Be Kind to Animals Week is Coming!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

That’s right! May 3-10 is National Be Kind To Animals Week in America, and we’re celebrating with our own little event right here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania!

The birth of humane education as a national effort dates back to 1915. In that year, “Be Kind to Animals Week” was inspired Dr. William O’Stillman, leader of the American Humane Association. AHA’s primary goals were visiting local schools to promote the development of humane education and publicizing the good works of the nation’s humane societies. Today, the annual event is used to bring to the fore the needs of animals as sentient beings, and it piggybacks with National Adopt A Pet Month in the USA.

O hai. U can haz party!

Miss Idgie here is all party animal, dressed up and ready to celebrate at Lackland Self Storage and Office Park at 8133 Easton Road in Ottsville. From 7:30-9:00 pm on Friday, May 8, she may decide to join us for a little neighborhood get-together, celebrating one of our country’s best annual observances.

We’ll be showing a brief slide show about disabled pets, presented by…me! That will be followed by a short reading from Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them, and another by Pipersville author Betty Kerr Orlemann. She’ll be reading a brief passage from Mission: Murder, first in her new Hattie Farwell mystery series. Hattie is an 80-year-old amateur sleuth who solves cases with the aid of her faithful sidekick, Wolf, a giant dog.

Betty and I will then sell and sign copies of our books to anyone who’s interested. We’ll be joined by Dr. Ellen Prieto, the Wonder Vet who saved Idgie’s life, and who’s in my essay from the anthology. Also we’ll be joined by Denise Jeffries, Senior Veterinary Technician at
Tabby’s Place, a cat sanctuary across the river in New Jersey. There will be representatives of several other pet-related organizations, along with some free light refreshments.

The venue is being generously donated by Lackland Self Storage as a community gesture, for which we are sincerely appreciative.

It’ll be a family-friendly event, so join us, won’t you, for a little animal kindness? Be there and feel the love!

Lemon’s on Tour!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Photo by Tim Jean, staff photographer, Andover Townsman

I’ve posted here about Lemon the duck before, but thought you might enjoy an update on her ramblings.

Last week, Lemon visited the Professional Center for Child Development in Andover, Mass. He was accompanied by author Laura Backman, who wrote a children’s book about him and read to the children there. PCCD teaches children of all abilities through a variety of programs, and wanted to show them how Lemon navigates his disability by getting around in a modified walker.

Learn more

Part of the Plan…

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Though our almost perfect pets bring so much joy into our lives, eventually we all must deal with the grief of losing our pet, as our very different lifespans mean most of us will outlive our furry, feathery or scaly companions.

Helping us deal with this inevitable event is Moira Anderson Allen’s Pet Loss Support Page. This information-packed blog covers everything from quality of life and euthanasia decisions to how to handle bereavement and create a memorial. Anyone who has lost a pet knows the assailing, overwhelming grief and all the bewilderment and distraction that comes with it. Moira gathers here a huge assortment of welcome tips, resources and links we can all use to make this difficult time a little easier.

No one wants to think about the time when we’ll have to say that final goodbye, but why not bookmark this useful site now for when you’ll need it? Who knows? Maybe you’ll be able to send it to a friend, colleague or family member who needs it before you do.

Get a Dog!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

I want to thank Khyra the Siberian Husky (and sometimes, her mom) for suggesting this wonderful snippet from last week’s CBS Sunday Morning show.

I saw this myself and — for once — actually agreed with Ben Stein (he and I are kind of polar opposites on the political spectrum, but apparently we’re right there when it comes to critters). See? Even with politics, animals help us find the best of ourselves! As in concentrating on what we share instead of what keeps us apart.

On that note, I want to welcome Khyra and her mom to Almost Perfect Pets, and thank them for their wonderful comments. And I’d like to say “Hi, neighbor!” They also live here in “Pawsylvania.”

Welcome, Khyra!

Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Photo courtesy The Washington Post

Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald is a licensed acupuncturist, certified clinical nutritionist, and a homeopath. She has a Master’s Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine and a Doctorate in Homeopathic Medicine. She is the founder and Medical Director of the Santa Monica Wellness Center and her mission is to inspire others to live their passion, while creating and enjoying optimal physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

She blogs over at The Huffington Post. This week, she welcomed Bo, the 6-month-old Portugese Water Dog that is now our country’s First Dog, the Obama family’s new pet. Apparently Dr. Fitzgerald is plugged into the same energy we are, as she has this to say:

Many of us know that animals add to our emotional and spiritual well-being. Since we live in a day where just about anything can and is often researched, many studies have demonstrated that having a pet is good for our physical health as well! Apparently, while we are taking care of our pets, our pets are taking care of us.

Hear, hear! Let’s hope many, many others begin to wake up to this reality and to the reality that it’s not just physically intact, “perfect” pets who perform this wonderful, loving service to their chosen humans. Read more of the good doctor’s post.

Thanks, Roberta!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Well, bust my buttons! I’m holding my head up high this morning — this blog has been given the Sisterhood Award by fellow author and blogger Roberta Beach Jacobson (also a contributor to Almost Perfect!).

