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An Unexpected Grace Celebrates Dogs

book_an_unexpected_grace

By Michele C. Hollow for Pet News and Views

The action in Kristin von Kreisler’s new book, An Unexpected Grace, starts quickly.  Lila Elliot survived a shooting rampage at work that left many of her colleagues dead and seriously wounded.  She knows that with time her injuries will heal.

A close friend pushes her to adopt a dog called Grace, a Golden Retriever who has been terribly abused. Lila and Grace must overcome fear and learn to trust. Lila takes on the role of caregiver to Grace even though she has always had a fear of dogs.

Grace is beautifully written. Kristin clearly knows dogs, and she understands that Grace senses Lila’s wariness. Grace keeps her distance. She only perks up for Adam, the neighbor who rescued her.

Over time, a romance begins to develop between Lila and Adam, and Lila learns to see the beauty in Grace.

This is a story of trust, letting one’s guard down, and learning to be open.  Kristin tells an uplifting story in her novel, An Unexpected Grace, published by Kensington.  It is filled with compassion, and has bits of humor sprinkled throughout.  How Grace helps Lila, and how Lila learns from Grace is something that all pet lovers will relate to.

Kristin von Kreisler has written bestselling books about animals. A memoir, For Bea, is about Kristin’s beagle, who came from a medical lab and influenced her to become an animal writer.  Kristin’s books have been translated into ten languages, and her first book, The Compassion of Animals, was a Book of the Month Club Selection.

For more information about Kristin, click here.

To order An Unexpected Grace, click here.

A Love Story

Quesadilla, or Casey, which is a more dignified name. (Photo from David Groves.)

Quesadilla, or Casey, which is a more dignified name. (Photo from David Groves.)

By David Groves for Pet News and Views

My longtime companion Claire has many assets, but strength isn’t one of them.  She comes from a long line of quiet skinny people.  Skinny looks great in a short dress, but it doesn’t help much when you have to hang up on a telemarketer.

When we take our walk, I quickly leave her in the dust.  When we return home, I’m invigorated by the exercise, but she’s always depleted.

Once, a woman made overtures towards being her friend by inviting her to a party, and Claire responded happily.  Soon, however, it became clear that the woman was only interested in converting her to a Chinese cult religion.

“Call her up and tell her not to pick you up, that you’re not going,” I said.

Claire hesitated.  I could see the conflict in her eyes, which let me know what she was thinking: I don’t want to be mean to her.

“Do you want to become a member of that cult?” I said.

“No.”

“Then call her up and tell her you’re not going.”

So just before Claire’s father died in 2011, he made Claire promise something.

“Promise me you’ll be strong,” he said.

“I promise, Dad,” she said.

 

Claire has a lot of compassion. (Photo by David Groves.)

Claire has a lot of compassion. (Photo by David Groves.)

 Although she’s not naturally a strong one, Claire has other assets.  Over the years, I have slowly discovered this.  Early on in the relationship, I was waffling on whether she was a good long-term partner, because strength is important.  I wondered whether she would be able to stand up to the challenges that face a couple.  I didn’t want somebody who would fold at every confrontation, either with a stranger or even with myself.

Compassion and gentleness, though, she’s got that market cornered.  It was pointed out to me most clearly in 2008, when Claire and I visited an animal shelter, looking for a bunny to use in my magic shows.  There were many to choose from, but one stood out above all others.  He was ash grey and a year old.  When Claire put her hand near his face, he turned his face into it.  That settled it. That was the bunny for us.

We called him Quesadilla.  He was another in a long line of bunnies that I had had since 1990, when I first started doing magic.  There was Snowball, my first bunny, who was white.

Then I started giving them funny names so that the kids would laugh.  I named the next one Count Chocula, and he lasted an amazing 14 years.  A vet once told me that he had never heard of a bunny living that long.  When he passed on, we wrapped him in a plastic bag and buried him in the backyard, placing a cross on top.  But it wasn’t deep enough for the coyotes, who dug him up that night.

So when it came to this bunny in 2008, I named him Quesadilla.  The name made the kids laugh, but Claire could call him a serious name, Casey, for short.

