Our pets bring us joy and unconditional love…..
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

To explain life with my animals, I need to go back a few years. Having never known a time in life when I did not have a rescued dog, cat or bunny, I have always had a deep love of animals. My parent's instilled a love and respect for animals that stays with me to this day. Starvation, Abuse, Neglect, hoarding, 3 legged. A very simple description of my furry family, past & present. Life with these "special animals" is anything but simplistic...

Each morning, my first rescue Puddy-Tat would come running across the parking lot of my printing company, crying for food. Skinny, pregnant & starving, I soon took her home where she had her kittens. Ads in the paper found them all good homes, giving me an idea... why not catch stray cats, tame them and find them homes! So I did just that! I fed, tamed, loved and found homes for over fifty feral cats and kittens, which was the begining of my rescue career! Puddy Tat, the one cat I couldn't part with, lived a safe, happy life to 25.

I soon added Ramona, a starving stray to my family. She's now 24 and suffering the achilles heel of cats, kidney failure. Daily saline injections, a special diet and lots of love ensure that she will be with me for years to come.

After I was married, next to come into our life was Shadow, the product of a dog hoarder in Okanogan. He was rescued and sent to a local shelter, but his experiences made him shy and scared, staying to the back of the kennel. He was scheduled to be killed when my husband stepped in. Shadow's now 11 and enjoying his senior years.

Mocha literally ran into our life~traveling through the same busy intersection as our work truck!. Jumping out, nearly getting hit and getting him safely off the road, I noticed his personal horror~embedded collar, swollen-infected leg from an unhealed tore dew-claw, among other painful things. The worst part was he was starving, weighing only 28 lbs, with our vet telling us he was days from dying. Mocha, now 10 is 65 lbs of happy, healthy dog!

One day I received a call from a local shelter volunteer telling me they had rescued a kitty that had been abused with several broken bones. As Mia was so scared & timid, this volunteer knew she would be unadoptable and die in the shelter. It was LOVE at first site and we took Mia home. Slowly gaining her trust enough to give her more and more love and attention, it took her years to trust again. Sadly, the kitty we thought we would have many years, helping to recover and shower love on, died of cancer last spring at 7.

Our hearts were still aching when a sweet, gentle soul named Lexi came into the picture. Lexi's previous owner made a classic mistake, buying a dog for his kids, not to be part of the family. After they went to college, Lexi was no longer wanted and into a crate she went. When her former owner finally tired of her, she was getting a one way trip to the shelter. That's when I stepped in. Lexi's life now? Running and playing happily with her furry brothers!

The latest addition to our "animal brood" is Bunny, our three legged rescue. Bunny lost her front left leg and part of her back right foot in an animal trap. In my home, which I lovingly refer to as "island of the misfit animals" you would never know she not whole. She moves faster than all the animals combined! Bunny, aka “our 4th dog” lays with, cleans, plays with our dogs, crying when her dog friends are outside playing without her. She is our joy.

My husband & I are thankful to have each and every one of them in our lives. They bring us joy and unconditional love the way only a rescued animal can.

Tia Rosetti-Mills is one of the most dedicated people I know involved in animal rescue endeavors. It’s an honor to be her friend. When not helping find forever homes for shelter animals, she owns an organic based lawn, tree and shrub care service.  Thanks Tia for inspiring me daily!   Lori


He saved my life and I saved his
Monday, April 26, 2010

While surfing the Internet recently, I ran across this comment posted in response to an article about the health benefits to having an animal. I thought it was such a shining testimonial of how inviting a pet into your home can help you change your life for the better, that I wanted to share it with you.      JoAnn

"In 1998 I was going through a depression but did manage to adopt a greyhound.

Well, this dog needed attention so instead of focusing on the negatives in my life, I focused on the dog.

Then I starting walking more and lost 10 pounds.

Then I started snacking less because whenever he heard a bag ruffle or refrigerator door open, he was right there so I ate less snacks and junk food.

