Animal Friends

Today, April 11, is National Pet Day, a day that sounds like an excuse for an indulgent society to celebrate one of its obsessions. But if you go to the ‘official’ website for the day, it gives a list of ways to ‘celebrate’ the day, and the list seems to reflect the delicate balance of our current cultural awareness toward animals, from indulgence, to fun, to humanitarian concern.

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On this National Pet Day I got to thinking about the pets in my life, especially in my adult life whom I had personal relationships with. Going through photo albums  (most of my animal friends lived in my pre-digital days) I found many sweet pictures to share. This is Leonard, a dog given to me for 'temporary' care and who stayed with me till his death on the road. He was my #1 guy when I began living in the woods alone.

On this National Pet Day I got to thinking about the animals I have lived with whom I had close relationships with. Leonard was a dog given to me for ‘temporary’ care in my late 20s who stayed until his untimely death on the road. He was my #1 guy when I began living in the woods.

Along with the booming industry of pet care products, from gourmet pet foods to ridiculous pet ‘outfits’, high-priced beds, pet supplements, ‘urban’ chicken houses, etc. etc., there is a growing awareness of the horrors and abuse of animals who are no more than a commodity to unscrupulous breeders or those in the illegal trade of exotic pets. Over the years cock fights have been outlawed, dog fights are illegal, the public is more aware, and angry about the fate of racing Greyhounds, there is more concern about the treatment of ‘retired’ racing horses, and pressure on circuses and marine shows to stop using wild animals as entertainment. There is a movement on both the local, state and national level to make it illegal for pet stores to sell pets from ‘puppy mills’. Many people wanting a animal companion adopt one from a shelter or rescue organization. Many states, Washington State being a leader, have animal abuse laws.

There is also a greater awareness of the benefits of living with an animal. The remarkable therapeutic value of companion animals with Autistic children, elder people with dementia, as well as the value of service dogs who bring independence and security to people with a variety of disabilities, is just a short list of the life-changing richness living with an animal brings to people.

Daisy. What can I say about her? A Jersey with a remarkable personality, I could write a blog just of stories about her

Dear Daisy, a Jersey with personality plus, I could write many stories about life with her!

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Pan

Societal attitudes toward animals have definitely shifted in the span of my life with animals, and while I think there is an unbalance on one end of the scale, with the personification of pets who don’t really care if they sleep in a purple velvet memory foam bed, I think over all attitudes have shifted for the greater good of both animals and people. Research into the intelligence and memories of animals has helped people understand that if animals have intelligence, they might also have feelings, perhaps not in the manner as we do, but of no less significance to their life experiences than our emotional life is to ours.

When Mike and I took a course in animal tracking years ago, we learned of cultures where animal and human lives interacted regularly and interspecies communication not limited to a few gifted people, but part of everyone’s every day lives. Where people were able to ‘read’ animals in the same manner animals can ‘read’ people (who has not had a pet who reacts or response to their human feelings of despondency or joy, or who knows when you are thinking of going for a walk or in the car?) The interspecies communications found in these cultures is not necessarily with ‘pets’, but with the animals living in the same geographic environment whose lives are interwoven with human lives. This interspecies communication was once more common but is lost for a wide variety of reasons in most cultures. I hope our current ‘obsession’ with pets is an indication of a deeper human desire to regain that lost connection. We have only to benefit from it.

Eliza & her brother Charlie were given to me as tiny kitties,

Eliza & her brother Charlie, given to me as tiny kitties, lived to a ripe old age.

If this day of honoring pets in any way can help bring into greater awareness the attitude that animals are the beings we share this little earth planet with, and to the degree we treat them with compassion is as much a reflection of our humanity as is the way we treat one another, then I think it is a day well celebrated.

Enjoy your animal friends today and every day!

Below are more pictures of my animal companions through the years. These were the ‘loves of my life’, in the manner anyone who has loved any animal companion knows. There were also ‘short timers’, animals who came for a time but who I found long-term homes for. (click on any picture to view larger)

Pan was a ‘yogi’ dog, as my brother once called him, who took care of all the 2-legged, 4-legged and feathered beings in his world. A friend to all, familiar and stranger, he was my best buddy on many camping trips and every day he spent with me.  He saw many other animals come and go, lost two of his own best friends when they died, my cats Charlie and Eliza, who left home when Pan arrived but were soon won back and slept with him and followed him everywhere. Also pictured above is Oki. Mike came into our lives with Oki, an elderly, deaf Border Collie/Australian Sheppard who had lived an adventurous life as a tree-planters companion. He was grumpy about getting old when we met him, but Pan guided him and cared for him with great patience. Pan was old himself when I brought Reggie the strong-willed, playful Corgi home, but he was patient and friendly during their few years together.  

Reggie, the playful philosopher and most strong-willed dog I've lived with, traveled many places with Mike and I and hated being left home even when we went to work! He was a working dog at heart and wanted his own job! He stunned everyone at his composed behavior when he was invited to participate in an animal communication class I took with Penelope Smith.

