Our planet of creatures

I was happy to hear the Shrine Circus will no longer be using elephants in their shows. I only wish the elephants could go to a sanctuary now rather than waiting for a couple of years. It is unclear to me, though, why the Circus will continue to use other animals. If it is not good for the elephants, what makes it okay for the others? In similar headlines, Sea World has come under criticism for their treatment of the whales under their care. Many folks also question the keeping of animals in zoos.

All of these story lines raise good questions and concerns about the way humans use, and often abuse, animals who are meant to live in the wild. But even if we decide against including these beautiful animals for human entertainment, the solution is not easy. We can’t just send them back into the wild where they have never lived. And even if we could, they would face many dangers - including poachers - they are not prepared for.

At least the conversation has begun, and hopefully, some day this conversation will lead to greater respect and understanding for all of the creatures w share this planet with.


Grieving animals

Recently I watched a television documentary about penguins. I admit that I was not watching closely, since I was busy in the kitchen at the time, so I missed a lot of the details. One segment was really heartbreaking, though, and it brought me to tears. A young, curious penguin wandered off and ended up in the territory of a neighboring group of penguins who battered and pecked the young guy to death. Shortly thereafter, as the penguin gasped it’s final breath, the penguin’s sibling came upon him, stood over him and then sprawled out over his body. The announcer said something about how the scene indicated that penguins grieve over the loss of family members.

Nature programs are often difficult to watch because they show the brutality of animals in the wild. Of course, the brutality of humans is well documented also, and we are – supposedly - civilized, whatever that means.

Watching the grieving penguin reminded me of the many stories we hear, at Pets Remembered, of how pets in the home react to the death of another pet. People often talk about a change of behavior, sometimes referring to a change in the pecking order, but often referring to an apparent sense of loss by the pet or pets who remain.

It’s another reminder that loss is loss, and whatever loss we or those around us have experienced, life is never quite the same again, and we need some time and space to adjust to our new reality.

Lost and Found

There is a great story in the news this week about a German Shepherd from South Dakota who was lost a couple of months ago, but - thanks to social media – was recently found in Minnesota and is now back home with his family. With so much bad news in the world, it is refreshing to hear good news, but beyond that, the story brought me to back to Sheba, the Husky-Shepherd-Wolf mix I brought home 31 years ago (!) from the Sioux Falls, SD Humane Society. Sheba was with me for two years until I went on vacation and left Sheba with friends for the week. When I returned from my vacation my friends told me that Sheba ran away from them the day after I left.

For months I was hopeful that Sheba would find her way back home. The first thing I did every morning was go to the front step, hopeful that she had returned in the night and was waiting for me to open the front door and let her in. She never did return, which was difficult not only because I missed her so much but because I didn’t know what happed to her. Was she hit by a car and killed? Did she die alone somewhere in the woods, starving? Did someone take her in and give her a good home? Of course, I hoped for the last option, but never knew.

Anyway, here’s to heart-warming stories about lost pets who are reunited with their families. And thanks to social media and ID chips, may the numbers of lost pets who are never found and returned home become fewer and fewer.

Endings matter

Endings matter. That is one of my key beliefs. The manner in which the significant people and pets in our lives die, and how we come to terms with their deaths, plays a huge role in determining if we will be able to accept their death and move forward, or not. Our experience at Pets Remembered has reinforced my belief time and time again, and that is one reason why we are in the process of promoting and facilitating a team approach to hospice with our pets.

Many folks are familiar with hospice due to family members or friends being part of a hospice program in the final days of their life. Hospice provides terminally ill people with some control over the final months, weeks, or days of their life in terms of pain control, comfort, and the setting where they will close out their life. We know that this can also be a helpful approach for our pets and ourselves once our pets have been diagnosed with a terminal or debilitating condition for which there is no viable solution.

We are working with Dr. Raeyna Longtin of True Companions Vet Van, as well as other pet businesses who can provide a host of services to people who are exploring ways to keep their pets comfortable and cared for in their final days. We are excited about the possibilities because we know how important our relationships with our pets are and we know that providing the best possible care for as long as possible is helpful as we prepare to say a final goodbye. Endings matter.

Stay tuned!

When our pets outlive us

A few days after actress Lauren Bacall died, I saw a sensationalized headline referencing the fact that Bacall left $10,000 for the care of her dog. For those of us who share our homes with pets, we know that is not an unreasonable amount, depending on a variety of factors. What is most important in this story is that Bacall made plans in the event that she would die before her dog. In addition to the money, she also had someone who would care for her dog.

We know of many pets who end up in a shelter following the death of their human because no plans have been made. We also know of pets who are euthanized within days of their human’s death, because there is no one to care for the pet and it may seem like the best option for family members who are dealing with a multitude of issues.

It would be helpful if more people with pets, especially those persons whose health is failing and the chance of their pets outliving them seems likely, would plan ahead, as Bacall did. The amount of money is not necessarily as significant as thinking ahead and making plans so pets are not completely abandoned because their human dies first.


Dreaming of Vacation!

Today I changed the picture on my computer to a lovely landscape scene of a national park in Utah. I’m wishing I were out west on vacation, but that is not going to happen so I have to settle for a picture and my imagination. One advantage of not going on vacation is knowing we don’t have to make plans for our dogs while we are gone. Boarding facilities for dogs have come a long way, though, which is great for pets and their people.

I remember some years ago feeling terrible for leaving Max at a kennel that, up close, did not look at all as I had imagined after reading about it and saving a spot for him over the phone. Every day we were gone I felt guilty for leaving him there, yet hoped it was better than it looked when I dropped him off. Max was an easy going lab and he was fine when I picked him up, but I knew I would be much more careful after that to check out whatever kennel we would use in the future.