Then because he was a greyhound and greyhounds were not that common in my area at that time, more of my friends and acquaintances wanted to come over and see him so I was more social.

I always say that he saved my life and I saved his by adopting him.

I think everyone should have a dog or cat or some interactive pet in their life."

Has a pet helped change your life?  Please email your story to storyidea@deltasociety.org


Wiley barked and I've never been alone again!
Friday, April 23, 2010

Funny how dogs connect you to the world. After twenty years of doing comedy on the road, with no place that felt like home, all I had wanted was a dog and a newspaper subscription. I'd finally gotten them, but it was only the dog who never gave me a day of worry or bad news. For the nine years I had my boxer Petey I was happy to be alive, which means he beat my parents affect on me by eight years and eleven months. Then he was gone, and I awoke every day missing the wiggling bundle of wonder that radiated yes. Yes to life. Yes to joy. Yes to breakfast.

For nine years, any day that I was home I swam a mile in the backyard. Which is really hard without a pool. Okay, there's a pool. As soon as Petey saw me reaching for my bathing suit he ran for his ball and waited, vibrating with anticipation. No male before or since has ever been so happy to see me in a bathing suit. As I swam he was everywhere; prancing, barking, having the time of his life. I always thought it was a privilege to be able to be face to face with pure joy. I believe if they had the All Dog Pure Joy Channel on cable, we'd have ratings not seen since Lucy had Little Ricky, and that dates me.

Now I had only Wiley, my black lab/vacuum cleaner mix. I had always been a boxer person, but I married into a black lab. Wiley and Petey loved each other, and Wiley and I mourned together.

I didn't want to step into my backyard. There was Petey's favorite spot on the grass, his cave down the hill where he hid his treasures, the trees he protected from squirrels and lions, the ivy he sprang through like some oversized rabbit. It was all him.

It took me four months to venture out back, tentatively, as if the area were strewn with landmines. Kind of like coming out of a bomb shelter after the strafing. Will I find any of my world still standing? It felt empty. Despite new flowers blooming and new ivy climbing and a eucalyptus tree full of the first singing birds of warmth. I called for him. Was he there, just beyond the palms, the eucalyptus, the bottlebrush? Did I catch a flash of white, a glimpse of a little fawn playfully running behind the loquat tree, with his big smiley jowls and his two front legs in their white socks straight out as he ran with joyful abandon? I thought maybe I did, maybe I did see him. And I hadn't even had any wine yet.

The next day, Wiley and I went outside to swim. Wiley always matched me lap for lap, you couldn't get him out of the pool. Except today. Today, he swam the first few laps with me, then charged out of the pool. I thought maybe he heard the doorbell, or the UPS truck. But no, he was on the lawn, chasing. I didn't see anything. What was he chasing? I looked at him from the water. He was dancing through the air. He was leaping, barking, running, as if a Frisbee were flying over his head, only there was nothing there that I could see. He would stop, stare into mid-air, bark, run over to Petey's favorite spot in the grass, and begin his chase again. Finally I asked him, "Is it Petey, Wiley? Is it Petey?"

He barked and twirled in the air, smiling and playing, chasing Petey exactly as he did when I could see them both. I knew he was there, and every time I asked Wiley, he answered yes with a barrage of happy barks and leaps that filled me with chardonnay.

Wiley inherited all of Petey's toys, two baskets full (you know boxers). This dog had a bigger dowry than the Empress of Japan. In fact, I think he lived an extra year just to keep taking his toys away from Wiley, who just laughed and got another one. Too cold to swim long, I went into the jacuzzi at the end of the yard. Wiley and I began our routine. He chose his toy du jour, and today it was Petey's favorite, his squeaky yellow bat. Wiley dropped it in the bubbles. I threw it across the yard for him. Over and over. That's the great thing about dogs. They never say to you, "We did that yesterday. We ate that last night. Don't you have anything to drink but water?" Another toss, and I accidentally threw it all the way across the top of the house. It skidded across the high point of the roof and down towards the front of the house. Gone for today. I'll need a ladder, out front, to get it.