“Because he deserves a serious name,” she said.

I used him in all my shows and all the kids loved him. “Are all rabbits this calm?” they would say, petting him.

“No, there are good ones and bad ones, just like people,” I said.  “This is a good one.”

When you petted his cheek, he would close his eyes and get into it like it was a piece of lovely music.  In fact, it was like a piece of music, in that it was a melody that was being played between the two of us. 

Rabbits are simple creatures, and since they’re so far down on the food chain, they’re always a little bit scared.  But it seemed that while we were petting his cheek, or between his ears, or his shoulders, that he wasn’t scared for just a little while.

But Casey tended to flee from me, even after I got to know him.  Perhaps it was because I treated him straightforwardly.  I grabbed him whenever I needed him for a show.  When he bit me territorially, I gave him a rap on the nose. 

When he didn’t seem to want to be with me, I walked away.  Perhaps it was also because Claire, for the most part, was the one who fed him.

That’s when I started noticing how Claire’s gentleness could accomplish things that my straightforwardness could not.  First thing in the morning, Casey would be waiting by the balcony sliding-glass door for her.  She would feed him baby carrots and cilantro, or whatever green leafy vegetable was in season.  She would kneel down on the floor and coax him inside, waiting as long as ten minutes, if that’s what it took.  Then she would stroke his face, his head, his body, in a gentle and loving manner.  She discovered the love within him and nurtured it.

In the evenings, Claire would come back from teaching an English composition class at the college, and first thing, she would ask me.

“Have you fed Casey yet?”

And if I hadn’t, she would go out there with another bowl and her gentle ways.  Every night, she would spend ten minutes saying goodnight to him. Claire believed that Casey had feelings.  When we went away on vacation, she would get down on her hands and knees and talk with him.

“David and Claire are going away,” she would say.  “Katherine will take care of you.”

Claire believed that he understood the word away.  

A couple weeks ago, Casey got sick.  It was the heat.  Bunnies don’t withstand the heat well.  He had been out in the sun too long, and when he got into the shade, he was lethargic and unwell.  We both tended to him.  Claire waited for him to indicate what he wanted, but I knew that you had to force some things on him, so I placed the water dish directly under his mouth and prodded him to drink.  He responded, drinking more than I’ve ever seen him drink.

We were worried.  We had never seen him like this.  We tried to feed him fresh carrots and cilantro, but for three days, he wasn’t interested.

On Tuesday, I flew to Kansas to chase down my ancestors. Tuesday night, Claire had a dream.  She was talking with her father, who had died two years ago.

“Be strong for me,” he had said.

In the morning, when Claire came out to see Casey with a bowl of carrots and cilantro–three days’ worth had already been refused–it turned out that Casey had passed away during the night.  His small body was laid out on the balcony, still warm. I’m sure she gasped.

Claire promptly left a voicemail message for me in a shaky voice. “Call me right away.”

When I heard it, I was hoping that my mother or sister hadn’t died.  But Casey was a part of our family, too.

“Can you put him in a plastic bag?” I asked.  “Can you call the city to pick him up?”

And that’s when she told me about the dream.  Yes, she would be strong.  She had promised her father that she would.  But I love her all the more because she wasn’t.

David Groves works as a writer and magician. Check out his website, which has videos of him performing magic.

 

 

Black Dog Syndrome

When I first heard about Black Dog Syndrome, I thought it was an Internet hoax. A trainer who rescued a black Labrador retriever told me that the shelter workers where she adopted her black Lab from were thrilled that she chose a black dog.

Black Labs are so handsome. It is inconceivable that they are often overlooked at shelters.

In case you don’t know, Black Dog Syndrome is when people don’t adopt dogs with black fur. I grew up with a German Shepherd/Collie/Beagle mix who was mostly black and dark brown. He was extremely handsome, and quite intelligent, which made me think that Black Dog Syndrome just couldn’t exist.

Yet, I kept on hearing about it on chat rooms, on the Internet, from friends who do rescue work, and from people who work at animal shelters. One person told me that when she was looking to adopt a Labrador retriever, she was astounded at the disparity between available yellow dogs versus black dogs. The wait for a yellow lab from a rescue group could be months or years, while there were plenty of black labs available.