Roberta blogs over at the Seattle Post Intelligencer site, and had this to say:

Almost Perfect Pets
Mary Shafer is a wonder who balances twenty projects at once. Her blog offers a pleasing combination of opinion, news and humor. How she has time for it with all her books and other endeavors, I have no earthly idea. I suspect she never sleeps.

Well, THANK YOU, Roberta! It’s always nice to be recognized by someone you admire. Roberta is something of a wonder herself, what with all her own books, her blog and her tireless work on behalf of animals. 25¢ from each copy of Almost Perfect goes to support Animal Welfare Karpathos, an all-volunteer animal rescue organization that Roberta helped found and still volunteers with.

It’s the Cat’s Meow!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Craig Grant walks with some
of the 500 cats who reside
at the Caboodle Ranch in Lee, Fla.
(Pet Pulse Photo by Joe Bonner)

In Florida, one man has carved out 30 acres to provide a home to nearly 500 unwanted felines, including “almost perfect” ones. They travel from far and wide to settle into their elaborate sanctuary, Caboodle Ranch. The founder of the ranch fronts all of the facility’s costs out of his own pocket, and builds all of the cat town’s structures with his own hands. It’s a true labor of love that warms our hearts. Read more…

Friends…Best Friends

Posted on by Mary Shafer

My favorite movie is a sweet southern confection called “Fried Green Tomatoes,” based on the intriguing book by Fannie Flagg.

Starring Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates, this movie is essentially about friendship in all its different guises and intensities. In fact, in the last line of the movie, Tandy’s character, Ninny Threadgoode, tells Bates’ character, Evelyn Couch: “You reminded me of what the most important thing in life is. You know what I think it is? Friends…best friends.” (Warning: Spoiler for the end below. If you haven’t already seen the movie and want to, don’t play this excerpt.)

What does all this have to do with disabled pets? Well, a few things, actually. First of all, I happen to believe we’re all somewhat disabled in different ways without friends. But that’s a discussion all its own. The main reason I’ve posted this here is that a heartwarming story about best friends has come to my attention: the story of Libby and Cashew.

Seems that in 1998, a six-week-old kitten was found abandoned in a pet store, so severely malnourished that a veterinarian warned she was unlikely to survive. She was taken home by Terry and Deborah Burns of Middleburg, Pennsylvania. That’s my home state, right around my old stomping grounds while I was growing up.

Terry and Deborah soon discovered that her rough start would not deter this intuitive little feline—whom they named Libby—from performing a very special task.

In her new home, the kitten met the Burns’s seven-year-old Lab/shar pei mix, Cashew. Terry Burns remembers how their relationship began: “Cashew would poke her head into the kitten box for nuzzles, seemingly just to let Libby know that she wasn’t alone.” The two spent the next seven years together.

By the time Cashew was 13 years old, she’d lost her sight and hearing. Libby, who’d had no training as a therapy pet, began to care for her friend. She guided Cashew by the shoulder to her food and water dish, through doorways and to her dog crate, where the two slept together.

If Cashew walked too close to the furniture, Libby would immediately position herself between the canine and the item, to keep her from colliding. “Libby was also protective about people entering their sleeping area,” says Burns. “If we came in, she would look intently at us as if to say, ‘Please stay quiet. I just got her settled and sleeping.’”

When Cashew was taken on her daily walks around the property, Libby—who liked to hang out on the patio instead of being indoors—would randomly show up. “It was as if she was checking on us to make sure we were providing proper supervision for Cashew,” says Terry. “After taking a look, she would race back to the house and wait at the driveway for her friend to return.”

When Cashew passed away at age 15, Libby missed her deeply, and continued to sleep in their bed and watch for her return. “The only time they had ever been apart was when Cashew went for her walks,” says Terry.

For being an intuitive and extraordinary guide cat, Libby was named the ASPCA Cat of the Year for 2008, and this ten-year-old tabby shows no signs of giving up her post as caretaker. Burns informs us, “Libby has now moved on to protecting her shy feline sister, Lucy.”

Just goes to show that you never know from which direction love will flow. I wish you all at least one Best Friend in your life. If you’ve got that, consider yourself truly blessed.

Freedom and Jeff

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Here’s a story that was passed along to me, and I want to share it here because it’s not only about a disabled animal, it’s also about the same theme as Almost Perfect: how damaged animals can not only inspire, but also help heal humans who take the time — take the risk — to open their hearts to these magnificent creatures. If this isn’t the ultimate illustration of how karma works, then I don’t know what is.

Freedom and I have been together 10 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn’t open all the way even after surgery. It was broken in 4 places. She’s my baby.

When Freedom came in, she could not stand and both wings were broken. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vet’s office.

From then on, I was always around her. We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in. I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lay there, looking at me with those big, brown eyes. We also had to tube feed her for weeks.

This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then, she still couldn’t stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn’t stand in a week. You know, you don’t want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon.

I didn’t want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn’t bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her cage, and there she was; standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day.

We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV. Miracle Pets even did a show about us.

In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ, plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair – the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again.

Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone.

So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn’t said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don’t know how long. That was a magic moment.

We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird.

On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power course through his body. I have so many stories like that.

I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom.

Jeff Guidry, Presenter and Handler