Daydreaming, not wanting the spell to break, I stayed in the hot water for a long time. My husband came home to find me there. I could see the relief on his face. He sat on the edge and said, "I'm so happy to see you out here. I've been worried about you".

I said,
"Petey was here today".

I could see the concern, the frustration return to his face.
"You don't believe me?"

He thought carefully and decided on the truth,
"No."

With that, the little yellow bat came flying, impossibly, unbelievably, out of nowhere and landed smack on top of my husband's head.

Without missing a beat I said,
"Do you believe me now?"

And without missing a beat either he answered,
"Yes."

Wiley barked. And I have never been alone again.

A HUGE hug and thanks to my pal Elayne Boosler. Elayne is a writer/comedian and founder of Tails of Joy. If you happen to be in the Seattle area, she will be appearing at The Triple Door on May 7th. I can't wait to see her! Lori


Annie Rose, My Animal-Assisted Therapy Muse
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Annie Rose (AR) and I became a Pet Partners team in 2003. She was 25 pounds of smart and sassy and bossy - a sable Pembroke Welsh Corgi diva who demanded attention and adoration.

Early on we visited many nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I remember the lady who spoke no English; she would murmur sweet Russian nothings into Annie Rose's ear, and AR would make appropriate canine responses.

Or the retired veterinarian who brightened when we entered her room. Living deep in the chasm of dementia, she would say, "I don't understand why they call me 'Doctor.' The doctor is the one who comes here to take care of me." She so loved the animals but had no memory that they had been her life's work. For a few brief moments during our visits, they once more became her passion.

And I can vividly recall the heartbreak of arriving at the empty room of another woman who, as her health rapidly declined, had so delighted in AR's visits for well over a year.
 
Soon we discovered the magical world of the Reading Education Assistance Dog program, and we became a registered R.E.A.D. team in early 2005. Then 10 years old, Annie Rose was beginning to slow down, and the R.E.A.D. program suited her perfectly. She could even catch a quick nap while holding her ears erect so as not to appear to miss any part of the stories read to her. We began programs in several libraries, and then started R.E.A.D. in an exceptional school for students with behavioral problems.

The continuity of working with the same students in a combined 4th and 5th grade every week for the entire school year proved to be both tremendously challenging and incredibly rewarding. The students told AR their deepest secrets and darkest fears and confided in her with abandon. When they read to her, their insecurities and inhibitions melted away. They learned to view her as a creature of the earth who deserved their kindness and demanded their respect.

We passed our third evaluation with flying colors, with AR snorting and tossing her head as if to say, "I could do this blindfolded and backwards." But her health was failing, and she was able to make only a few more visits. In June of 2008 she crossed the Rainbow Bridge with a large chunk of my heart in tow.

The joyful work to and through which Annie Rose led me has been carried on by 2 more Corgis: the soulful tri-colored rescue fellow named Buddy, and the blockbuster red and white boy named Riley, who is my present Pet Partner. Each dog has brought his or her own special personality and intuitiveness to the program. But it was Annie Rose who inspired me to become a licensed Pet Partners Team Instructor and R.E.A.D. instructor, and who taught me how to give away a small portion of the joy that dogs have always given me so freely.

Rest well, Annie Rose.

Maggi Payne

Sincere thanks to Maggi for sharing this wonderful story about her beloved dog, Annie Rose. If you would like to become involved with Delta Society's Pet Partners program, you can find out more information here.

Lori


An Open Letter to Delta Society Volunteers
Monday, April 19, 2010

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  Leo Buscaglia

I read this quote and it reminded me of the thousands of unselfish Delta Society volunteers who are making such a positive difference to people across the globe.

After all, it is our volunteers that make our organization so special. Without them we wouldn’t be reaching over a million people a year. We wouldn’t be able to bring pets to visit people in places where animals traditionally aren’t allowed, but where their ‘healing powers’ are needed the most.