Many shelters are showing black dogs with colorful collars.

Why Black Dogs are Overlooked
When you place a bunch of black dogs in a shelter amongst tan, red, yellow, mixed and other colors, people’s gaze goes towards the lighter or brighter animals. “As a brand marketing professional, I can tell you color is a powerful perception tool,” says Steven Vena, owner of The Nimble Group, Inc., a brand marketing and advertising agency. “If I am walking down the street, I would bet more people would pet the tan dog versus the black dog.”

I was able to see his point–even though I didn’t like it. I grew up in New York, and have a lot of black clothes in my closet. I remember attending an expo at the Javits Center; the majority of men dressed in black suits and the women wore black dresses. I came along in a bright orange blazer, and got lots of comments. Many people thanked me for wearing a sunny color.

Still when it comes to fur or skin color, I think black is more interesting because it’s not just black. Look at a cat, dog, or person with black coloring and you will see reds, browns, and a nice mix of other tones thrown in. Maybe because I’m extremely fair skinned, I appreciate other colors. I was thankful for my freckles; otherwise I would have a ghostlike complexion!

Photos of Black Dogs and Cats
Take a look at photos of adoptable dogs and cats on line; the black ones are often blurry. Thankfully, many shelters are using professional photographers to show off these dogs and cats. Some are showing black dogs and cats with colorful collars to make them stand out.

Black Cats
Black cats also have a hard time getting adopted. A lot of that has to do with superstitions. Personally, I had a black cat, and everyone loved him. He was the sweetest, and had a playful personality. His green eyes stood out against his expressive face.

Even half asleep, this black cat is incredibly beautiful.

I have trouble understanding this, but there are some people who regard black cats as witches’ familiars. It has gotten so bad that shelters won’t adopt out a black cat around Halloween time. It seems that people want to use black cats for rituals around that time. So a good number of shelters refuse to adopt out their black cats from the end of September to the beginning of November.

And I know this is going to sound screwy, but some people believe that vampires transform themselves into black dogs as a way of traveling unnoticed at night. (I just don’t get some people.) So unfortunately, black cats and dogs are the last, if at all, to be adopted.

Black Dog and Black Cat Syndrome are real. The next time you are looking to adopt a dog or cat, take personality into account. Talk to the shelter workers or the volunteers at the rescue group, and make an informed decision.

To My Readers: Thanks for alerting me to Black Dog and Black Cat Syndrome. Many of you have posted stories on LinkedIn and at other sites regarding this topic. I appreciate the many e-mails you have sent me. If you want to write about your experience with a black dog or black cat or with Black Dog/Cat Syndrome, please do so in the comments section of this post. And keep your story suggestions coming! I really appreciate all of you!

Free Children’s Book from Surf Dog Ricochet

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
Ricochet book
 I have been a fan of Judy Fridono and her dog Ricochet, the Surfing Dog for many years. Judy and Ricochet have helped thousands of people–young and old. Many of you may be familiar with the posts I’ve written about Ricochet.
   Ricochet and Judy are known for inspiring others to help those in need.  With Ricochet’s love, Judy wrote a children’s book designed to inspire children to help others. To download your free copy, click here.

Preview and print copies are available for purchase with the proceeds going to Helen Woodward Animal Center & Rady Children’s Hospital.

 

Why do cats do the things they do?

By Michele C. Hollow for Pet News and Views

Karma and Chai at 14 weeks.

Karma and Chai at 14 weeks.

Every once in a while my cats, Chai and Karma, make mad dashes around the house. It usually happens at night. We have three floors in our house, and they practically fly up and down the steps.  If you ever wondered why cats get the night crazes, why they rub up against you, and why they exhibit other somewhat strange behaviors, read on.

Racing around the house often starts in the early evening, and can go on all hours of the night till morning. It stems from instinct, when all kinds of cats–from lions to pumas to house cats–are on the hunt. They run, dive, and chase prey. Yes, I know there is no prey in your house, but it’s their instinct.

Why Do Cats Purr? Kittens purr to let their mother’s know that everything is all right. Cats purr when they feel safe and happy.

