June, 2009 Blogs

Take a Break with Your Pet
Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Now that finals are over and I have graduated, I have a lot more time to spend with my cat, McGee. Looking back at finals' weeks, McGee was always a great source of comfort or a nice distraction from the essays, exams, and studying. One night that stands out in my mind was when McGee accompanied me in the car to pick up my roommate from the library. I wrapped him up like a baby in a blanket, and he stayed in my lap as we waited for my roommate. My roommate came out with an exhausted look on her face, but erupted in laughter when she got to the car and saw that the bundle on my lap was McGee. His face was poking out with a curious look, wondering where we were taking him; and we laughed as we drove home. Just his presence was enough to put my roommate and me in a better mood and to put school out of our minds for the moment.

Recently, with the weather getting warmer, McGee has been constantly reminding me that he also wants to go outside. The other day, I was on the patio reading a book, while McGee sat by the screen door. He let out sad meows about not being allowed outside. He couldn't understand why he's allowed to follow me all around inside the house, but I won't share the wonderful, bug and squirrel-filled backyard with him. He's gotten outside a couple of times, by pushing doors open, giving him a nice taste of what's beyond the windows and doors he stares through longingly. A couple of days ago, I happened to glance outside because I saw a pretty gray cat in the yard. Of course, it was McGee, and I had to quickly grab him and bring him back inside.

I knew something had to be done. McGee was always willing to follow me all over the house and keep me company during the most stressful times (namely, finals week!) This quarter, I seemed to be the last person with a final; so while everyone was off celebrating and rejoicing in the warm weather, I sat at home with my books. Of course, McGee sat by my side and provided me with little breaks here and there and offered up his soft coat as a soothing outlet. His favorite place to sit is in the window just behind my bed, so while I read, McGee will nudge and peck at my hair. I felt like I needed to reward him for his loyalty and constant sweetness, so I bought him a harness.

I've taken him on a walk everyday so far. At first, when I put the harness on him, he would walk a few steps forward then he'd step back and walk a few steps in a different direction, then move back – nearly crawling. Finally, he saw a squirrel, ran to the screen door, and forgot all about the harness for awhile - long enough for me to put the leash on him and bring him outside with me. He was so interested in his surroundings that he didn't seem to mind the bright neon green leash or his owner hovering a few feet away. Soon, McGee was meowing less to be let outside.

It's important that we take a few moments out of our day to stop and smell the roses or pet the animal in our life. Pets are great reminders that yes, there is a world out there, outside of this temporary time of stress, or frustrations, whether it's with work, school, or people in our life. We can always count on our pets to be there for us. We need to re-pay them for their companionship whenever possible – even if it means buying them a leash and taking them outside during these warm, summer months. You'll both be happy you did.

-Whitney

Honoring a Founder: Dr. Michael J. McCulloch
Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity." -Sean O'Casey

Writing someone's biography is an intimate exercise. You cannot help but put yourself in their shoes. As you pour through pictures and read entries of their thoughts, you are seeing as they saw. It is deeply humbling. Such was my experience collecting the biography for one of the founding fathers of Delta Society, Dr. Michael J. McCulloch.

The first images I saw of Dr. McCulloch were from a video his wife commissioned after his death. Behind a backdrop of the Washington coastline and in the company of his pets, family, friends and colleagues, I began to see what this man meant to the people around him. This was a man who was committed to "cure when possible but comfort always"; it formed who he was as a professional and who he was as a human being. Clearly those who were in his life felt that comfort. I was mesmerized. A video that should have taken 30 minutes to view, took me an hour and a half because I was continually stopping the tape so I could write down each lovely phrase.

My research then led me to the many publications of McCulloch's writings which contained topics ranging from the effects of companion animals on elderly patients to guidelines for medical and veterinary disciplines. I had to remind myself that initially, McCulloch was not writing and lecturing to a completely converted audience. In fact, there were many more professionals who believed that animal and human medicines simply did not mix. I wondered if it ever got to him when the press made jokes. Then I considered that trailblazers are led by their passion and passion is a louder voice than silly headlines.


The work in this field was a collaboration of many visionaries. Sometimes I had difficulty locating where one picked up and another ended. Michael McCulloch's brother, Dr. William McCulloch DVM, said of this, that "… the work was the important thing and what they focused upon."

Finally, I had a great deal of difficulty concluding the biography. It seemed to me that there needed to be more: more to the story, more that we would have seen in time.