For those who benefit from a Pet Partners Team visit, the healing powers of the therapeutic touch of a friendly animal, or the gentle smile of a handler – is just the prescription needed to make their pain diminish, their stress lower, or their loneliness subside – if even for just a few moments.

For others, whether children struggling to learn to read, or seniors with no family to visit, a kind word and a listening ear of a Pet Partners team is just what they need to make them feel special or help build their self-esteem.

We also have volunteers who may think they are helping in a small way but to the staff their help is tremendous – whether doing data entry, filing, writing stories, or stuffing envelopes, we know the time they give and their passion for advancing our mission is truly invaluable. Every one of our office and virtual volunteers brings something so special to the organization, that without them, I can honestly say, I don’t know what we would do.

So, during this Volunteer Appreciation Week – on behalf of all the staff, I send a big THANK YOU to every volunteer! Your dedication and commitment to helping others, and your choice to spend your discretionary time in this way is humbling. I am honored to work with you.

Larry Norvell
President & CEO
Delta Society


Cowboy & Wills: A Story of a Boy and his Dog
Friday, April 16, 2010
April is Autism Awareness Month. So, what better time to read the book Cowboy & Wills by Monica Holloway.

From the synopsis on the jacket cover: "The day Monica learns that her lovable, brilliant three-year-old son, Wills, has autism spectrum disorder, she takes him to buy an aquarium. It's the first in a string of impulsive trips to the pet store to buy animals as a distraction from the uncontrollable, crushing reality of Wills' diagnosis. But while Wills diligently tends to the growing menagerie, what he really wants is a puppy. And one Christmas, when Wills is six, Cowboy Carol Lawrence joins their family.

…Sometimes it's what you don't know to hope for that saves you. For Monica, her husband, Michael, and their son Wills, salvation came in the form of a puppy with pale blond fur, chocolate brown eyes, a fondness for chewing the crotch out of underpants, and a limitless capacity for love."

I found this book to be a compelling read. Monica shares her family's journey in such an artful, relatable and funny way – which is no easy feat when covering such a 'heavy' topic. Through her storytelling, she provides insight into how children with autism relate to the world, of the special challenges parents and others around them encounter, and how integrating pets into the family dynamic can have a profound positive effect.

I grew to know Monica and her family with each turn of the page. My heart sank as they received concerning reports from healthcare and educational professionals. My heart warmed with each success Wills achieved in his young life. I related as she and her family found comfort with their growing animal family, and found myself mesmerized by her recap of how Wills relates to the world.

The special relationship between Wills and his rambunctious Golden Retriever, Cowboy, is a true testament to the power of the human-animal bond. Not only did Cowboy bring great joy to Wills, but she became the catalyst to help Wills connect with others – adults and kids alike. With Cowboy at his side, Wills gained the confidence to try so many new things that he likely would have not done on his own.

This story though is not just about how Cowboy helped Wills. It is also about how Monica and her family were there to help Cowboy when she needed them most. (Yes, Cowboy is a girl.) Cowboy & Wills is a tale of love, respect and devotion. This is an inspiring memoir that I think all animal lovers will find endearing.

JoAnn

P.S. Monica has teamed up with Autism Speaks to launch Who's Your Cowboy?, a Facebook application where users can upload the story of their own 'Cowboy.' The winning stories will win a signed copy of Cowboy & Wills and a "Who's Your Cowboy" t-shirt (with art from the book). Check out the site and share your story of your 'Cowboy'.

Want to learn more about how animals can help children? Visit our Human Animal Bond Research Center.

Where 'heal' means more than 'stay'
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I received this story from a friend recently. Haven't been able to locate the author or the people involved but LOVED the story. As a cancer survivor, I can SO relate to this great example of where 'heal' means more than 'stay'! A perfect example of pets helping people. Hope you enjoy, too!