Why Do Cats Caterwaul? Caterwauling and random meowing often occurs at night. The loud, sometimes distressing, sound is a mating call. Doesn’t sound romantic to you, but it does catch the attention of other cats. A caterwaul is the cry of a cat in heat. Okay, your cat is fixed, and she still does it. This is a way to communicate with you. Yes, I know it is 2 a.m. Cats are nocturnal creatures, and when they are in close contact with humans, they talk more. Cats in the wild rarely speak. They use body language and scent to communicate. You can invite you cat to sleep in your room. This sometimes curtails this habit.

Why Do Cats Lick Themselves? In addition to keeping clean and smooth, licking cools a cat off in hot weather. Licking also helps cats stay warm; they fluff up their fur with their tongues, and that creates a blanket effect.

Why Do Cat’s Tongues Feel Rough? Ever been licked by a cat? A cat’s tongue is rough to the touch,”kind of like fine sandpaper. Cats use their tongues to brush their fur.

Why Do Cats Arch their Backs and Puff Up? When a cat puffs up and arches his back, he looks bigger and tough. Actually, he is scared or angry. This is a way to keep others at a safe distance.

Why Do Cats Knead? This up and down kneading action stems from nursing. Kittens press against their mother with one paw and then the other. When adult cats knead, it reminds her of her mother when she was a kitten.

How Can A Cat’s Whiskers Help Them? Cats have 24 whiskers–12 on each side. Cats use their whiskers to see if they can get through tight spaces. If their whiskers can fit through an opening, then the rest of their body can too.

Why Do Cats Rub Up Against Your Legs? This is a way of sharing their scent with you. It’s a bonding experience that lets other cats know that you are owned by a cat!

5 Reasons Why Cats Need Their Claws

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Karma at 14 weeks Those of you who know me, know that I adore cats–claws and all. I would never declaw a cat. Simply put, it’s wrong. The operation is painful, and it has been likened to cutting off the first knuckles of a human hand.

Cats use their claws to grab things. If you ever tossed a toy to a kitty, you can see her grasp onto it with her claws. Cats also scratch to remove the dead outer layer of their claws. And yes, they like to scratch. If, however, your cat is scratching your sofa or carpet, then you need to buy a good scratching post and train your cat to use it.

The U.S. and Canada are the only countries where declawing is commonplace. In other countries, it is illegal or is considered inhumane. The American Veterinary Medical Association also considers it cruel. Following are 5 reasons why cats need their claws:

1. For Protection: If your cat ever gets outside and doesn’t have claws, he will be defenseless. Cats use their claws to climb trees, which can help them escape from dangerous situations.  Without those claws, he has a greater chance of being attacked. Even indoor cats need their claws. I have a 9-year old, and when his friends come by they often want to pick up the cat. My cat likes some of the kids, and runs from the more aggressive ones. I am always on hand to make sure everyone is safe. In my house, everyone treats Earl, my cat, with respect. Don’t pick him up if he doesn’t want to be picked up. Earl is a sweetheart. However, he will show his claws if he feels threatened. He never struck anyone; yet it deters kids who can become overbearing.

2. For Exercise: They also use their claws for stretching their muscles.

3. Claws Mark Territory: Ever see a declawed cat scratch your furniture? It’s an inherent trait that marks a cat’s territory. They won’t scratch a particular item if you train them to use a scratching post. (In my house we avoid certain items, like tightly woven rugs and wicker furniture. They are just too tempting for my cat.)

4. For Balance: When a cat is declawed, it’s not at all like clipping nails. Declawing is amputating the claw and related bone and muscle tissue. Without that, balance is often affected.

5. To Catch Prey: Cats are natural hunters. My indoor cat has caught a few crickets that made their way indoors. He pounces on them and uses his claws to hold them in place.

Helping Kids Cope with the Death of a Pet

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

child-dog-11

Our pets are family members, and losing a family member–even one with four legs–can be devastating. I know that I got ill when our cat of 21 years died. It was hard on me, my husband, and our child.

