If I didn’t have cats or dogs……
Wednesday, December 30, 2009

“I could walk around the yard barefoot in safety.

My house could be carpeted instead of tiled and laminated.

All flat surfaces, clothing, furniture, and cars would be free of fur.

When the doorbell rings, it wouldn't sound like a kennel.

When the doorbell rings, I could get to the door without wading through fuzzy bodies who beat me there.

I could sit on the couch and my bed the way I wanted, without taking into consideration how much space several fur bodies would need to get comfortable.

I would have money and no guilt to go on a real vacation.

I would not be on a first-name basis with 6 veterinarians, as I put their yet unborn grand kids through college.

The most used words in my vocabulary would not be: out, sit, down, come, no, stay, and leave him/her/it ALONE.

My house would not be cordoned off into zones with baby gates or barriers.

I would not talk 'baby talk'. 'Eat your din din'. 'Yummy yummy for the tummy'..

My house would not look like a day care centre, toys everywhere.

My pockets would not contain things like poop bags, treats and an extra leash.

I would no longer have to spell the words B-A-L-L, F-R-I-S-B-E- E, W-A-L-K, T-R-E-A-T, B-I-K-E, G-O, R-I-D-E.

I would not have as many leaves INSIDE my house as outside.

I would not look strangely at people who think having ONE dog/cat ties them down too much.

I would not have to answer the question 'Why do you have so many animals?' from people who will never have the joy in their lives of knowing they are loved unconditionally by someone as close to an angel as they will ever get.

How EMPTY my life would be!"
(author unknown)

May you and your beloved pets have a peaceful and most Happy New Year from all of us at Delta Society.


Therapy Dog Visits - just what a young heart transplant patient needed.
Monday, December 28, 2009

Joey was 10 years old and dangerously ill. He needed a heart transplant, but had been in the hospital for a long time, waiting for one to become available. With each passing day he grew weaker. Even worse, he was losing hope.

To be a good transplant candidate, Joey needed to keep up his strength – somehow. That is when the Pet Partners team of Fauna (a Black Labrador) and Greer walked into his room, and into his life. From the first moment Joey petted Fauna’s silky head, energy seemed to flow back into the sick boy. Joey had become too weak to walk – but when he was invited to hold the leash and take Fauna for a stroll down the hall, he brightened with anticipation. And then, with his medical team assisting him, Joey walked with his new best friend!

With the help of this very special dog, Joey turned a corner, gained strength, and underwent a successful heart transplant surgery. As Joey struggled through recovery and rehab, Fauna was there, too. The first time Joey tried to climb a flight of stairs Fauna was waiting at the top, greeting him joyously as he reached his goal.

Today, Joey is a happy, healthy teenager – thanks to the Pet Partners team who regularly visited him – and to good friends who support our programs so generously.

The love and companionship of animals isn’t a kind of medicine you can get at a pharmacy. But, through the efforts of all involved with Delta Society, more and more physicians now understand the healing power of the human-animal bond. And they are suggesting animal-assisted activities and therapy for their patients of all ages!

Delta Society co-founder Michael McCulloch, MD, explained it so well: in an era when we depend so much on the technology of medicine, “it is refreshing to find that a person’s health may be improved by prescribing contact with other living things.”

Delta Society is dependent on gifts made from individuals, corporations and foundations – we receive no government funding. While our volunteer Pet Partners pay for their training, evaluations and registration fees, the reality is that we still need an additional $38 to support each Pet Partner annually. The average Pet Partner visits with 100 people each year. Their visits could result in something as simple as turning a frown into a smile, something as exceptional as helping someone come out of a coma, or something as marvelous as inspiring a young heart transplant patient.

If you can make a year-end, tax-deductible donation, please click here. Thank you!


Home for the holidays - thanks to a Pet Partners visit.
Friday, December 25, 2009
I recently learned of a therapy animal visit that changed a family’s Christmas, and touched my heart. Katie was kind enough to write her memories of a Christmas past, and I hope you are warmed by it as much as I.

I am an only child. At age 10 I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. When I was a teen, I used the disease as my point of rebellion and as a way to keep my weight down. That has had multiple medical complications including Gastroparesis.