Lori

Anyone who has pets will really like this. You'll like it even if you don't and you may even decide you need one!

Mary and her husband Jim had a dog named 'Lucky.' Lucky was a real character. Whenever Mary and Jim had company come for a weekend visit they would warn their friends to not leave their luggage open because Lucky would help himself to whatever struck his fancy. Inevitably, someone would forget and something would come up missing.

Mary or Jim would go to Lucky's toy box in the basement and there the treasure would be, amid all of Lucky's other favorite toys. Lucky always stashed his finds in his toy box and he was very particular that his toys stay in the box.

It happened that Mary found out she had breast cancer. Something told her she was going to die of this disease.......in fact; she was just sure it was fatal.

She scheduled the double mastectomy, fear riding her shoulders. The night before she was to go to the hospital she cuddled with Lucky. A thought struck her....what would happen to Lucky? Although the three-year-old dog liked Jim, he was Mary's dog through and through. If I die, Lucky will be abandoned, Mary thought. He won't understand that I didn't want to leave him! The thought made her sadder than thinking of her own death.

The double mastectomy was harder on Mary than her doctors had anticipated and Mary was hospitalized for over two weeks. Jim took Lucky for his evening walk faithfully, but the little dog just drooped, whining and miserable.

Finally the day came for Mary to leave the hospital. When she arrived home, Mary was so exhausted she couldn't even make it up the steps to her bedroom. Jim made his wife comfortable on the couch and left her to nap.

Lucky stood watching Mary but he didn't come to her when she called. It made Mary sad but sleep soon overcame her and she dozed.

When Mary woke for a second she couldn't understand what was wrong. She couldn't move her head and her body felt heavy and hot. But panic soon gave way to laughter when Mary realized the problem. She was covered, literally blanketed, with every treasure Lucky owned! While she had slept, the sorrowing dog had made trip after trip to the basement bringing his beloved mistress all his favorite things in life.

He had covered her with his love.

Mary forgot about dying. Instead she and Lucky began living again, walking further and further together every day. It's been 12 years now and Mary is still cancer-free. Lucky, he still steals treasures and stashes them in his toy box but Mary remains his greatest treasure.

Learn more about how animals can help people overcome their physical and emotional health challenges. Visit our education and research pages.


Dog as Interpreter
Monday, April 12, 2010

A short story about a Spanish speaking cancer patient, an English speaking woman and a dog, who helps to break the communication barrier creating a meaningful connection~

Many precious moments leave us feeling grateful to have the opportunity to share the gift of our pets. Recently Tate (Border Terrier) and I visited the cancer unit at Saints Medical Center. It was a snowy day. At first glance out the window, I thought about rescheduling which would have been fine with the Director at Saints. I wondered how many people would show up. To our surprise, many!

We ended up parking on the 6th floor of the parking garage. Deciding to take the stairs to release some energy and a little stress, Tate and I made our way to check-in at the main lobby. Without fail, we meet and greet at least a dozen people before signing in. The smell of Dunkin Donuts (located in the lobby-- not kidding) is an aphrodisiac. A dog is a double-aphrodisiac.

After meeting up with our volunteer guide, we headed to the cancer building. It was busy because people wanted to get their treatments before the holiday. We made our way down the aisle to anyone interested in seeing or touching Tate. Upon reaching the last curtained cubicle, we met Anna. Anna was busy playing with a camera borrowed from a staff member. She was looking at pictures of dogs-- perfect timing. When Anna spotted Tate, little needed to be said. The smile expressed more than enough to welcome us. Carefully placing Tate on Anna's lap I noticed she was holding a camera.

Anna spoke a lot of Spanish. I speak a lot of English and some dog. Tate was our interpreter. Delightfully, we learned some new Spanish words like "Hola--hello" and "me illamo- my name is Moe and this is Tate". Anna asked us in "sign-language" to take pictures of Tate and her, not me, but that's okay. I'm use to being addressed as Tate's chauffeur, secretary, groomer, massage therapist and owner. When it was time to say "adios" to our new "amigo", we hope we see Anna again. We never know.

