What’s in a name?
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Two adorable dogs and a rescued blind cat live with friends of ours who recently had a fundraising party for a local nonprofit we support. We were all sitting around talking quietly in small groups while their dogs were roaming around the rooms visiting with all of the guests ~ lots of tail wagging, licking hands and generally being friendly and charming to all.

I observed people smiling and leaning down to pet the dogs and talk to them. Their precious cat was being cuddled and was clearly loving all the attention ~ this cat does not know she is blind. She has learned where all the furniture is, knows how to get from room to room and was ‘purrfectly’ comfortable in her surroundings.

The dogs are named Julius and Larry. When someone asked why the pooches had human names – the owner said he was a huge basketball fan and those were his two favorite players from years ago. Yep, you guessed it – Julius Erving and Larry Bird (I’m a Boston gal ~ go Celtics!)

That story prompted a discussion about basketball (did I mention Celtics rule?!) and then I asked what others in the room had named their pets. It was fascinating to listen to this diverse gathering of people share stories about their beloved pets. Suddenly the ‘pawty’ was more animated, engaging and people visibly became more relaxed.

It was delightful to learn how and why people gave their pets particular names. For example, Paul is an avid astronomy aficionado who’s rabbit is named Copernicus and his cat is named Sagan (yep, as in Carl); Steve is a musician whose dogs are named Led, Aero and Floyd (did you guess correctly? ~ Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd); and the genetic biologist from a local cancer research facility who has rescued cats she named Barton and Klinger (for Barton Childs, a biochemical geneticist and Harold Klinger, a US pioneer on human chromosomes!) Not only were their pets’ names fascinating but I received an education in astronomy, music and genetics all in one evening!

People who had been rather stiff and unapproachable, suddenly were laughing and sharing ‘tails’ about their pets ~ how they are amused by their dogs’ antics, how their cats can open cabinets and jump onto their shoulders or how a rescued bunny has a ramp up onto their bed and cuddles between them as they watch movies.

One woman rescues birds and has several species of parrots (pssiticines!) who share her home. She has named them from their specific genera which totally blew my mind... thus I received a crash course in avian biology, specifically about psittaciformes! She was fascinating to talk to and I’ve been invited over to meet Rosy (her rosy-faced lovebird), Ralia (a rainbow lorikeet from austRALIA), and Scarlet (a scarlet chested parrot).

It was obvious just how much pets have enhanced all these people’s lives. There wasn’t a person in the room who didn’t have a wonderful memory of a pet from their childhood OR have a current pet (many have several!) who has added to the quality of their life.

Do you have a story you’d like to share about your pet(s) and how they enrich your life? We’d love to hear from you. Please send email us at StoryIdea@DeltaSociety.org.

Promoting Human-Animal Interaction
~ Lori

Making a difference in the lives of patients
Monday, June 28, 2010
When her son was injured in Iraq, Ann Boyle saw the devastating effects a prolonged illness and recovery can have. She also saw an innate sense of caring and nurturing in her adopted dog, Sadie. After putting two and two together, Boyle decided to have Sadie trained as a therapy dog and initially wanted to bring her to Bethesda Naval Hospital to visit injured soldiers.

Sadie is the most caring and giving dog I've ever seen," says Boyle. "She was just so good with people and children. It was like she knew what they were feeling and thinking. With her sensitive personality, it just seemed like therapy animal work was her calling."

"I wanted to be able to give some happiness and comfort to our injured soldiers after what my son went through," she says. "But after considering the long distance I'd have to drive to get to Bethesda, I decided to stay close to home. Civilians in the hospital are in pain and need comfort just as much as soldiers do, so I decided to volunteer (as a Delta Society Pet Partners team) at Potomac Hospital."

The satisfaction of helping people feel better has been a source of happiness for Boyle and Sadie.

"We've met so many people and the response has been so positive," says Boyle. "I've seen despondent cancer patients perk up in bed when Sadie nudges their hand; I've seen sick children smile with glee; and I've seen patients' families pet Sadie and enjoy a brief respite away from the stress of visiting an ill loved one."

According to Boyle, Triton, Murphy and Titus (other therapy dogs visiting at Potomac Hospital) are just as popular with the patients.

"Some long-term patients form a bond with a certain dog," says Boyle. "They'll leave messages with their nurses that they want to see Triton or Murphy or Titus. It's amazing to see how strong the human-dog bond is and how a true friendship is created. These wonderful dogs make the stress and depression disappear – at least for a little while."