Several years ago (when I was an adult), I was so sick with the complications of Gastroparesis that I spent over 200 days in Providence St. Vincent Hospital in Portland, OR in a single year. My parents were visiting from Sacramento for Christmas and I was in the hospital, due to be discharged on Christmas Eve...barring no further problems. On Christmas Eve, I was afraid to go home because I was so sure that I would just wind up back in the hospital before Christmas was over. So why bother going home and ruining everybody else's good time?

My mom talked to my nurse (by this time, we all knew the nurses very well) about my fears and the nurse said she would see what she could do to help.

Mom and dad went to lunch and then to the Chapel for one of their Christmas Eve services, hoping for a Christmas miracle...any miracle.

When they got back to my room, I was up, dressed, much happier and ready to check out and go home. When mom asked what had changed my mind, I told her and dad that a woman had come to my room with a therapy dog and we had a great visit. I was ready to go home and celebrate Christmas with my husband and the rest of the family.

So, because of the visit by a Pet Partners team (not that I knew what to call them then) we had our Christmas miracle. I managed to stay out of the hospital for the remainder of my folks' visit.

Since we moved in together 5 years ago, mom and I have become active in a local woman's club. One of their members introduced us to Delta Society and eventually that is how I discovered that it was one of the Delta Society Pet Partners teams that visited me that Christmas Eve. We are now sharing our time and resources to promote these wonderful volunteers and their animal partners.

Thank you Katie for sharing your story and for all the work you are doing to help create more awareness of the ‘magic’ that can happen from even a short visit with a therapy animal. To you and all who are celebrating Christmas today, I wish you a joyous holiday for you and all your 2 and 4-footed family and friends.


Season's Greetings
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Season’s Greetings ~Merry Christmas~Happy Hanukkah~Kwanzaa~
Solstice~Newtonmas~ Season of Joyful Consumption…. May you have a great time celebrating whatever you celebrate!

December always gives us pause to reflect upon the past year….to celebrate who we are and who we will become in the New Year. It’s a good time to think kindly of the past and live fully in the now looking forward to what 2010 will bring in our lives.

I’m grateful for my family, friends, and neighbors on both coasts and co workers at all the nonprofits where I volunteer each week. But most especially, I’m so very thankful to share my life with six wonderful rescued furkids who bring me joy, happiness and contentment every single day. They offer unconditional love and acceptance even when I’m upset or in a bad mood. When my father died, our little Chihuahua, Phoebe, stayed by my side 24/7 and was such a comfort to me. She seemed to know that I needed her silly antics to make me laugh and help me cope. When I was in bed with bronchitis, our cats and tiny dogs cuddled with me and kept me toasty warm. When I suffered two nasty spider bites on my birthday and was on a plethora of medicines to control the pain and get the swelling and infection down, our three cats stayed close by and took turns licking my face or nuzzling my neck….I know their purring helped calm me.

These six darling rescued furkids always help put life in perspective and motivate me to ‘keep on trucking’.

I hope you’ll take a few moments during this holiday season to tell & show your beloved pets how much you appreciate them!

With one voice, human and animal together….
We at Delta Society wish you a most happy holiday season & a wonderful New Year.

Peace to all beings,


Pet Friendly Made Web Friendly
Monday, December 21, 2009

A web site launched by Purina, Petcentric, has created an online community filled with all things pets- from photos to videos, as well as games and stories. While fun to browse, there are many web sites that offer similar components. Know what the truly exciting piece of the pie was for me? Another aspect of the Petcentric site offers many answers to a question I am constantly wondering, “Are we near a pet friendly place?”

‘Petcentric Places’ lets you search an easy-to-use directory by neighborhood or zip code, within a certain number of miles, and pull up helpful information on places to bring your pet – places including (but definitely not limited to) dog parks, pet grooming, veterinary clinics, pet stores, local dog walkers, pet sitters, the list goes on. My neighborhood alone pulled up dozens and dozens of places where I could take my dog, with some reviews offered by people like you and me. I entered my zip code and both of my favorite local dog parks appeared, with maps and reviews from people who frequent them. How cool is this?