This is just one of many opportunities that dogs help us to break barriers of communication, put a smile on someone's face, bring a bit of joy and make a precious connection to be store in a lifetime of memories.

As we left that day, we decided to climb back up to the 6-flights of stairs to the parking garage, much to Tate's chagrin. We've both been informed we need to lose a few pounds. It was snowing. Tate and I pleasantly collapsed in the car and sat, watching the snow, grateful to be living in the present moment.

Maureen Ross
Guest Blogger and Delta Society Pet Partner with Tate


How Owning a Dog or Cat Can Reduce Stress: The Health Benefits of Pet Ownership
Friday, April 09, 2010
April is stress awareness month. While on the internet recently I spotted this article on About.com by Elizabeth Scott, M.S. and thought you too might enjoy reading it, as it provides a nice overview of ways pets can help us manage our stress.                 JoAnn

When thinking of ways to reduce stress in life, usually techniques like meditation, yoga and journaling come to mind. These are great techniques, to be sure. But getting a new best friend can also have many stress relieving and health benefits. While human friends provide great social support and come with some fabulous benefits, this article focuses on the benefits of furry friends: cats and dogs! Research shows that, unless you're someone who really dislikes animals or is absolutely too busy to care for one properly, pets can provide excellent social support, stress relief and other health benefits--perhaps more than people! Here are more health benefits of pets:

Pets Can Improve Your Mood:
For those who love animals, it's virtually impossible to stay in a bad mood when a pair of loving puppy eyes meets yours, or when a super-soft cat rubs up against your hand. Research supports the mood-enhancing benefits of pets. A study found that men with AIDS were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet. (According to a press release, men with AIDS who did not own a pet were about three times more likely to report symptoms of depression than men who did not have AIDS. But men with AIDS who had pets were only about 50 percent more likely to report symptoms of depression, as compared to men in the study who did not have AIDS.)

Pets Control Blood Pressure Better Than Drugs:
Yes, it's true. While ACE inhibiting drugs can generally reduce blood pressure, they aren't as effective on controlling spikes in blood pressure due to stress and tension. However, in a group of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn't get pets. When they heard of the results, most of those in the non-pet group went out and got pets!

Pets Encourage You To Get Out And Exercise:

Whether we walk our dogs because they need it, or are more likely to enjoy a walk when we have companionship, dog owners do than non-pet owners, at least if we live in an urban setting. Because exercise is good for stress management and overall health, owning a dog can be credited with increasing these benefits.

Pets Can Help With Social Support:
When we're out walking, having a dog with us can make us more approachable and give people a reason to stop and talk, thereby increasing the number of people we meet, giving us an opportunity to increase our network of friends and acquaintances, which also has great stress management benefits.

Pets Stave Off Loneliness and Provide Unconditional Love:
Pets can be there for you in ways that people can't. They can offer love and companionship, and can also enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets and are excellent snugglers. And they could be the best antidote to loneliness. In fact, research shows that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by dogs than when they spent time with other people! All these benefits can reduce the amount of stress people experience in response to feelings of social isolation and lack of social support from people.

Pets Can Reduce Stress--Sometimes More Than People:

While we all know the power of talking about your problems with a good friend who's also a good listener, recent research shows that spending time with a pet may be even better! Research shows that, when conducting a task that's stressful, people actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present! (This may be partially due to the fact that pets don't judge us; they just love us.)

It's important to realize that owning a pet isn't for everyone. Pets do come with additional work and responsibility, which can bring its own stress. However, for most people, the benefits of having a pet outweigh the drawbacks. Having a furry best friend can reduce stress in your life and bring you support when times get tough.

Sources:
Evenson RJ, Simon RW. Clarifying the Relationship Between Parenthood and Depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. December 2005.