I have always had difficulty accepting death. When my dad died I was not consoled that he was going to a better place or that it was the natural cycle of life. The fact was he was gone – all of our memories were frozen, never to flow forward. The stories of what could have been were over. Similar feelings bubbled up when I wrote Dr. McCulloch's biography. We will not know what more his compassion could have touched. There would be no more stories.

And yet, here I am exactly 24 years after his death, a stranger to this man, yet deeply effected by his life and message of compassion. Perhaps, maybe, his story is not over.

Tricia Lipin (guest blogger)

To read the full biography of this inspirational man, click here.

Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats, and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Delta Society has Pet Partners teams around the world who are comprised of animals adopted from local animal shelters, sanctuaries and various animal rescue organizations. Both the humans and the animals are fortunate to have found one another and forged a strong human-animal bond.

In her book Lost and Found, Elizabeth Hess "chronicles the remarkable adventures, triumphs and tragedies routine to an animal shelter. Chapters pulse not only with heartfelt emotion, but adrenaline pumping excitement. Beyond her gripping, slice of life accounts, Hess offers a book of hope.

Here are the stories of incredibly devoted caretakers – including one couple who considered their dog-walking injuries (a shattered kneecap for him; a concussion for her) a small price to pay for the companionship of a big, spirited Lab. And within its pages, through uplifting tales and photographs, memorable pets such as Bandit, Catskill, China and Grace vividly come to life. Throughout, Hess touches the reader's heart", says Susan Ostrov, owner of a public relations firm.

Hess has said "I've come to realize that stray dogs and cats are sometimes not just running, but running away. I no longer view them as lost pets but as refugees looking for new identities and new homes. The shelter offers them a witness protection program". Essentially they are refugees from neglect, abandonment or abuse who receive safe sanctuary at a shelter. What a fascinating way to view an animal shelter! I recommend reading this book if you have a spare couple of hours – thought provoking, inspirational and heartwarming, too.

We have literally thousands of wonderful caring people volunteering with the Delta Society Pet Partners program who have found their perfect Pet Partners through animal rescue organizations. From Claire and her Dalmatian, Yankee Doodle TO Melinda and Elmo (her Labrador Retriever) TO Marcy and her precious rescued rabbit named Oreo TO Janet and her rescued cat named Cosmo TO Susan and her German Shepherd named Lyrissa and so many, many more.

Thanks to all of you for making a difference in these animals' lives and inspiring us with your ongoing efforts as Pet Partners around the country.

You are demonstrating how the healing power of an animal is extraordinary and so valuable. Each of you provides such a positive impact and make a difference in your respective communities!

Lori
An Unlikely Match Make a Lucky Team
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bob Black and his loveable pooch, a two year old Pomeranian named Fixie, are about to become a Pet Partners team through Delta Society thanks to a sponsorship from Chermak Construction, where he works.

Prior to Bob expressing interest in becoming a team, no one at his work had heard of the Pet Partners program. When asked why they decided to sponsor Bob, Howard and Judy Chermak said it was "because he was so passionate about it and everyone's sprits are lifted when the dog comes into the office, so when we heard he was doing this we wanted to participate."

Judy says that she thinks Bob and Fixie should make a wonderful team because of Bob's love and commitment and adoration for the dog and vise-a-versa. "He's poured his heart and soul into her. She goes everywhere with him, she's in his truck and he's trained her just beautifully. It is a mutual admiration with those two."

Bob's company didn't have any past experience working with Delta Society, but his company sponsors a lot of different events in the community. Sponsoring a Pet Partners team is definitely a unique experience because they are able to help other people through this dedicated pair.

Bob wasn't going to be able to pay for all of the training, but his work heard this and knew that he wanted to do it, so they covered all of the finances. Once they are registered, the company is even buying Fixie's vest that she will wear to volunteer. "The company I work for is so supportive. They're all about helping others and they know that this will help other people."

Bob is very open to where they volunteer first. "This is all very new to me, but we're open to whatever presents itself. I'm very partial to nursing homes and retirement homes."
Fixie got her name after Bob's nickname, 'Fix it Bob' which he received for being able to fix almost anything. "I wanted something with an 'ie' at the end of it, so a buddy of mine suggested Fixie and it just stuck."