But wait, there’s more.

Petcentric Places also has information on lodging options across the country that welcome animals. This site really would have come in handy when I was driving cross country with my dog, searching for hotels that would allow her in a room with me while we rested overnight. There is also a search engine for parks and beaches that have off leash areas-- I can’t count how many books I’ve purchased since moving to Washington last year about what the best beaches and hikes are in the area for dogs. I am excited that all of this information is now at my fingertips, and at no charge!

It seems that Purina really has thought of it all when it comes to this web site. There are even features that let you add your own favorite pet spot to a map, as well as an app for iPhones for people on the go. This is definitely a new favorite web site of mine – I’ve bookmarked it and am anxious to start exploring more pet friendly places that I never knew existed!

A big thank you to Purina for having all of this information on one easy to navigate web site!


You never know when you'll make an impact.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Last week I had a doctor’s appointment for a cyst that showed up on my wrist, a product of a broken bone in first grade and years of pressure to the wrist joint. Because I am new to Seattle, I asked a friend for a recommendation for a general practitioner in Bellevue that was close to my office.

I met a wonderful nurse practitioner who assured me that the cyst I had was very common. She had one, her sister had one. Hers returned. No biggie. She delighted in telling me that she would numb the area and stick a needle in to extract the fluid that had built up in sack near my wrist joint. She found this stuff interesting, but I was totally grossed out and had to look away…. she was very comforting when I needed it. It was clear she loved what she did. She was cheerful, funny and a pleasure to speak with.

The process took all of five minutes, and as I put my jacket on we started small talk about where I work. I will preface this part of my story by saying that I take great pride in working for Delta Society, I think that the work we do speaks to people in a way that not many organizations can. I like to talk about my job with whoever is willing to listen, but the majority of the time I am faced with a person who has not heard of Delta Society. But once in awhile I meet someone who knows exactly who we are. This was one of those times. As soon as I said that I worked for Delta Society, her smiling eyes filled with tears that she was very obviously trying to hold back. I could tell she was instantly uncomfortable with this role reversal – I was now comforting her as she did for me five minutes before.

She pulled her cell phone from her white lab coat, flipped the screen and showed me the background image- it was a young girl with a dog. She cried as she told me that she knew exactly what Delta Society was, she had a daughter who was very ill the year before and spent a long time at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Through choked tears she told me that her daughter’s happiest days were those when the dogs would visit the hospital. So much so that she kept this picture on her phone to look at it every day and remember the joy her daughter felt. At that point I began crying too, she hugged me and she thanked me for the work that our organization does. It was an incredible moment.

A Pet Partner once told me something that stuck: “You never know when you’ll make an impact.” Once again I felt blessed to be a part of Delta Society. Blessed to be able to support a Pet Partners team who went out and made a difference one day in the life of a sick child, as well as her forever appreciative mother.

Ten reasons why pets are the best medicine
Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dr. Pete Wedderburn, a well known veterinarian in Ireland, recently wrote an insightful article in the Irish Independent newspaper regarding the healing powers of cats and dogs. Dr. Pete graciously agreed to let me share this information with our readers.

Pets are so good for human health that they should be available on prescription: there's evidence that they bring more benefits than many commonly used medications.
Domesticated animals play a role in improving both the physical and psychological well-being of people of all ages, but there are particular benefits for the elderly.

A new pet-fostering initiative set up by the Dublin SPCA and Home Instead Senior Care has recently been launched, bringing the benefits of animal companionship to older people without burdening them with the complications of full-time, permanent pet ownership.
As a vet in practice, I see the results for myself on a daily basis. One instance stands out in my memory.

Delia O'Connor lived alone in south County Dublin, with her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Pal. He was beside her for every moment of the day and night. I did regular house calls to Ms O'Connor, and she'd talk to Pal as I did routine procedures like clipping his nails.

Ms O'Connor eventually had to move into a nursing home, but Pal was allowed to move in with her and remained by his mistress's side until the day she died.