Children deal with death differently than adults. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 see death as temporary. I remember watching the Sesame Street episode where Mr. Hooper died. Big Bird was sad. Then the next day, he asked why Mr. Hooper was no longer at his store. When he was told that Mr. Hooper died, Big Bird got flustered and then mad. It was a moving show that really explained how kids that age feel about death.

Children between the ages of 5 and 9, start understanding death as permanent, and from 10 on up, children know that all living beings will eventually die. They also understand that death is final. Understanding death and accepting it are two very different things.

5 Tips on Explaining Death to a Child
1. Don’t tell a young child that you are putting an ill animal to sleep. That term is too vague, and it can make a child too afraid to go to sleep. Instead be honest. Explain why euthanasia may be the most humane option.

2. Ask your child what death and dying mean. Then as best as you can, explain it to him, and let your child know that the pet is not coming back.

3. Talk to your child, and let him know that he can talk to you about his feelings anytime. Ask him to write down his feelings or draw pictures. You may want to hold a memorial service to say goodbye, and have your child share his feelings at this ceremony.

4. Don’t hide your feelings from your child. You are grieving too. I know when my dad died I wanted to be strong around Jordon. I tried to hold it together as best as I could. I became incredibly cranky, until I finally fell apart. I think it is important for a child to see his parents cry; it actually encourages children to open up.

5. Tell you child’s teacher that the family pet died. This can clue your child’s teacher into your child’s behavior, especially if your child is acting differently.

Losing a pet is hard on everyone. The best remedies are to talk about the loss and the sadness, and to allow time for healing.

Tamaya is Horse Heaven for People Too

Eyore and Bob are greeters at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa. (Photo by P. Elizabeth Anderson.)

Eyore and Bob are greeters at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa. (Photo by P. Elizabeth Anderson. )

 

By P. Elizabeth Anderson for Pet News and Views

Nothing is sweeter than an uplifting glimpse of heaven. Mine came recently courtesy of the rescued horses at the Tamaya Horse Rehab in the Santa Ana Pueblo, outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

I was shamefully ignorant that horses are abandoned by the thousands, as is common for cats and dogs, when ranchers and farmers, struggling with drought and economic adversity can no longer care for them.  It may be hard to fathom seeing a horse left to fend for itself, skinny to the bone, and hungry or coming across a dead horse on the road.

Horses have made humans what we are, contributing to human culture in unsurpassable ways. That these majestic creatures are abandoned and meet tragic ends is almost incomprehensible, certainly indefensible.

Tamaya Horse Rehab shares the name of its primary benefactor, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, where upon my arrival, I was greeted by the braying of a burro, Eeyore, who was sharing a corral in the front of the hotel with a beautiful blond horse, Bob.  I jumped from the van and headed for the corral when a sign that horses can bite stopped me in my tracks.  Still enchanted, I figured the sign was a ruse to keep me from getting a kiss.  I heeded the warning, followed the rules, and got more information.

I discovered that the hotel sits on 500 acres of sovereign land, is the namesake of the Tamayame people, and that Tamaya means “a quiet and special place.”  True to its mission to respect the land and people of the pueblo, the Tamaya Hyatt supports a horse rehabilitation program for neglected and abandoned horses.

Connie Collis directs the stables at Tamaya Resort and Spa. (Photo by P. Elizabeth Anderson.)

Connie Collis directs the stables at Tamaya Resort and Spa. (Photo by P. Elizabeth Anderson.) (All photos are copyrighted. )

 

Connie Collis, an angel of compassion with 45 years experience training and caring for horses, directs the Stables at Tamaya. She is a horsewoman of the finest order, who used to have a horse in her yard, was married to a cowboy, and devotes herself to saving these creatures.  “My whole life has been horses,” she said.  She and her brother were born into a family that taught them to rely on and respect the land and its animals.  She abandoned her dreams of being a rodeo star, but never lost her passion for horses.

Ten years ago the Hyatt approached her to offer riding lessons and trail rides. She began collecting horses and people started giving her horses; her stable quickly grew from 10 to 40 horses.

When she approached the Hyatt about the rehabilitation program last year, they agreed, and a perfect partnership was born.  “I could not do this without the Hyatt,” Collis says. “I really know how to find horses and care for them, but there is no way I know how to market this.”