Charlene Wilkins
Guest blogger, regional editor for vigor magazine/Potomac Hospital

Going to the Dentist can be a "Pawsitive" Experience!
Friday, June 25, 2010

Every 6 months, I get that little reminder card in the mail - “Time for your dental checkup!” Not many people enjoy going to the dentist. Some actually fear it. But me, I actually don’t mind it… if it’s just a cleaning! The office staff is super friendly and the dentist is very good at what he does, but it’s the dentist’s special assistant that makes the experience worthwhile.

I met Dr. William Gilbert and his Pet Partner, Chase, about six years ago. I was new to the area and needed a dentist. My mom told me about Dr. Gilbert and said he had a dog in his office. I was sold! The minute I sat in the chair, Chase, a beautiful Golden Retriever, came over to greet me. As I lay in the chair, he sat with me, resting his head on my lap as the technician cleaned and flossed my teeth. While I usually don’t have an anxiety about the dentist, there was something very comforting about being able to stroke this dog’s head during the appointment.

As the years passed, Chase didn’t come to the office as often. And there was a new face in the office, a puppy named Chaz, who was in-training to do what his big brother did. Chaz has since grown into a beautiful, calm and reliable 7-year old Golden Retriever who knows what his purpose in the office is. He helps children be calm and happy. He helps alleviate a patient’s anxiety while in the chair. During the procedure, he’ll sit next to you, resting his head on your lap while you stroke his head, seeming to sense when it’s ok for him to leave. I personally get anxiety when getting injections of Novocain, but having Chaz there helps me take my mind off the fact that there’s a man poking a needle into my gums! Scratching his head makes me think of my dogs and that makes me happy. He’s by far one of the most lovable dogs I’ve met… just like a big ol’ teddy bear!

During my latest appointment, Dr. Gilbert shared his story of how he got involved with Delta Society.

"I had a Pet Partner and a former manager of Delta Society's National Service Dog Center as patients. They saw Chase in the office one day and suggested he could be an asset to the practice if I were to become a Pet Partners Team. This would allow Chase to be out among patients to greet and sit with patients as needed to help with anxiety. So, I took their advice and we became a registered Pet Partners team.

As Chase started getting up in years, we decided to get another dog to fill his role. Chaz began coming in to the office shortly after completion of obedience training.  A pinnacle for Chaz was when Chase could no longer come into the office.  It was at this time Chaz stepped up to the plate to fill his big brother’s shoes. He assumed his new solitaire Pet Partner role with pride.  From that day forward, he’s had freedom in our office to interact with patients as wanted or needed.

Chaz actually enjoys coming to work every day and I enjoy seeing what Chaz does for my patients. Many people have negative feelings about the dentist office… the smells, the sterile environment, sharp, pointy instruments. Chaz has helped some of my patients overcome their fears and anxieties about dentists. He has a special way of calming people.

Chaz is getting older and Dr. Gilbert will be acquiring a new puppy to start the training process all over again. I look forward to meeting the newest staff member at Dr. Gilbert’s office. And I will continue to get my twice-a-year check-up because of his special assistants.

To learn more about Dr. Gilbert, his wonderful staff and super assistant, Chaz, please visit his website: dr-gilbert.com. Thanks for making the experience so doggone pleasant!


Want to become a Pet Partners Team? Please visit our website to learn how!

NOTE: Healthcare or educational professionals incorporating their Pet Partner teammates into their work may represent themselves as a Pet Partners team (i.e. they can state that they have completed Delta’s screening and requirements to be a registered Pet Partners team with our organization), however, professionals just need to make it clear that they are not volunteers and have their own professional liability insurance covering this type of activity.

Thank you Delta Society, for changing my life!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
My previous Husky, Nikki became very sick. Nikki developed Cushing disease, a degenerative disk disease and was becoming very weak. We were at the vet 3 times a week for numerous treatments. If it was blood work to check his cortisol level, acupuncture or physical therapy for his back and neck, Nikki always had a smile on his face. Then one day, it happened; we awoke and Nikki wasn't the same "Nikki."

We went to our veterinarian and Nikki was humanely put out of his discomfort. He was 16 when he passed. I thought I would never be the same. The house was so lonely...my life was incomplete! My whole life had been dedicated to taking care of Nikki; I wasn't sure what my purpose now in life was.