Plenty of scientific research confirms the fact that pets are good for us, but the jury is still out when it comes to working out how they exert their benevolent effect on our lives. Perhaps it's simply that we humans are social beings who enjoy companions. Indeed, pets can often be more enjoyable housemates than humans: cats don't have grumpy moods and dogs never ignore you because they're watching television or reading the paper.

The time has come for those responsible for helping older people to see pets as an important piece of the patchwork of care that can no longer be ignored.

Ten ways that pets can improve human health

1. Pets encourage people to exercise. If you have a dog, you need to take it for a regular walk.
It's recommended that the average dog should be given 25 minutes of exercise twice daily, and there's no doubt that many people would not head off down the street, into the park or along the beach if they didn't have a dog to accompany them.

2. They act as social catalysts, boosting our mental health by connecting us with other people. The most obvious example of this is when you take your dog for a walk. It's very easy for people to strike up a conversation with you by commenting on your animal ("He's magnificent: what breed is he?")

3. Research shows that children who grow up with pets are more confident and more socially adept than those without animals in their lives.

4. Pets can be especially helpful for children with psychological difficulties. Pet therapy started in the 1960s after a psychiatrist observed the rapid progress that took place when he was accompanied by his dog in sessions with severely withdrawn children.
The dog served as an ice-breaker, softening the children's defenses and providing a focus for communication.

5. Prison inmates who are allowed to take care of birds and small animals become less isolated, less violent and more responsible.

6. Pet-ownership reduces the risk of heart disease. Petting a dog or a cat, or even just being in the same room as an animal, can have a calming effect on people, reducing blood pressure and heart rate.

7. They improve recovery rates in humans after certain types of surgery. One study followed the progress of human patients who had undergone major heart surgery. Patients who shared their lives with animals lived for significantly longer than those who did not keep pets.

8. Pets are helpful when dealing with psychiatric illness, including depression. They've been shown to build self-esteem, increase mental alertness, and they also lift the spirits of people with Alzheimer's disease.

9. They help older people to be more self-reliant. One study measured how many hours of 'paid care worker time' were needed for elderly people living alone. At the start, an average of 40 hours a week of human help was needed per patient. Six months after each patient had been given a pet; the amount of paid care time had reduced to about 10 hours per week.

10. When pets are allowed to visit nursing homes, there's a strong positive effect, with elderly residents smiling and talking more, and experiencing more symptoms of well-being. In Ireland, an organization called PEATA (www.peata.org) offers this type of pet-therapy service.
Pete Wedderburn's books 'My Dog Thinks He's Human' and 'My Cat Is Ignoring Me' can be ordered at www.petethevet.com

My sincere thanks to Dr. Pete for sharing his insights with our readers. He’s agreed to work on future blogs with me regarding the human-animal bond.


Chiclet provides the perfect distraction from surgical pain.
Monday, December 14, 2009

I am an Occupational Therapist and I was in the process of training my dog “Chiclet” to become a registered Delta Society Pet Partner. During this time, I suffered a severe patellar fracture of my left leg from a fall (unrelated to dog training). I was hospitalized, underwent surgery and my entire leg was immobilized in a brace from my hip to my ankle. When I returned from the hospital, Chiclet stayed by my side at all times. She was wonderful for emotional support, comfort and a distraction from the surgical pain I was suffering from this traumatic accident. I was wheelchair bound, unable to drive a car and work for approximately 3 months. We went for our daily strolls together as I propelled my wheelchair with her walking by my side.

Next came time for me to begin physical therapy for my knee. I was unable to bend my knee at this time due to the extensive length of immobilization. My leg was so weak, it could not even support my own body weight. I began using crutches and a cane for short distances and my wheelchair for long distances. Needless to say, Chiclet became exposed to numerous types of medical devices and equipment at this time. Chiclet would attend therapy sessions with me and even ride in the wheelchair van on the hydrolic wheelchair lift. Being an Occupational Therapist myself, I incorporated Chiclet into my own physical therapy sessions to assist me with balance training and learning how to walk again. My goals for therapy included being able to take Chiclet outside for walks again without the use of an assistive device and return to volunteering with Chiclet.