Pet boarding facilities have taken on a whole new look since then, so now it is possible to get about anything (and more!) for your dog/s when you need to leave them someplace. I don’t know if there are as many options for other types of pets, but clearly, people love their pets and are willing to do whatever necessary to see that they are well cared for.

One other thought about pets and vacations – I think every day is a vacation day for pets who have a loving home and people to be with. They get to eat (that’s the first priority), play, and sleep, and the cycle goes on and on, regardless of the scenery. So, since I can’t go on a vacation right now, I will look to Kona and Legend for a lesson on how to make the most of each day.

Good Press for Pit Bulls!

I was happy to see a positive story about a Pit Bull in the newspaper this morning. The story even included a picture of Ace, the dog who is being credited with saving the life of his human pal, Nick, who is 13 years old and deaf. Nick and Ace were the only two at home when the house was on fire. Nick was sleeping without his hearing aids in, so Ace started licking Nick’s face until he woke up and realized the house was full of smoke. Nick and Ace made a hasty exit from the burning house, thanks to Ace’s actions!

Since we started Pets Remembered Cremation, we have met many loving owners of dogs who have some of the pit bull breed in them, and often the dogs have a tough time making friends with people who are certain they’re up to no good. Of course there are dogs who are dangerous, but they come in all shapes, sizes and breeds. A few years ago I was bit (and it was an ugly bite that meant a trip to the clinic for me) by a miniature schnauzer. The owner took off running around the corner with her dog when she realized my leg was bleeding.

Years ago I read No Bad Dogs, a book which pretty much states that when a dog is “bad” it’s the owner to blame. There is a lot of truth to the idea that when there is a dog who is badly misbehaving, which includes being dangerous to others, the people are as much to blame (if not moreso) than the dog. But I also know, from personal experience, some dogs are really stubborn and have a mind of their own at times!!

Anyway, back to my original point – my day started out on a happy note because Ace’s story made the paper!


Universal Grief

A recent program on public television, “Great Zebra Exodus” featured a herd of zebras in Africa. It was a fascinating look at the behavior of zebras, but I was also highly impressed thinking about all that humans know about zebras. A lot of people have spent a lot of time researching zebra behavior and documenting it to share with the rest of us. The footage was amazing and spanned the course of a year or more to capture the movement of the herd through the seasons and their movement from one grazing area to another, with careful attention to watering holes.

To summarize, zebras live in families or harems, and multiple families make up a herd. Each family/harem consists of one stallion, many mares, and many foals. The bonds that the members of a family share seem to be quite strong and I admit that while watching the program I was close to tears! One such moment was when a mare stood over her dying foal, not wanting to leave the little guy. The foal had the misfortune of being the product of the mare and a stallion who had died shortly after mating with the mare.( The mares are pregnant for twelve long months, and they’re constantly on the move seeking food and water.)

After the stallion of this particular harem died, a new stallion took over the harem and knew, once the foal was born, that it was not his. He proceeded to attack the foal – with the mare doing her best to protect her baby – until it was fatally wounded. The stallion ran off and the mare stood over her dying foal until it breathed its last and the vultures flew in. Reluctantly, she walked away. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the mother zebra was grieving over the loss of her baby.

The announcer explained that, although this seems very cruel, the stallion was merely following his instinct and it’s for the good of the harem. Well, maybe from a zebra’s perspective, but it was a very sad scene to watch. It reminds me, though, that human beings are not the only beings who grieve. Many of us who have pets know this from watching our pets in a variety of situations. In a sense, it makes me think we are all in this together, whether we walk on two legs or four.


The amazing bond between partners

One picture is worth a thousand words, as well as an overwhelming feeling of sadness that cannot be put into words. I’m referring to a picture I just saw of a German Shepherd named Danny who was a K9 partner to Constable David Rose of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Rose was killed last week in the line of duty, and the picture I’m referring to includes Rose’s flag-draped casket with Danny sitting in front of it. Another picture shows Danny on his hind legs nuzzling Rose’s hat as it is held by a fellow member of the RCMP.

The accompanying article states that Danny could be  heard whimpering throughout the funeral service. Doesn’t that just pull at your heart strings??

Pet lovers have experienced the powerful bond between one’s pet and oneself, so that scenario isn’t necessarily surprising, but it shows the depth of the bond and indicates an amazing relationship between Constable Rose and Danny. It makes me very sad to think of Rose’s death and Danny without his partner (to say nothing of Rose’s human family and their overwhelming loss), but it is also heartwarming to know that such a bond can exist. It also reminds me that we are all in this together, whether we walk on two legs or four.


Pets In The News

I hope you’ve seen the great video clip of the family cat chasing the neighbor’s dog who was attacking the little boy on his bike. It really shakes up some stereotypes of cats, as well as stereotypes of dogs (that a cat could scare and chase away a dog that was significantly larger than the cat!). Sadly, the little boy had to get something like ten stitches in his leg, but thankfully, the cat saved him from further harm. Sad, too, for the dog who was loose and not being watched as closely as he needed to be.

The episode is a reminder of the human-animal bond, in this case, the bond between the little boy and his cat. Most of us who have pets have experienced this bond and know how special it is. It’s a bond made, not from verbal conversations or the exchange of ideas, but from eye contact, touch, hugs, purring, tail-wagging, playing, and cuddling. There are times when we feel alone and misunderstood by people, but accepted and comforted by our pets.

I hope that video has encouraged some folks to go to their local shelter and consider making a cat or dog or rabbit or any other kind of homeless pet part of their family. Pets really do enrich our lives, in so many ways.



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