After being his sidekick at work, Fixie has grown used to being around different people and loud noises, which has her well-equipped for the journey ahead of her.
Both Fixie and her proud owner are excited to start mending people's hearts with their new work as Pet Partners and are looking forward to whatever opportunities come their way.

Thanks Bob, for showing us how even the smallest of dogs can brighten people's lives and bring them joy!

Whitney Gates

DOGA - Yoga for you and your dog
Saturday, June 20, 2009

Looking for something unique to do with your pup that will help you both stay fit and relaxed? Why not explore DOGA - its yoga that you do with your dog.


picture courtesy of Brenda Byran

This is a great way for you to make the bond with your dog even stronger. In a DOGA class you'll learn how to give your dog a nice relaxing massage, and you'll learn how to incorporate your dog into your own yoga poses. It's a wonderful way for both you and your pooch to spend some time together while taking care of each other.

"Dogs help us open our hearts to the possibilities of relationships that we may have difficulty learning or accepting from other humans," writes Brenda Byran, a DOGA instructor. "Something about that connection with our dog allows us to draw out the qualities in ourself that we may otherwise have difficulty connecting with: unconditional love, letting go, being present, to name a few."

Classes are starting to pop up all over so search the web to see if you can find one near you. You should also check out the book, Barking Buddha, by Brenda Bryan. She also has a delightful blog.

If you are in the Seattle, WA area on June 24th from 6:00 - 8:00 pm City Dog Magazine and Mountaineers Books will be hosting a free book signing on the upper level deck at Rock Bottom Brewery. I'll be there with my 'little girl' Belle and hope to see you there too. Per the event organizers, "Mix and mingle with fellow dog lovers, enjoy a cocktail and pick up a signed copy of Brenda Bryan's new book, Barking Buddah. Each four-legged guest will receive a swag bag loaded with treats and goodies! Please RSVP with the number of people and pups attending to Shanna Knowlton at shannak@mountaineersbooks.org or 206.223.6303 x117. This is one event you don't want to miss!"

Take Care,
JoAnn Turnbull

To the world I am nothing. To my rescued dog, I am the world.
Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cindy Carr's world changed the day she rescued Micah (a gorgeous Siberian Husky) from a local animal shelter. As Cindy says, "I anxiously walked through a row of metal cages searching for a companion. Micah was sitting calmly in his kennel, his piercing blue eyes staring at me. Those eyes held hope and I knew I found my love. I decided on his name; Micah (the prophet), because I imagined a life together for us full of love and good works. His previous life was a mystery to me but was insignificant as I drove him to his new home. I live alone so I was prepared to devote myself to him and his comfort. His early life of probable neglect was over and we looked forward to a bright future for both of us."

In April of 2002, Micah and Cindy became a Pet Partners team. Together, they visit nursing homes, hospitals, hospice programs, elementary schools, and a local crisis center and also meet with young children at two district libraries as part of their summer reading program.

Being with Micah has allowed Cindy to see patients as they are recovering at her local hospital's ER department. Micah is a source of comfort to them and provides unconditional love to everyone he meets. Cindy and Micah often visit a hospital floor that is for the most critically ill patients.

"Micah's interaction is truly amazing as he connects with every patient. He reminds me of a search and rescue dog in action as he directs himself straight to the bed or chair. If there is a family in the room, he acknowledges them but always makes it clear that the patient is his priority."

Cindy mentioned the effect that Micah has on the hospital staff. He is showered with hugs and kisses before even entering a room. The staff is always happy to see us and often call out room numbers so we don't miss anyone that they feel needs a visit. Whether from staff or patients, the words that Cindy cherishes most are: You've made my day!

Thanks to Micah and Cindy for the wonderful work they do each week! We are so pleased to have such a loyal and dedicated Pet Partners team.

Lori Moak-Kean

From Make-A-Wish to Aspiring Pet Partners Team
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Caitlin Holloway was fourteen when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2006. While battling her illness at Seattle Children's Hospital for nine months, she met Sugar Bear, a loving Golden Retriever that would change her life.

The joy Sugar Bear brought made her want to train her own therapy dog and become a part of a Pet Partners team. "Sugar Bear's visits had an amazing impact on me. It was something I was used to since we had a dog at home. I was used to having that constant in my life. It was sweet, happy, reassuring, and calming. Knowing that it had that affect on me, I started thinking about training my own therapy dog."