After regaining my mobility and strength, I was then able to complete the Delta Society classroom instruction course only to discover shortly thereafter, I had to undergo another knee surgery. I again incorporated Chiclet into my physical therapy sessions to learn how to walk again. After recovering from my second knee surgery, Chiclet and I were able to participate in and successfully pass the Pet Partners Team Evaluation.

Even though it was a long recovery for Chiclet and I, we as a team, have experienced first hand the healing power of animals and the positive effect animals can have in helping aide recovery.

Crista Ferretti
Guest Blogger and Delta Society Pet Partner

Now Look Who’s In the Dog House
Friday, December 11, 2009

When my husband and I set forth to start construction on a bathroom addition to our home, we thought long and hard about our budget, about what we wanted it to look like…. we even considered our Weimaraner Luci. You know the weirdest thing about that last bit? When we shared that thought with our contractor, we weren’t alone.

There are a growing number of people who consider their pets when designing a home. It seems these ideas are things that benefit both people and their pets. Our contractor let us know that there was a certain type of wood that would be best for the floor so that the dog’s nails wouldn’t mark up the floor. He shared that other clients had asked him to build window sills extra wide so that their dog could lay on it and watch the people walking on the street. Another example was a family who decided to build their dog bowls into the kitchen cabinetry, two large holes drilled into the wood that the dog bowls fit into. This kept the bowls from sliding all over the kitchen floor. The same family had a special pull out drawer installed to hide a large bag of dog food that they normally just had on the ground.

Throughout my home construction we were especially concerned with this new bath being dog friendly-- Unlike the other one in our house… the one our dog won’t go near because of an ever present fear of bath time. It was no easy feat to lift our 80 pound dog into the bathtub, all the while her resisting with every quivering bone in her body. For this reason Eric and I decided to have the bathtub separate from the shower in the new bathroom. We designed the shower to have a walk in glass door that could be closed behind her, instead of a measly shower curtain that Luci would normally use as her escape route. To make it more of an enjoyable activity, we had multiple shower heads installed, almost at dog level, and a removable shower head to get all of Luci’s hard to reach places. You know what? These tweaks work. She gladly walks into the shower now.. with the help of a treat coaxing her in.

Have you heard of other examples of people designing around their pets? I’d love to hear about them… just in case our house goes through another round of remodeling!


Teddy helped define a purpose for my life!
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
My former college roommate and great friend Angela (she’ll always be Angie to moi) has a registered pet therapy dog named Misty (who's quite adorable and spoilt rotten!). Angela is also actively involved in dog rescue endeavors in New England. We were chatting the other day and I asked her to please write a blog about why she thinks animals are so important in our lives and how they help us.

"Early in my life as a foster mother of dogs, I read the book Angel Dogs: Divine Messengers of Love by Allen & Linda Anderson and was struck by the irrefutable evidence that dogs are divine. They are divine in the love and support they provide, divine messengers of comfort and joy. That truth motivated me to continue to rescue and re-home as many of these divine messengers as I could. Along the rescue road I learned another truth about dogs--we don't always get the dog we want, instead we get the dog we need.

There's no better story to support these truths than that of Teddy, a six year old toy poodle. Teddy came into our home as a result of my doing something I had never done before or since, I read the pet classified section of the Boston Sunday Globe. It was there that I read "Free to good home, six year old male toy poodle." An hour later my toy poodle, Misty, (a registered Pet Therapy dog) and I arrived at the advertiser's home.

What I found was a backyard breeder who had been ordered by the local Animal Control Officer to get rid of 10 of her 15 dogs. Teddy was a six year old toy poodle, reportedly the "stud" dog, retired and neutered. He was also filthy, smelly, poorly socialized, untrained and, I assumed, unloved. The dogs' owners worked full time, and the dogs were kept in crates for the 12 hours a day they were gone. Their outdoor space consisted of 15 ropes hooked to the side of the house.

Within moments of meeting Teddy, I knew ours was not the perfect home for him. I could tell that he needed peace and he needed to be an only dog, and in our home we would have neither of those things. Another thing I knew was that there was no way I was leaving that dog behind, so within 15 minutes of our arrival, Misty and I were on the way home with Teddy.