Siegel JM, Angulo FJ, Detels R, Wesch J, Mullen A. AIDS diagnosis and depression in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: the ameliorating impact of pet ownership. AIDS Care. April 1999.

Budgies, Bunnies, Dogs, Frogs, Hamsters, Mice, Snakes and a couple of Toads & Turtles, too!
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
I recently spent nine glorious days on Cape Cod. The weather, for March, was unusually sunny and warm for most of our visit. We were able to catch up with good friends and neighbors we hadn’t seen since last fall. Our little rescued Chihuahua, Phoebe, came along and as always, charmed everyone who met her.

We were there because we had promised our contractor that we’d remove all the artwork and photos from the walls (and put away the myriad of ‘tsotchkes’ my parents had collected over the years!) to get the house ready for him to paint.

While putting away all the items, it was a lovely walk down memory lane for me ~ I reminisced about all the places we’d lived when I was a kid because my Dad was a career Marine. My husband noticed that every place I mentioned, I first talked about the pets we’d had at the time….I could clearly remember every single pet and where we were living when we acquired the pets. My parents instilled a love of animals in me from a very early age and there were always ‘critters’ sharing my bedroom no matter where we lived.

I distinctly remember having three little turtles when we lived in California who rode across country in our station wagon when we moved to Virginia! I can remember changing their water at night and checking on them in the assorted motel rooms to make sure they were okay. Looking back now I realize that my parents could have left them with friends but they didn’t. It was a valuable lesson that pets are part of the family to be cherished and loved.

Mom and Dad knew how important pets were in my life and they wanted me to have the stability and yes, friendship of my animal friends as we had yet another disruption in our lives.

Over the years I had a wide variety of pets from birds and bunnies to snakes, toads, mice, hamsters, tiny turtles, a horse, a ‘pet’ water buffalo in Taiwan and three wonderful dogs.

And yes, many of them traveled with us to and from each new duty station where my Dad was assigned (unfortunately not the water buffalo that I’d named Clyde). I fondly remember various birds singing in cages, turtles swimming in their shallow bowl so the water didn’t tip out as we drove down the highway, a toad in a shoe box, mice racing in their carousel in the back of the car….a traveling menagerie!

Pepi, my last Poodle, rode across country three times with us in his 14 years of life. He licked away my tears when we moved from California – I didn’t think I’d survive leaving southern California – it was such a wonderful place to spend 8th grade! Pepi was there to comfort me two years later when we moved from Virginia to Massachusetts – again, I was sure there was no way Massachusetts could ever be as magical and fun as McLean, VA had been for two years. Yet Pepi helped me ‘survive’ each move and transition into the new living situation and yep, he helped me make friends everywhere we lived.

All these decades later, his love and gentle spirit still speaks to my heart and makes me smile. I truly believe our pets are the best prescription for health and well-being!

So, back to the present - we finished putting away all the special items ~ the walls are empty and the tables and shelves are swept clean of all the ‘stuff’…..the house is being painted as I type this and new blinds will be installed before little Phoebe and I fly back in a couple of weeks. I’m actually looking forward to returning and displaying all the whimsical collectibles my parents found on our many trips around the world. And, I know I’ll savor some more fond memories of the many pets that shared our adventures and gave us such joy over the years!

In the meantime, Phoebe is sitting on my lap as I type this and wagging her little tail – she is such a comfort to me…no matter how lousy my day has been one lick from her and everything seems so much better!

My pets have definitely helped and improved my life…..what about you? If you have a story you’d like to share about your pets and how they enhance your life, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us by emailing your story (about 500 words or less) to storyidea@deltasociety.org.

Lori

Free Eye Exams for Service and other Qualified Working Dogs
Monday, April 05, 2010

She has been blind for 13 years. So, when Lisa Davidson, of Warminster, PA found out about the ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam event, she was elated. She completely relies on her guide dog, Eagle for assistance. “I think it’s great these animals are being represented because they have a very special job to do,” says Ms. Davidson. “Eagle has opened many doors for me, to allow me to become independent. It’s so important that his eyes are working.”