At Children's, she was allowed to make one wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation; and she wished for a Golden Retriever like Sugar Bear. Caitlin already had a dog at home, but she had bigger plans for her 'Make-A-Wish' dog.

On the days that the dogs came to visit, she said that she was happier, excited, and able to sleep better. They gave her something to look forward to and her desire to become a Pet Partners team made her hopeful.

Once Caitlin was out of the hospital and her immune system had fully recovered, she received Scout, an 11-week Golden Retriever. Scout had already been through two weeks of training and Caitlin continued to take him to basic, advanced obedience, and Rally.

With her cancer in remission, Caitlin was able to attend school and join the Running Start program at Seattle Central Community College. She is currently a junior, and plans to apply to Southern Illinois to become a radiation therapist. She also plans to bring Scout along for the ride, so they can volunteer together.

"The school is connected to a hospital so I'm hoping to be able to take him with me to volunteer. They also have a vet program, so I'm hoping their dorms will be a little more animal friendly, but otherwise I'm planning on getting an apartment."

Caitlin says that right now her goal is to finish training so when Scout is ready, she'll be able to take Scout to Seattle Children's Hospital and volunteer there. She also hopes to visit a long-term living care facility in West Seattle.

Training Scout has been a very rewarding experience for Caitlin, who says that having a therapy dog is a lot different than just having a house pet. "There are different rules. Scout's personality is just so different. It's nice to be able to know that you're doing something for the better – your pleasure actually has a purpose and this animal you're enjoying is also going to help other people."

Once they complete all of their training and Scout demonstrates he wants to do this work, Caitlin will be able to be on the other side of the hospital bed with Scout as her helper. "I wanted to do this because Sugar Bear helped me, so I wanted to give back and see the smiles on other kids' faces."

Thanks to the support from Christi Dudzik of Healing Paws and Caitlin's hard work, one day it is hoped that Scout and Caitlin will be able to return the joy that Sugar Bear brought her, through their own Pet Partners team.

Caitlin - Thank you for sharing this great story with us! Good luck with the rest of your training.

Whitney Gates
The Power of the Human-Animal Bond
Saturday, June 13, 2009
One of Delta Society's co-founders, Dr. Bill McCulloch – at 77 years young – is still very active with the organization. A couple of weeks ago while in Portland, OR I again had the honor of visiting with Dr. Bill. He is a testament to the power of passion and I wish everyone could have the opportunity to spend even a few minutes with him. The human-animal bond is near and dear to him, and listening to him share all that he has witnessed and been involved with over the years is truly inspiring.

In my position I am often asked to do presentations about Delta Society and the healing power of pets to various groups. When I do, I always do my best to 'channel' Dr. Bill. He has helped me appreciate the fact that just 30 years ago the thought that pets could actually help us live healthier lives was basically only a theory to a few. Since then, so much has changed – but still there is so much more work to do. There are many people who don't yet truly understand how animals can change people's lives for the better. How they can help empower people with disabilities to live independently. How their very presence can help bring patients out of comas. How they can be the stimulus to get scared children to allow nurses to complete necessary but painful procedures. How they can help us reduce our blood pressure and lower our stress levels in our everyday lives.

If you are in the greater Puget Sound area and are interested in helping us get this message to more people, please let me know. I would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group (civic organization, volunteer group, animal organization, religious organization, work place lunch and learn setting, school, etc.). There are many interesting facts to be shared alongside some of the most heartwarming stories you'll ever hear. Speaking engagements are free to groups of 10 or more people and can be tailored to your needs – from 10 minutes to one hour.

Hope to hear from you soon – and as Dr. Bill signs off on his emails, in the bond.

JoAnn
425-679-5514
joannt@deltasociety.org

P.S. All are invited to come to The Healing Power of Pets presentation which I'll be doing today at Pharmaca from 1:00 - 2:00 pm at their store in Seattle/Madison Park. Hope to see you there.
A Practical Guide to Impractical Pets ~
Thursday, June 11, 2009

What a clever title for a book. In fact, the moment I read the title and saw the gorgeous male peacock in full regalia staring at me from the front cover….well, the book jumped right into my hands begging to be read!

The author is Barbara Burn, widow of Dr. Emil Dolensek, who was the chief veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo. Having spent many a day at the Bronx Zoo when I was a kid living in New York that was enough to intrigue me as well. Ah, the stories she must know, the insight into the care of exotics and all the hands on experience she must have observed and possibly participated in.