After six months of working with Teddy, we felt he was ready for his next transition, to a more suitable home. He truly deserved a home where he'd be the only dog, a place where his little light would shine the brightest. We did find the perfect home for Teddy; he became the beloved of Pat and Elly, retired cousins living in a neighborhood of retirees. It was a close-knit little community, and he would be the only dog on the street.

I kept in touch with Pat and Elly, as I do with the owners of any dog I've placed. It was clear that Teddy had landed exactly where he belonged; he was loved and honored by not only Pat and Elly, but also by the other residents of the cul de sac. Within a few weeks of his arrival, he had many "God Parents," people who took him walking and baby sat for him at their homes when ever Pat and Elly went out. What a wonderful life he had been led to, a life full of love and security. Equally as important, he was led to a life where he had a purpose. He gave back as much as he got, bringing his unique comfort and joy to an entire neighborhood.

About six months after Teddy's adoption, Pat called me to give me the sad news that Elly had been diagnosed with ALS and was slipping away bit by bit. She added that she couldn't imagine how should could have gotten through that difficult time without Teddy, who spent nearly every moment of the day by Elly's side and every moment of the night at Pat's side.

Elly's illness lasted for 2 years. Teddy was at Elly's side when her life came to an end. Pat reported to me that shortly after Elly took her last breath, Teddy rose from his position at Elly's side, licked her hand, and crawled over to Pat's lap and licked the tears from her face. Teddy was and still is a divine messenger. He and Pat now live every moment together, and he carries on as the comfort and joy in his home and neighborhood.

There have been so many dogs carried to our home, dragging themselves in one door battered and damaged, and leaving through another door, head and tail held high, smiles on their precious faces. Every one of them came to us for a reason, with a purpose. From them, I have come to believe in the design of life that this life I lead is not a series of random events, but rather it is a life with a design and purpose.

Teddy was not the dog we wanted, but he certainly was the dog we needed. He was, indeed, a divine messenger. He helped me to define a purpose for my life, shortly after I became disabled due to Multiple Sclerosis. He restored my confidence and dragged out of me talents I didn't know I had. The comfort and joy he gave to Elly during her final two years of life cannot be measured. I still visit him and Pat every few months, and he no longer remembers me as his rescuer, I'm just a visitor. That makes me happy, that is the way it is supposed to be. I was just an intermediate stop on his way to a life of purpose."

Angela Michaud-Mourer lives in Beverly, Massachusetts, with her husband and two dogs, Cassy and Misty. She and Lori Moak-Kean were college roommates and after that shared an apartment in Salem, Massachusetts. After being out of touch for a number of years, they reconnected a few years ago. That they both ended up as advocates for animals was no surprise to either.

Thanks Angie - I love you and treasure our friendship and admire all you do to help people & animals connect!


Do the Math: 1 small dog + 1 big heart = 1 very special Pet Partner
Monday, December 07, 2009

Haley is one sweet little Yorkshire Terrier. She began her career as a Pet Partner in Erie, PA in 1997 at the young age of 14 months. In the summer months of that year, we moved to the Akron, OH area, where Ken McCort suggested we get involved with the Doggie Brigade at Akron Children’s Hospital. I still remember Ken telling me it would be a perfect fit as there were no small dogs in the program at that hospital. Well, that is exactly what we did soon after the move. We made weekly visits to the see the children for 10 years. Haley logged a lot of miles on her four short legs and brought smiles to thousands of children along the way. She made quite an impression with her petite size and dazzling personality. When we made an entrance at the hospital as she heeled by my side walking across the bridge from the parking garage, she would strut her stuff as to say, “Hey everybody, I’m here!” She would actually smile at people. We made a lot of special friends along the way. I knew our work as Pet Partners was important especially when patients would specifically request repeat visits from Haley.

In 2006 I made the choice to move back to my hometown in Erie, PA. Haley and I continued visiting at nursing homes and Shriners Hospital for Children in Erie since then, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Haley will celebrate her 14th birthday on February 13th, and the time has come for her to hang up her leash from visiting as a Pet Partner.