Reggie, the playful philosopher and most complex, strong-willed dog I’ve lived with, traveled many places with Mike and I and hated being left home even when we went to work! He was a working dog at heart and wanted his own job! He stunned everyone at his composed behavior when he was invited to participate in an animal communication class I took with Penelope Smith. His death from mis-diagnosed pancreatitis was wrenching on both Mike and I.

My life with chickens has been well documented in past posts (see below). Feathered friends are hard-working bug eaters, egg producers who provide endless hours of entertainment!

Tippy, an elderly dog who wandered into our yard from the neighbors, who didn't really want her, and stayed till her end.

Tippy was old when she wandered into our yard from neighbors where she’d been left by folks who didn’t want her. She stayed till her end, a mixed breed of happy, she was, we thought, our ‘last’ dog friend…..until Abby had other ideas.

And in the present......Sweet Abby, coming to live with us in her 'elder' years but getting a new lease on life as she hunts and runs 'free at last' in the woods! 

And in the present…Sweet Abby, coming to live with us in her ‘elder’ years, getting a new lease on life hunting and running ‘free at last’ in the woods, and being my self-appointed shadow! Our cultural shifts in attitudes allowed her to spent time with my mother living in care facilities and  accompany me to appointments at Swedish Cancer center.

Here are some resources about animals in therapy and communicating with animals.

Mayo Clinic “Pet Therapy”

PAWS For People Benefits of Pet Therapy

Penelope Smith Animal Talk

Mary Getten Animal Communicator

 

Here are a few of the many other posts about animals:

I aught to have my head examinedCoops and TransitionsAnimal LoveAnimal DancesHeart TugLast One StandingStuddly the Rooster

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Dances

The balance, and dance, between wild and domestic animal companions has been IMG_4819fascinating to watch as Abby claims her new home territory.

Abby, the dog who moved into our house and hearts July 5, the last time I wrote*, has gone through a transformation and blossomed into a confident stalker of rats and squirrels.  Being a retriever breed, she is sometimes patient in her watching and waiting, moving slowly, one paw at a time, other times, she is quick on the draw, as she was the day a confused rat ran right up to her. In the seven years we did not have a dog we became accustom to wildlife, always present just beyond the yard, becoming more comfortable hanging out closer to the house. Our yard, a small oasis in, and extension of, the surrounding woods, became part of this wildlife haven we live in, a chunk of woods backed by acres of timber land, a rather vast undeveloped area in a county becoming more and more developed.

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Abby watching over her territory.

 The upside of increased wildlife closer to home has been chipmunks on the porch, eating sunflower seeds out of my hand, deer wandering through (no major damage, just a few nibbles, I notice they prefer native plants when available, and we have lots available!) and feeling the closer presence, and odor, of smaller mammals such as skunks, raccoons, etc.  The downside of no domestic pets has been rats getting into poultry houses and nesting under the house, (a problem creating a lot of work for Mike a few years ago), and even squirrels getting too bold and often destructive of feeders, etc. 

Abby, after letting the squirrels know free food under the bird feeders came at a price….vigilance on their part, readily pointed out to us a new rat nest under the house, once more Mike had to tear out insulation, replacing it and covering it this time with plywood.

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this morning a chipmunk breakfasted on a stump outside the bathroom window, beyond Abby’s sight!

I was concerned how a domestic dog would impact the increased wildlife visitations.  But Abby seems to know who the problem critters are and who to just give a little notice to.  After a few curious chases of chipmunks, she actually watched (albeit through the screen door) as one sat on the porch and ate huckleberries last week.  Even the squirrels require less attention now that they know she is on to their shenanigans.  A deer, just beyond the meditation building, did not draw her attention, she likely did not see it, but she has a very keen sense of smell.  Ignoring such a visitor may be wisdom on her part, there are limits to what a miniature poodle should consider stalking! Being a small dog, her own safety, and failing eyesight, means she is not out at night, she does not even like being out in the evening light unless she is with us. In her absence, a raccoon took advantage of an open coop door and made a meal of our beloved rooster Studdily. The hens and we are grieving.

Perhaps there is a balance, Abby living in harmony with some of the wild ones, letting others know they now share space with her. As the fall migrations of young raccoons and skunks, forced out of their parents territories, bring more of them into her territory, we will see just how wise she is!

She has made herself at home, considering the first 9 years of her life, coming from a backyard puppy mill, if she got outside at all, she was limited to a residential, more urban yard. At first she did not want to walk our forested trail, now she will follow a scent into brush over her head (something our short-legged Corgi wouldn’t do!)

It has been a pleasure and honor to watch an animal ‘come into her own’ and discover who she is. (Now if she would learn to behave in public around other dogs! That is another Abby story!)