And, I was not disappointed. Barbara begins by talking about 'easy' pets and breaks them into categories:

  • small mammals such as rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, cavies (guinea pigs) rabbits, cats
  • birds like budgies, small finches, canaries, lovebirds
  • reptiles and amphibians like salamanders, turtles, snakes, lizards, frogs/toads
  • fish like brine shrimp and land hermit crabs.

Even though, as a military family, we moved quite often during my childhood – our parents encouraged us to have a variety of pets (though' I don't think my mom was exactly 'thrilled' with some of my choices like the frogs, garter snakes, rats, innumerable mice & gerbils I had in my room or throughout the houses we lived in).

Upon reflection, I now realize my parents let us have the pets to provide consistency in our lives. We had so much upheaval from moving quite often to Daddy's new duty stations w/ the Marine Corps. Our pets always came with us and were our constant companions & yes, even our friends as we moved into each new neighborhood or military base. Sometimes it was difficult to make new friends at first yet we always had our pets to come home to - they loved us unconditionally and gave us companionship and comfort.

From easy pets, Barbara goes on to discuss "difficult pets" (they require more care!) which include domestic animals like dogs, ferrets, horses, pigs, cows, llamas, alpacas, koi, chickens, peacocks and then some wild animals like boa constrictors, pythons and green iguanas along with hedgehogs, sugar gliders, parrots and toucans.

While I never found our assorted dogs, ferrets, boa, iguana or hedgehog particularly difficult – they did require special attention, food and more involvement/work than the basic garter snakes, mice or cavies I'd had when I was younger. My parents reinforced the responsibility I had made to those individual creatures. And, thankfully encouraged me to read voraciously about the care of specific creatures and seek out professional expertise for giving the boa or the hedgehog proper nutrition and care. Fortunately, no matter where we lived, there were very patient veterinarians willing to talk to a precocious kid about her 'exotics' and helped me learn proper care and feeding protocols.

The fourth chapter was especially intriguing to me because for many years I was involved with a wildlife rehabilitation center in California. Unfortunately, I know all too well about the humans who have a wolf or a raccoon, a bear, a cougar or coyote or ocelot or serval or the assorted primates like bush babies, chimps, squirrel monkeys or marmosets and the havoc that can ensue with all the aforementioned. Barbara handles this delicate issue with grace and diplomacy and offers logical and rational explanations about why the aforementioned critters don't really make good pets for most people.

She has several chapters that deal with keeping a pet, caring for a pet from living arrangements to feeding, grooming and exercise. Her final chapters talk about selecting a veterinarian, preventative medicine, animal diseases that humans can catch and finally, she covers the end of life issues with animals.

Suffice to say, this book spoke to me on so many levels about what makes a good pet and which animal species the general public should avoid when considering having a 'unique' pet.

Our Pet Partners around the globe have a variety of wonderful animals as pets - from llamas, rabbits, guinea pigs, small horses and yes, an adorable pot bellied pig! to dogs and cats of all sizes, shapes and breeds…a wonderful mélange of loving pets from the animal world to share with people in need.

Healing Hearts of All Species,
Lori

Take Your Dog to Work Day!
Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Friday June 26th is Take Your Dog to Work Day! This day is about enjoying your pooch's company at work and to raise awareness about pet adoptions. Be prepared by planning ahead so your dog can be a part of the fun with these helpful tips.

How to Prepare for Take Your Dog to Work day:
Before you start planning, check to be sure that fellow co-workers don't have any serious objections or concerns. If your office doesn't normally celebrate Take Your Dog to Work Day – consider talking to your company's HR and discuss with them the benefits and reasons why you should bring your best friend to work for the day. Bring fellow co-workers with you for support – there's more power in a pack!

Great Ways to Celebrate the Day With or Without a Pet:
This is a great opportunity to make use of having your pets at work and enlighten your coworkers about the health benefits of having animals in our lives. Did you know that one study indicated that people who had a heart attack had a 6X greater chance of surviving it a year later if they had a dog or cat in their house! There are many other research studies which indicate pets in our lives help us live healthier and happier lives. If you give your employer all the reasons and benefits why you should bring your pet and they still say no – encourage your co-workers to bring pictures of their dogs to share with each other.

