has made the front page of the Greece & Cyprus area of the Best Friends Network website with her story, “The Sea Dog of Karpathos Island.”

Opi and friend

It’s a heartwarming, true story of Roberta and her husband, Alf, adopting a scruffy little one-eyed dog. Roberta and Alf are cofounders of Animal Welfare Karpathos. Karpathos is an island with no resident vet or animal shelter and the idea for creating AWK came about in 2001.

Since that time, German veterinarian Martina Greve has been volunteering on Karpathos twice a year to neuter and spay dogs and cats. She also tends to any farm animals in need of medical treatment.

The organization’s clinic is always busy. In between vet visits, Alf gives routine injections, hands out flea and tick treatments and does lots of dog grooming. 25¢ from each copy of Almost Perfect sold goes to support this worthwhile group.

Keeping Pets From Becoming Disabled

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Fellow author Christina Selter is a pet safety expert and founder of Bark Buckle UP, a pet restraint manufacturer and advocate for pet travel safety. With its slogan “Be Smart, Ride Safe™,” Bark Buckle UP tours the US and Canada, educating people about and promoting awareness of pet safety while traveling with pets.

National safety statistics conclude the number of pets traveling in vehicles is at an all-time high. Most of these animals travel unrestrained, and the corresponding risk to other vehicle occupants, to the pets themselves and to first responders called to an accident scene is of growing concern. Especially with the latter, there is a genuine risk: For first responders called to render aid, the challenge of securing a frightened or injured animal before treating victims can be of immediate concern.

Just as with people, it only takes a few minutes to safeguard your pet’s safety by buckling them up. Accidents do happen, and you owe it to your pet to protect them against possible injury. Christina hopes that unleashing this lifesaving message through Bark Buckle UP will increase the number of pets traveling safely, and will save both human and animal lives.

When riding in a vehicle traveling at 35 mph, a 60-pound, unrestrained dog can cause an impact force of 2,700 pounds, slamming into a car seat, windshield or another passenger. Even if the animal survives, it can impede the progress of rescue workers who need every moment possible to safely care for human accident victims.

This very real danger is acknowledged by many states and provinces, which now require pet restraints in moving vehicles, since they offer several proven advantages. In the event of a collision, they help protect

  • pets
  • other occupants from being struck by the pet
  • first responders from frightened or injured pets who might be aggressive due to fear

Even without the specter of an accident, pet restraints are just a good idea because they:

  • keep pets from running loose and distracting the driver
  • prevent pets from escaping the vehicle through an open window or door
  • keep pets from being injured through extending any of their body parts outside the vehicle

Bark Buckle UP has a Stat-Tracker program that collects and stores valuable, in-depth statistics about pet safety. The data and hard facts collected on an ongoing basis are compiled and used in improving pet safety laws.

Christina is often featured as a Pet Travel Safety Advocate at international auto shows, pet expos, on TV and radio. She’s also quoted in news articles and appears at guest speaking engagements nationwide. She works closely with Fire and Police personnel who support her safety program. If you’d like her to speak at one of your events, you can reach her at 949-361-BARK (2275).

Philadelphia Examiner Review!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Well, our pal Megan Drake has read Almost Perfect and decided that she likes it! We’re tickled pink, and send her our thanks for letting the world know!

I had the great good fortune to meet Megan in person last night at the little bash we threw to celebrate Be Kind To Animals Week at the nearby office park that also serves as our warehouse. We had a packed room for the video presentation and a good time was had by all. I’ll post more about that as soon as the photos come in from various people who had their cameras on!

A Nearby Friend

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Shout out to a new supporter and friend: Welcome Megan Drake, the Philadelphia Dog Advocate Examiner. Megan blogs about all things dog at the Philly Examiner’s site. She heard about us via our KYW1060am podcast last week and is very excited about Almost Perfect! In fact, she’s so excited about it, she couldn’t even wait to get her review copy before giving our little book a thumbs up for a Mother’s Day gift suggestion.

Thanks, Megan, and we can’t wait to hear what you have to say once you’ve read the whole thing! Hope you stick around here at Almost Perfect Pets blog and become one of our big, happy family.

Oh, Hooray! We’re Official!

Posted on by Mary Shafer


I learned this morning via Franny’s Cats Blog that the Animal Miracle Network had succeeded in getting May 3 recognized as National Disabled Pets Day! This is such a wonderful thing. It helps all of us who know the importance of raising awareness of the plight of special needs animals everywhere. And it’ll be a great reason to celebrate Almost Perfect again next year, so thanks, AMN!

Visit Franny’s blog to find out more about cute little Beanie pictured above.