I am very proud of my best friend for her accomplishment of 12 continuous years serving as a Pet Partner. She will now enjoy retirement life with her sister, Chelsea, (15 years old) who is also a recent retiree from Pet Partners. The two are pictured above.

Thank you, Delta Society for your Pet Partners Program and for the privilege of serving as a representative of Delta Society for the past 12 years.

Cindy Grzegorzewski, Chelsea, and Haley
Guest Blooger

About Ivan
Friday, December 04, 2009

The other day I typed an incorrect URL into my web browser– I was trying to get to the blog that my husband Eric and I keep, but accidentally landed on the blog page of another woman named Annie and her husband Eric. The latest blog on their page drew me in because it was a human-animal bond story about their cat, Ivan. What a strange coincidence! I loved her account of their life with Ivan, and I wanted to share it with you.  It is a beautiful tribute to Ivan’s life, and the way he impacted their family. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I do:

“Today we said goodbye to Ivan. After four years with us, his little body was not holding up. Kidney disease and FIV was too much.

Ivan began with a notion Eric had. We had just moved in together, and to my surprise, my less-than-animal-loving partner began surfing the Internet for cats. Craigslist. Local shelters. I don’t recall requesting a cat, but if Eric told you the story he might say that I talked about it constantly. I think he felt it was something he was doing for me. He would flip through shots of different cats and show them to me, explaining what he liked about them and what he didn’t.

Finally one day we went to a local no-kill shelter where they had special needs cats. We decided in advance that we would adopt an FIV+ cat because we could - because it seemed right. We went together into the FIV+ cat rooms and I hung back while Eric began to interact with different cats. I think Ivan won him over instantly.

We used to say that Ivan was “forever a shelter cat looking for a new home,” wooing friends and visitors by rolling over onto his back, reminiscent of an otter, with his two paws close to his chest and his full stomach exposed for petting. When friends would leave, he would go off into another room, aloof as usual. This is how Eric found Ivan and Ivan found Eric.

Ivan was always Eric’s cat. Eric would walk around the house holding Ivan like an infant and talk to him. I think Ivan softened Eric up. Prior to bringing Ivan home, Eric had little patience for pets and rarely engaged them. Ivan was different – I think they had an understanding. Ivan seemed to be acutely aware of Eric’s tidiness and need for space. Perhaps shared the same tendency. Ivan would sit neatly composed in his bed and seek attention only when he specifically wanted to be pet. Most of the time (with the exception of guests), Ivan was quiet, composed, and private.

Ivan was the first member of our family. In many ways, watching Eric with Ivan endeared me more to Eric - I was always so touched by their relationship. When Ivan began getting really sick, it was Eric who was brave enough to begin discussions of the “right” time to let Ivan go.

Life is fragile, as cliché as it is to say. We spend so much time tending to it, cultivating it, nurturing it, and managing it. It is profound how we perpetually choose it, day after day, when it requires so much care. But we do. We create life - so carelessly and so deliberately at once - but we protect it fiercely all the same for its promise of meaning, companionship, of love.

Choosing to end life is so painful because it is also choosing death, and death is blunt, unchanging, and resolute. It is a decision you can’t afford to regret because there is no way to assuage it, to reclaim it. There are so many ways we deny death or are complacent and passive actors in its process. We hold onto our loved ones and companions when they suffer, we ignore its signs when we see them, we choose not to help, not to intervene, not to bother with death. But to opt into it, and to do so for another being, is something else entirely.

I was resistant to talking about letting Ivan go. I fussed over the boundaries of suffering. If he is animated, if he can respond, if he has moments of play then it can’t possibly be time for death. But as Ivan became more ill, despite these moments, it was clear a decision had to be made lest we allow our cat to suffer and waste away. I think we just needed permission to let him go.

For the past two days we each had our moments with Ivan. I spent time grooming and cleaning him – his ears, his patchy fur, and his mouth full of sores. Eric talked to him, he held him. Ivan slept with us this morning for the first time in over a month, as he always did, nestled between our legs.