Then Beau came along 2 weeks later! Beau was a rescue from MaPaw Siberian Husky Rescue. I took Beau to my vet (this is the same vet who treated Nikki). My vet was amazed by Beau's temperament and thought I should do research on therapy animal work. At the time, I didn't know anything about therapy animals.

We met the amazing Michele Siegel, Delta Society licensed Pet Partners Team Instructor and Evaluator located here in NYC. We took the training class, were evaluated, and became a Pet Partners team. The rest is history! I often tell Michele that she and Delta Society have changed my life. It's so hard to explain how I feel. I feel so fulfilled with the work Beau and I do; words can't express it!

Beau and I make weekly Sunday visits at Rivington House, which is a 24 hour care facility for AIDS patients. We also do special work such as working with treatment programs for patients with substance abuse issues, events with Best Friends Animal Society, New Alternatives for Children Kids Olympics and reading programs for children who have difficulty reading aloud and work with the mentally ill homeless women.

It's truly amazing the bond a human and an animal can have. Beau taught me what it is to have emotions. What it is to be human. Each week when we approach a facility, Beau amazes me by his power. He is truly sincere, compassionate; he gives me the courage. He knows how each patient feels. He knows when one needs an extra "pick me up." He knows just the right time to cuddle when someone is down. Beau is truly a special dog. He has given a stroke patient the power to speak. The patient is now able to say Beau's name. There's something special to say about our furry friends ~ they really do have the power to heal.

Through our visits, Beau has taught me what is truly important in life. What really matters. My whole life is now put in a different perspective. Life and helping others is what matter. Making just one person's day happier is what matters. Beau has taught me who I am. I now want to pursue a career helping others and making a difference. I truly believe if it wasn't for Beau and our volunteering; finding me and learning about life wouldn't have happened.

When we leave a facility, the patients always thank Beau and me for visiting. I always reply, "No, thank you for allowing us to visit you." Our visits are not just therapeutic for the patients, but therapeutic for Beau and me. Beau loves to work and making a difference and sharing a smile definitely is his calling! Things have a way of working out. Nikki taught me the importance of the love an animal can bring and Beau has reinforced that love. If it wasn't for Nikki's being, I don't think I would have Beau. If it wasn't for Beau my life wouldn't have been changed and I wouldn't have understood the person I really was and what I was brought on this earth for. Thank you Delta Society for changing my life!

Hugs to Caroline Loevner for sharing her story about precious Nikki and handsome Beau with us. And thank you for the "pawsitive" difference you and Beau are making in so many people's lives each week!

If Caroline's story motivated you to learn more about Pet Partners, you can find more information here.

~ Lori

Good Things Do Come In Small Packages
Monday, June 21, 2010
On Wednesday, it will be three years. The day I met my sweet little 11 lb Maltese/Bichon, Belle.

I will always remember that day. I attended graduate school classes all day then went out to an early dinner with a couple of classmates. Plans were being made for a late night, but I told them I wasn’t able to go. I needed to get home, as my new foster dog was going to be dropped off at my house soon.

I confessed that I thought this little girl was going to be different from my other fosters. My gut, which I have learned to trust, was telling me she was going to be staying with me for a long time – she was going to become part of my family. They asked why, and I couldn’t really give a good answer. I just had a different feeling than all the other times when I was about to bring a foster into my home.

I hadn’t met her yet, I had only seen a picture. I had been told that she was rescued from a ‘breeder’/puppy mill three weeks prior. She was scared of the world, and the rescue organization wanted to place her in a quiet home with no children and no other animals – that would be her best chance to potentially learn to enjoy life. She was in a foster home, with one of the kindest people I know, but that house had a couple of other small dogs in it and it was too much for Belle.

So, one Saturday night in June, I went home after a long day and waited in anticipation. Soon, the doorbell rang, and in walked Brooke carrying the cutest little ball of white fur. She put Belle on the floor and we sat down next to her. Belle would not look at either one of us. She just stood and shook. There was no joy. There was no curiosity to explore. There was only fear radiating from her little body.

Brooke stayed for awhile and we talked. She told me how when she first brought her to her house, Belle stood motionless for 3 hours. She confirmed that they had her checked by a veterinarian and physically she was okay. She told me they took her to a behaviorist to have her evaluated and he thought she had the potential to recover enough to be comfortable in life – but, no probably never to the stage of playing.

Fast forward three years, and today, Belle and I share a wonderful life and bond. Belle is my almost constant companion. I bring her with me whenever I can. She rides in the car, harnessed to the seat belt for safety, and makes passengers in other cars smile as they look over at her.

