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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.

 

 


What a difference a year makes!

Today is Kona’s 1st birthday. We brought Kona into our home and lives last June when she was 8 weeks old and life hasn’t been the same since! Kona is the most entertaining and curious dog we have ever had and we love her dearly; she makes us laugh a lot. Yet, while we wouldn’t trade the last year for anything, Kona may also be the last puppy – not dog, but puppy – we ever bring home. :)

Our other dog, Legend, was five when we brought him into our home and while Legend definitely has his issues, they are different from the high-energy puppy issues. And so, while we will always have one or two dogs as part of our family, Skip and I are thinking some of those great older dogs waiting to be adopted are in our future, even though those adorable puppies are hard to resist.

Regardless of the age or energy level of a pet, though, we can’t imagine not having a pet. They add so much joy and fun to our lives, and help to make our house a home. That is why it is so difficult to say goodbye to them when the time comes, but with great joy comes great sorrow and we’re not willing to give up on the great joy.

Kona and Legend don’t seem to grasp the significance of this day, but to them, every day is a fun day filled with treats, bones, tummy rubs, tail wags, walks and naps. They help  us to celebrate every day of life. Happy Birthday to our wonderful Kona!

 


As I was driving to Pets Remembered this morning, I was listening to a news report on the radio. The announcer acknowledged that folk singer/activist Pete Seeger “passed”, then went on to the next story about a piece of legislation that ”passed”. Hmmm . . .   I find it rather curious that the term “passed/passing” has become synonymous with death, dying, and died. This seems to be a recent phenomenon and it speaks to me of our aversion to accepting the reality of death.

Although Skip and I have been dealing directly with death for decades - Skip as a funeral director and myself as a pastor and then hospice chaplain – now as the creators and owners of Pets Remembered Cremation Service, the death of beloved family pets is what we encounter numerous times a day. Therefore, my curiosity about the prevalence of the term passed rather than death comes about because it’s a constant theme for us.

I can only speculate, but I believe it’s easier for us to think of those we love, both humans and pets, as passing on to another dimension rather than dying and ceasing to exist. Over thirty years ago I read Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, which is definitely a sobering book, but it’s true that many of us do everything we can do to deny the reality of death. Even when I was working within a hospice program, it was surprising to me how many patients, family, and friends had still not accepted the fact that treatment could not cure or extend the patient’s life.

There’s no way around it, though, whether we prefer the term passed or died, saying goodbye to those we love is painful.

 


Two weeks into the new year and 2014 still feels very new, although two weeks is long enough for me to write 2014 on my checks. As much time as humans (some more than others) spend reflecting over the past and pondering what the future holds, particularly at the end/beginning of each year, our pets show no sign of those practices whatsoever.

As is frequently mentioned with respect to our pets, they live in the moment. All of my pets have been dogs, so they are the pets I am most familiar with. In all of the dog books I have read and the obedience classes I have either watched or participated in, the reminder that dogs live in the moment is frequently stated. That means that if you scold them for something that happened earlier in the day it doesn’t work; they can’t make the association between whatever they did earlier that was “naughty” and the current punishment.

Beyond the punishment theme, it tells me that dogs/cats/rabbits/other pets are not likely to lament a past decision or event, nor are they able to anticipate or ponder a future event. I imagine that we humans would have less stress and anxiety in our lives if we were able to fully live in the moment as our pets do. Because that is pretty much impossible, at least maybe we can practice  living in the moment more than we currently do. Here’s to the lessons our pets can teach us today!

 


Christmas with Pets!

We’ve had our Christmas tree up for about one week now and Kona (our 8 month old puppy) seems to have adjusted to having a tree in the living room. The first day she was fascinated with it, staring up and down at the lights and glitter. The next few days she started chewing on the branches (it’s a fake tree) and the glitter. We have learned not to trust Kona with anything (living up to puppyhood, she enjoys chewing/eating just about any and everything), but the tree has lost some of its enticement, thankfully.

We continue to really miss Boots, even with two other canines filling the house. Memories of last Christmas will forever hold the sadness and pain of Boots’ death on Christmas Eve, although also in my memory is the first Christmas Boots was part of our family, in 2002. At Christmas he was ten months, so he was a big black lab puppy then, but still full of curiosity. When I finally got the tree up and fully trimmed (no easy chore!), I discovered that when Boots was left on his own with the tree he couldn’t resist pulling on the ornaments. First he pulled a few off and chewed them up, which was annoying but understandable. Next he pulled the entire tree over in his quest to pull the ornaments off. After about three times of putting the tree back up I finally took off all of the ornaments and we lived with a bare tree that Christmas!

No doubt many (all?) of you who are reading this have your own memories/stories of your pets at Christmas and the fun they have had with Christmas decorations. Our pets add so much fun to life, to the holiday season, and to everything that happens in our lives. Whether your pet is naughty or nice today (or probably both naughty and nice), give her/him a big hug and a tummy rub!

 

 


Caring for Cats

This weekend Skip and I will be attending The Haunted Hairball, a fundraiser for the Caring for Cats shelter in St. Paul. We had so much fun at the event last year that we are looking forward to attending again. Like many of you, I have been to – what seems like – a kazillion fundraisers over the years, many of which were not much fun. So, I have been asking myself what makes a fundraiser fun, and this is what I came up with:

  • Warm and welcoming people - at the dinner tables and around the room;
  • A short and positive program that makes you laugh (and maybe even shed a few tears);
  • Auction items that appeal to many folks and are within a reasonable price range;
  • An atmosphere that helps you feel like you are making a difference through the money raised and the other ways you help the organization throughout the year;
  • Good food and wine helps!

It is quite amazing to think about all of the shelters in and around the Twin Cities – too many to count! Skip and I have become familiar with many of them since we opened Pets Remembered two years ago and we marvel at the many, many dedicated pet lovers who open their homes and hearts to pets who need a home, whether temporarily or permanently. I am grateful for all of the shelters and the people who make them great!


The tree is planted!

How time flies! It has been almost one month since we held our first ever Pet Memorial Event on September 8th at the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis. It was gratifying to see many of you who have recently lost your pets, so together we could remember them and celebrate their lives. My favorite part of the event was throwing the rose petals over the bridge and into the Mississippi in remembrance of our past pets.

If you were there you know that we had a beautiful young pine tree, and we invited you to place your hand-written notes and/or pet ashes with the tree so they could all be planted together at a later date and to-be-announced location. We had to plant the tree in a location that would be accessible to us on a daily basis so we could care for the tree.

I’m happy to report that the tree is now planted at our pet cremation center. The notes left with the tree were burned and added to the ashes you left with us, and after mixing all of that with the “Let your Love Grow” product that safely transforms ashes into life-giving nutrients, we mixed it all with the dirt and, voila, the tree is rooted in happy and loving memories.


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