How to Prepare Your Dog so He/She Is Welcome Back Next Year:

  • Plan your day so you can walk your dog outside a few times throughout the day. When dogs are visiting a new environment or are overly-excited they tend to potty more.
  • Dogs should be tied to a standard six-foot leash or limited to an office or cubicle. A small folding fence or baby gates also work great.
  • Be sure to respect your co-workers by making sure your dog is flea-free and bathing your dog the night before.
  • Make sure your dog is under control at all times and isn't barking or jumping on people and is capable of basic obedience. (Do not bring your dog if they are aggressive).
  • Keep in mind that not everybody loves dogs and don't force co-workers who may be afraid of dogs to interact with your dog.
  • Choose a safe place to take your dog out for potty breaks and be sure to clean up afterwards.
  • Bring paper towels and disinfectant just incase your dog has an accident.
  • Make sure this is a comfortable experience for your dog as well by bringing their blankets and/or bed and favorite toys (avoid squeaky toys or toys that will stain the carpet).
  • Beware of scaring off clients with your dog, but if appropriate, use your dog as a way to tell people more about Take Your Dog to Work Day and the health benefits of having animals in our lives.
  • Take all necessary food, treats, and bowls to last through the day.

This very special day was created in 1996 by Pet Sitters International.

I hope these tips are helpful and that everyone is able to participate in Take Your Dog to Work Day in some way. Send us any stories that you would like to share with readers about your doggie day!

Whitney

Before her dog, the disease controlled her.
Saturday, June 06, 2009

This month was hard to write a story for the blog. We lost a lot of patients this month and it was just hard to think of a good story to share. Some days, weeks, months are just like that working at a vet. There are prolonged stretches where we lose patients. People sob and you let them cry on your shoulder. You hand out the Kleenex. With the great comes the difficult I guess. And I think working for a vet is one of the greatest jobs.

So I was struggling to write something. I had several stories I was working on and just could not get them done. But yesterday at the grocery store I stopped to say hi to a great dog. She was an enormous black and white mutt. There was nothing pure bred or "special" about her- just a great big beautiful dog. And this beautiful dog was waiting for her person with anticipation only a dog can show for someone. We sat there and chatted for a while at the car (it was a nice cool day). My spirits lifted a little.

Her person came out eventually. She introduced herself- Candy- and we said hi. This cheered me up a little more. She started telling me all about her wonderful dog Elsa. Elsa was a rescue years ago. She is 11 now and Candy's service dog. I could not believe the coincidence. Here I was thinking about the blog for Delta Society and I meet another wonderful service dog. Candy told me about her epilepsy. She said Elsa alerts her every time she is about to have a seizure and has saved her life on more than one occasion. Elsa is even more in tune with the seizures than Candy. And most of all, Elsa is her best friend. I gave Elsa a dog biscuit and headed towards home.

On my way home I saw Edgar. Edgar just came into the vet for a check up. I can spot him because he wears a bright yellow vest. He is a super cute red dachshund and also is a seizure alert dog. I guess this is my day for coincidences- and a day to remember the GOOD things that I see at work.

His owner Pam is with him. During their visit she said he is the best thing that ever happened to her. Before Edgar she felt depressed. She felt her disease controlled her. Now she feels empowered. She feels safe because Edgar, just like Elsa, warns her before she even knows a seizure is coming. Pam walks Edgar and three other super dachshunds 19 plus blocks twice a day. Before Edgar she was afraid to leave the house. I see Edgar and Pam on their walk a lot, but did not know who they were before they came into work. Edgar proudly wears his vest everywhere he goes and now thanks to him that is a lot of places.

So like I said with the difficult moments come the great moments. So I have days that I feel like crying when I watch a boy say goodbye to his best friend. Then I have days where I meet two women whose lives were for ever changed for the better because of their dogs. And then I think that is why we are here. And when the day comes and they have to say goodbye to Elsa and Edgar I will let them lean on me and have a good cry. Then I will go home and take my beloved canines for a walk and realize for all the tough things in life there are just as many good.

Bernadette

Vet Tech and Delta Society Guest Blogger

Learn more about service dogs on the Delta Society website.

For information on Pet Loss Support, click here.

Meet Rojo - the therapy llama
Thursday, June 04, 2009

Rojo the llama lives in Vancouver, WA. He became a Delta Society Pet Partner with Lori Gregory and now brings smiles and 'screams of delight' when he shows up in some unexpected places.