When I said goodbye in our home and thanked him for his life and time with us, it was clear he knew what was going on and he hid from me. At the vet he resisted leaving his carrier (which is not typical for him), and settled down quietly on the exam table (also not typical), as we talked to him and said our goodbyes. Eric and I wept as they gave him first the anesthetic and then the overdose that stopped his heart. It was quick and he went limp almost immediately. Uncompromising, finite.

We stayed there with his body, petting him, talking to him – so much his little self and so far gone at once. Again cliché, but there is no other way to describe the vacuous presence of something loved in death.

I wanted to take his little body with us – to bathe him and clean him and bury him ourselves. But our culture is not set up to honor death. We leave those tasks to other who consider, tend to it, and dispose of it for us.

Instead we purchased a little plant, mangy and pointy like Ivan, to plant in the place where he began to spend his last days outside. We look forward to watering it and feeding it and to thanking our little furry friend for joining and nurturing the first few years of our lives together.”

Thank you for allowing Delta Society share your blog with our readers, Annie and Eric.


Doggie! Doggie! The relief in the room was palpable…..
Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Melanie Granfors and her dog, Hunter, have been a Pet Partners team for eight months. In that short amount of time, they’ve become very involved in several Animal-Assisted Activity/Therapy endeavors.

We recently shared several emails and Melanie graciously and patiently answered all my questions about her involvement with Delta Society.

How did you hear about Delta Society?
I first learned about Delta Society years ago, on a television documentary about its work with service animals – when I had no dogs or pets at all! I became a donor… received their wonderful magazine and vowed to be part of this wonderful organization for the rest of my life. I had no idea at the time that AAA (Animal-Assisted Activities) even existed!

Tell me about your very handsome dog:
Hunter is a six year old Karelian Bear Dog mix. He is a rescue pup. I found him through Petfinder and learned from his foster family that his entire litter had been dumped on the side of a road in Bellingham,WA. That beautiful little freckled face caused me to jump in the car and drive for three hours to pick him up the same day I saw him online.
Hunter and I have been a Pet Partners team since March of this year. I have three other dogs, but Hunter is a natural for this type of work – and he continues to amaze me with his calming demeanor during our visits to children and elderly patients.

Where do you and Hunter go each week?
Hunter and I now work together as part of my job as Education Specialist at Shoreline Fire. He goes with me to fire safety presentations at schools. Children just love hearing about Hunter’s “fire safety plan” and how he knows what to do when the smoke alarm sounds off. He is my conversation starter and ice-breaker. When we walk into a room, everyone just focuses on us and our safety messages seem so much more interesting!

We also visit Swedish Medical Center’s pediatric unit once a week, and we are part of the Stevens Therapy Pup program. I am so proud when someone tells me that Hunter “made their day” or when they marvel at how peaceful and calm he makes them feel. So many nurses and hospital staffers come by and snuggle him, too. “Come here, Hunter,” they say…. “We need some doggie therapy, too”!

How do children respond to Hunter when you visit the pediatric unit?
Just last week, we were at Swedish, when a nurse came running up asking for immediate help. She told us that a little four year old was just coming back from surgery and was extremely traumatized and crying uncontrollably. The nurse (and parents) looked frantic – and powerless to calm their child. Hunter to the rescue! We walked into the room… the child stopped and stared. Then she bolted off the bed and threw her arms around Hunter’s neck. “Doggie! Doggie!” she cooed. The relief in the room was palpable.

We are a Reading with Rover team as well, a marvelous program that many Pet Partners teams are also involved with. Hunter visits libraries, bookstores and schools and listens to children read. It is a miracle to see how children who struggle with reading to their peers just transform when they know they can read to a non-judgmental, extremely good listener! (He usually falls asleep- -just like bedtime stories.)

Melanie, is there anything you’d like to add to your Pet Partners story?
I am so grateful to Delta Society for everything they have done to help make this easy. And I am so glad there is an organization promoting this work and research worldwide. It provides such credibility and professionalism to the “warm and fuzzy” side of what we do.

Hunter and Melanie are thoroughly enjoying being a Pet Partners team. If you’d like to learn more about our Pet Partners program, click here to get started.

Thanks Melanie and Hunter - People. Pets. Perfect!



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