The stories of abandoned horses simultaneously break your heart and make your spirit soar.  A homeless horse usually has a heartbroken person attached. With the Hyatt, a small crew of wranglers, and dedicated volunteers, Collis saves horses and people.

Collis asks no questions and will return a horse to responsible families if they get back on their feet.  Owners are always welcomed to visit, and many do, volunteer, and donate.  Collis has seen people’s lives turned around when they find a safe place for their horse.

In addition to surrenders, wild horses find their way to Connie, like Tumbleweed, a spirited mustang filly from a wild horse herd in Placitas, whose mother was killed shortly after giving birth.  Tumble will be cared for and either join the stable or get adopted.  One thing for sure, he will never go to slaughter, a growing threat for American horses.

My day at the stable was marked by brief, soaking downpours, mixed with sun.  Having had riding lessons years ago, I was a bit afraid of being so close to such powerful majesty.  But the wranglers accepted the tenderfoots, and the volunteers I met, Julie, Jim, and Aida embraced me.

Horacio, my gracious and patient wrangler, showed me how to brush, touch, and saddle my horse, Corey.  I mounted up, and Horacio led us to join the other riders who had earlier braved the rain. 

Sensing my timidity, Jim suggested I meet Frankie, who had been bottle-fed from birth.  Obviously accustomed to people, he was highly interactive, bumping me, nudging me, trying to eat my iPhone camera, and letting me nuzzle him for a hug. 

Jim explained that once you gain a horse’s confidence and they know you will not hurt them, you can interact with them more, petting them, and walking around them.  I am absolutely homesick for Tamaya and gaining that level of confidence is atop my bucket list. 

There is no limit to how many horses Tamaya can save with our help.  I encourage you to visit,  take a corporate program, send money for feed, or adopt a horse.

P. Elizabeth Anderson is an award-winning journalist and author. She was a monthly columnist for a national women’s magazine, MODE and The Providence Journal in RI. She was a consulting writer and editor for the Humane Society of the U.S., and her last book explores the relationship between people and companion animals.

Tell Us How You Exercise with Your Pet Contest

Enter to win a Fitbit at Pet News and Views.

Enter to win a Fitbit at Pet News and Views.

 

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Many of you know that I write a pet column at Parade. I also started a fitness column at Parade, which will run twice a month for a three month period while I take part in a fitness challenge. I entered and won the Live Well Stay Well Challenge at Summit Medical Group. My prize includes a fitness evaluation from a physical therapist, a nutrition evaluation from a registered dietitian and a meeting with a behavioral health counselor to talk about goal setting and staying motivated. I also received a Fitbit.

In case you are not familiar with a Fitbit, it is a lightweight device you can wear on your wrist that tracks the number of steps, distance, calories consumed, calories burned and even your sleep patterns. Since, I’ve been wearing my Fitbit, I’ve been motivated to move.

I want you to be motivated too. Leave a comment at the end of this post in the Comments section telling us how you and your pets exercise together, and why you would like to win a Fitbit Flex. As you know, pets suffer from obesity too. So getting motivated to move benefits all of us.

The Fitbit Flex retails for $99.95, and Pet News and Views is giving away three Fitbit Flexes.

Contest Rules
1. The contest runs from November 13, 2013 and ends at 5 p.m. eastern on November 18, 2013.

2. In the comments section of this post, tell us how you and your pets exercise together, and why you would like to win a Fitbit Flex.

3. One comment per person.

4. Three winners will be chosen.

5. After I contact the winners, the winners have 3 days to claim the prize. If the prize is not claimed by the winner within 3 days, an alternate winner will be chosen from the pool of entries.

6. Contest winners and their comments will be posted in a follow up Pet News and Views’ post.

Remember to leave your comment in the Comments section of this post, and Good Luck! This contest is closed.

Spooky Vampires

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

In the spirit of Halloween, here is a cool photo of a Vampire fish. The photo is from the book, Neptune Speaks, by Snorkel Bob.

Vampire fish)

And here’s a reminder to keep your pets safe on Halloween!  Please take a look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can read 5 Halloween Safety Tips for Your Cats and Dogs by clicking here.