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At the ocean, a place she had never been before, Abby learned quickly waves are just waves, not something to chase, and seagulls fly, making them hard to stalk, a meditative activity requiring a “stalkee” who does not leave  immediately.  But they are fun to watch fly!

* A personal update for those who have asked: Yep, it’s been a long time since I wrote, what sort of blogger goes two months without a peep? A stressed one! A summer of light-headed dizziness and head pain has limited computer time and sent me searching for answers. Tried cranial sacral therapy, saw doctors and physical therapists….not the way to spend a beautiful sunny summer!  Wrapping up mom’s house, cleaning it out, getting it ready to sell, and our weekly lunch visits with mom, also has kept me busy. Allergic reactions to Abby at first added to the stress, but a better diet changed her body chemistry and my body got the message…..she is here to stay!  We have adjusted, some days better than others.

Heart Tug/Heart Break

IMG_6642Meet Abby. We dated twice before she moved in yesterday, adopted from Center Valley Animal Rescue down the road.  She seems to be the perfect dog…..smart, sweet, spunky, intelligent, quick to learn, and all about love. She loves the outdoors, the sights, smells, to be petted and to sit calmly in a lap or at my feet.  Abby, has not had a perfect dog life. No one knows for sure her complete history, what is known is she is nine  years of age and was one of 16 dogs removed from the house of an elderly woman who had 30 miniature poodles and was breeding them.  In short, a puppy mill and a dog hoarder.  Her daughter was able to take 16 dogs from the woman’s home and place them with two rescue organizations.  CVAR received five dogs.  For some irrational reason of hope, I went to visit them.  I found them all to be friendly, happy for the visit, and full of playfulness.  Considering they came to CVAR with various health problems, none of them spayed or neutered, most with dental problems, some with more serious challenges, it is remarkable what happy dogs they are. Of course Sara at CVAR has made sure all their health challenges have been addressed.

We have not had a dog for 7 years. Our last dog, Tippy, also a small rescue dog, died when I was quite ill in 2006, the night before I went into the hospital for surgery. Three days later I came home to an dog-empty house for the first time in nearly 30 years.  A few years earlier I had developed a severe allergy to some dogs, especially a few Bichons I knew.  We decided not to have any more dog buddies, though we did waver and checked out a few dogs the first few dogless years.

On my first visit, Abby calmly crawled into my lap, and my heart. She had a quiet grace to her. I went back and spent more time with her, but decided with all that was going on in our life, and given my dog allergy, it was crazy to consider adopting.  A month passed, I was hoping someone would adopt her, but checking the web site I saw she was still available. If there was a possibility of a dog in our life again, she seemed to be a perfect candidate. A poodle (known for their ‘hypoallergenic’ fur, which really just means they don’t shed, not that they don’t have dander)  older, and very calm.  I was wrong, in spite of her poodle status, even away from all the other animals, I have had an allergic reaction to her.

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Reggie and Tippy

Mike and I have had five dogs between us, plus three ‘foster’ dogs we found homes for.  Plus we each had a childhood dog.  Our lives have been full of doggy personalities and companionship.  There was Oki, the resilient border collie mix who walked Washington’s clear cuts for years side by side with Mike as he planted trees. He was in his geriatric years when Mike and I met.  Pan, my collie, like his namesake, cared for other animals, including Oki when he went deaf.  Pan loved everyone, my older brother once called him a Yogi due to his calm, sweet temperament. Leonard, the mixed breed dog I moved to the peninsula with, was my protector and companion when I settled into a solitary life in the woods. And there was strong willed Reggie….the too-smart-for-his-own-good Corgi, also a rescue dog, who gave us challenges, endless entertainment and companionship.  He especially loved to travel and we had several adventurous trips with him. Once he attended an animal communication class with Penelope Smith, a well-known animal communicator.  Attentive, alert, Reggie sat in the middle of a circle of people with a rabbit, a chicken and a cat. He needed a job, and that day he had an important one.  People were amazed at his composure and focus. This from a dog who went berserk every time someone went out our front door!

Tippy arrived in our life and our front yard by crossing the busy county road from the neighbors where she had been left by friends of theirs.  When we adopted her she also had health issues and was quite old, yet she outlived Reggie and brought us 5 years of pure joy with her spunk and happy disposition. (not evident in this photo!)

We miss them all, and are grateful to have shared life with each of them.

So now here is Abby, she seems a blend of Tippy’s joy, Reggie’s intelligence, Pan’s meditativeness. Yet she is her own little self. Unable to bark (she has been de-barked, I withhold my thoughts on that!), she communicates her love and thoughtfulness through her eyes and her happiness through her prance!IMG_6639_2

We will hang out a few more days, perhaps my body will adjust, but with an immune system already coping with cancer and Epstein Barr Virus, it will take a miracle. I’m always open to miracles, especially in matters of the heart. If a miracle does not happen, she will go back to CVAR and be available for someone else to adopt.

Post Script: Abby stayed!