And, that’s exactly the reason for the event. Guide dogs, handicapped assistance dogs, detection dogs, therapy dogs (Delta Society Pet Partners), and search and rescue dogs selflessly serve the public. So, for the month of May 2010, the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) is launching the 3rd annual ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event to help serve these dogs who dedicate their lives to serving us.

More than 170 board certified veterinary ophthalmologists in the U.S.and Canada will provide free sight-saving eye exams to thousands of service dogs. Stacee Daniel, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) says, “If we can assist more dogs, then the dogs can better assist people. This event is a success each year due to the outstanding support of our volunteer ophthalmologists, our sponsors and the service dog community. All are instrumental in helping these dogs.”

At Katonah Bedford Veterinary Center, in Bedford Hills, NY, Pele, a young Labrador retriever was examined by board certified veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Cory Mosunic during 2009’s event. “We’re looking for any retinal disease or early cataracts,” says Dr. Mosunic. We’re also looking for things that will limit their vision down the road, whether it’s an ingrown hair or anything that can result in a scratch of the cornea. It’s a complete ocular exam.”

HOW TO REGISTER FOR THE 2010 EVENT:
To qualify, dogs must be active “working dogs” that were certified by a formal training program or organization or currently enrolled in a formal training program. The certifying organization could be national, regional or local in nature. To learn more, please visit the event's websitePlease note registration ends May 16th.

Picture courtesy of ACVO. Cory Mosunic, a veterinary ophthalmologist in Westchester County, N.Y., examines Pele during last year's event.


Hippity Hoppity
Friday, April 02, 2010

At this time of year, a lot of people may only think of bunnies as big furry white beings who bring yummy treats and much joy to those at Easter. But, did you know there are bunnies that also bring comfort and smiles to people all year round as therapy animals?

The nurses at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto, CA needed their young client to stop struggling so they could perform a medical procedure. The hospital is a scary place for children, even for long-term patients in Oncology clinics such as this one. Fortunately they had a powerful tool on their ward that day and it came in the form of Joe the Bunny, who was accompanied by his handler, Heather Mietz Egli.

The young patient had developed a bond with Joe and the promise of being able to visit with him was enough to have the child sit still for the procedure. "It's happened several times that when the nurses know the bunnies are coming for a visit," notes Heather, "they'll wait to do some of the more difficult procedures until we arrive."

That doesn't surprise Joan Vaughters who also has a therapy rabbit named Bugs Bunny. "Rabbits bring a gentle, soft spirit when they visit patients," says Joan. "They provide a listening ear when clients just want someone to talk to, stroke, love, and cuddle. They bring a soft presence of acceptance and love."

Joan's favorite story is of a client with Alzheimer's who hadn't talked for years but uttered the word "bunny" when they visited her.

Sometimes therapy rabbits visit in groups. The Trabuco Trailblazers, a 4-H Club in Orange County CA, visits an assisted living home on the second Monday of every month. This team consists of 5 girls each with their own registered therapy animal that they carry in baskets. Included in the group are SeaJay Bates  and her Chicken, Nutmeg; Erin Herndon and her Guinea Pig, Button; Kaitlyn Doddridge and her Rabbit, BJ; Rachel White and her Rabbit, Roxy; and Morgan Ulrich and her Guinea Pig, BooBoo.

When they visit the seniors, they create quite the buzz of conversation and story telling. One of their most memorable visits was during the birthday of one of ther residents who turned 99 that day and who was a long time animal lover. The visit left an impression with the resident, who enjoyed both the company of the young girls and the uniqueness of the animals, and it left an impression with the girls who, as Rachel explained, "...see what difference you can make in someone's day by even a small five-minute visit with your animal."

Thank you to all our Delta Society Pet Partners teams whose dedication and commitment to brighten other people's day is inspirational to say the least! And, to all who celebrate the day, I wish you a Happy Easter.

JoAnn


 

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