"If only we could have him come every day!" one of the teachers exclaimed at the end of Rojo's recent visit to a school where they visit. This school is a private therapeutic school that provides specialized education and treatment services to children and adolescents who lack the skills, confidence, and/or support to be successful learners. On this day, Rojo, along with his teammate Lori Gregory and her daughter Shannon, was introduced to each classroom. "It was fun to see their eyes light up as they entered the room, found a chair, and listened with interest as we shared about our very special therapy llama," says Lori. "They anxiously awaited their turn to come up to pet and give treats to Rojo. Many got their picture taken with him, with smiles and lots of big hugs around his wooly neck. It seemed to my daughter, Shannon, and I, like a fairly normal school visit.

It wasn't until afterward, when all the children had to leave for their buses, that I learned how special this experience was for the kids at Serendipity. After Shannon had taken Rojo outside, the teachers began to tell me that there were quite a few children with autism that had gone up and touched, or hugged, Rojo, and they saw a significant positive response to him that was very encouraging from many of the other children and teens who are usually quite withdrawn. One told me that our visit with Rojo was 'the best thing that has ever come to our school' in the 23 years she has worked there!

I had the opportunity to recently meet Rojo, Shannon and Lori at a special event in Portland. Just getting Rojo from their van to a building is an adventure in and of itself as everyone seems to be drawn to this majestic animal. Lori and Shannon are so patient, taking the time to talk with each person who comes by wanting to pet and meet Rojo. What took me two minutes to walk took them about 20 - 30 minutes to travel as they accommodated all the curious people passing by. Thank you Lori and Shannon for sharing your special boy with so many people. You can't help but smile when you meet Rojo!

Take Care,
JoAnn

Beyond Loss
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Someone recently told me that 'our pets only live as long as we are capable of coping with their loss'. As I applied this to my own relationship with my pets, in particular my oldest dog, Mr. Hyde (5 years+), I realized how unfortunately true this statement is – at least for me. Simply considering the fact that he is likely half way through this life causes me such deep pain that I have to distract my mind away from the idea. Just a few days later, I received an email from a Pet Partner handler memorializing the loss their pet, Archie. Excerpt from Gary and Penny Turner's memorial for Archie:

Archie
This special soul has given many hundreds of hours providing animal assisted therapy to thousands of people including the abused children of Spofford Home, the seniors of Good Samaritan Center, his friends at First National Bank and so many others. He has helped countless children become better readers thru his work as a Reading Education Assistant Dog. As a canine crisis response teammate Archie has provided comfort and support to the residents of Ceresco NE and Chapman KS after their homes and towns were destroyed by tornadoes as well as people at the Omaha Westroads Mall during the one year commemoration of the shootings of December 5, 2007. Archie's big brown eyes, sweet demeanor and gentle understand of people's needs is something to behold. Archie has taught us so much about the meaning of unspoken understanding with his amazing work. We are blessed that God sent Archie to point us to our work in helping people of all ages . . . We attribute Archie's longevity in large part to his incredible work. God bless you Archie for starting us on this wonderful journey of animal assisted therapy. Moritz and Brodie will do their best to continue in your paw prints. The world is truly a better place because of Archie. He will live forever in our hearts.

By the time I finished reading the memorial I was weeping, and I knew that this must be a transcendent concept to all loving pet owners. The human-animal bond is an amazing thing; it is intangible in many ways and difficult to describe. Even still, the research shows that in their own way, they improve our happiness – and health as a result. Even though there are many pet owners out there grieving, we so rarely talk about how their loss affects us.

For some, the loss is so hard to take that, like Carla (a Delta Society staffer), who has been so traumatized by the loss of her pets that she and her husband have vowed not to have any more. Instead, they have pets in their lives by interacting with people that have pets – and Carla, by having a job at Delta Society. All of this has led up to learning today that my dear friend 'Gloria's' dog Abbey is dying of cancer; forcing Gloria to consider whether to have Abbey 'put to sleep' or not. What a terrible choice to be faced with – and what guilt must linger after having to make that choice for, in 'Gloria's' case, your best friend. So I have to know, why don't we talk about the loss? Has society kept us all from validating our grief over a pet because they are not human? How can we change this social norm?

Please help me explore and understand this by submitting your comments, stories and feedback to candicec@deltasociety.orgFor those currently grieving, I encourage you to visit Delta Society's online resource center for Pet Loss & Bereavement, with counselors and groups, websites, articles and other resources.


 

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