Belle is loving life – she plays, takes agility classes, vacations with me, is my office companion, and helps me introduce Delta Society to others as we work informational booths at events in the Greater Puget Sound area.

She’s made my quiet house a warm home. She’s helped me relish good times and ‘introduced’ me to many new friends. She’s turned my walking for exercise into fun outings.

The last three years, while I’ve been working to better socialize her and develop her confidence, I’ve stopped going to just my usual places and started exploring more places that the great Northwest has to offer – places I probably wouldn’t have gone to if it weren’t for her.

Her shaking has pretty much stopped – it only surfaces now on the rare occasion. For all who had the opportunity to meet her three years ago and who now see her today, she is the testament to resiliency for us humans. She is an inspiration about being able to overcome your fears – and how lives can truly transform by making what may seem like the most miniscule efforts one day at a time.

Happy Anniversary Belle! Thank you for all the warmth and love you give – not only to me, but to so many others – and for trusting in me as I showed you the world is really a good place.

As your life has changed so has mine – you’ve made it a much happier one.

JoAnn, aka ‘Belle’s mama’
Why dog parks are good for the soul
Friday, June 18, 2010

My grandpa passed away last weekend, on my sixth wedding anniversary. It was a bittersweet day to say the least. My dogs, Moki and Marta, seemed to be aware that something was wrong. Instead of spending the morning warming themselves on the deck, they were inside with me and I thanked them for that. I really didn’t want to be in a sad mood the entire day, so my husband said “why don’t we go to the park?”

Seconds after he asked, Moki was bouncing off the ceiling, as if he was saying “OH BOY! OH BOY! OH BOY! WE’RE GOING TO THE PARK!!” And even Marta, who doesn’t seem to enjoy the park much, got a little jumpy and happy when she saw me putting Moki’s collar on. I feel joy knowing that by taking them to the happiest place on earth (for dogs), it makes them both so happy.

My mood was somber as we drove. Marta was sitting quietly, while Moki bounced from one window to the other. He’s entertaining and annoying. I honestly believe he can smell when we’re close because his hyper level goes up by ten.

If you’ve never been to an off leash dog park, it’s something I highly recommend you try, even if you don’t have a dog. There are dogs everywhere! Running, chasing, fetching, playing, walking, swimming. You can’t help but smile or laugh at the antics of dogs rolling around in the dirt, wrestling with each other. These are dogs who have never met before, yet they’re playing like they’re lifelong buddies. You see the old dogs out for a casual stroll with their owners. They don’t interact much with other dogs, but you can tell they’re enjoying being out amongst their own kind. You feel some sympathy for those who don’t walk as fast as they used to, but quickly remind yourself that they’re still moving around and that’s a good thing. There are puppies galore who are anxious to greet you with a wet kiss and oversized paws. These little guys are what make your voice go up an octave when bending down to say hello.

It’s here that you’re more likely to say hello to the dog before you say hello to their owner as you pass each other on the trail. And there’s a sense of camaraderie with the people. Everyone has something in common… you’re there because of your dogs. To give them exercise, playtime, training lessons, socialization skills, whatever they need. Your focus is on them right now… not on paying bills or work or your grandfather’s passing. They need you to be there for them, just like they are for you every other day.

The hour I spent there, I lived vicariously through them and I felt recharged. Moki swam and ran everywhere, living up to his nickname, “Hurricane Moki.” Marta walked around with a little more confidence and even got her toes wet in the river. Taking them to the park was my way of saying “thank you for taking care of me this morning.”

Animals are constant reminders that we need to live in the present. We shouldn’t worry about things that have yet to happen or dwell on things that have already happened. We need to enjoy the moment we’re in because we will never get another chance to do it. And if we let them, our dogs can teach us a few new tricks.


Hot Vegan 101: "Pet Therapy"
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Eddie Bilowich is a chef, model, actor and nightlife impresario. He also writes a fascinating blog called “Hot Vegan”. His June 1st blog post caught my eye because he talked about pets and how they can help enhance your life and wellbeing.

Here’s what Eddie wrote that truly resonated with me:

“So I decided to write about something a little outside of the cooking "box"...something that people don't always think contributes to health, but not only can help you live a longer life, but can help with depression, stress, even heart disease. No it’s not a vitamin...just man's and woman's best friend...a pet!!!

It is quite simple actually. Pets provide a constant source of comfort and help focus your attention...people who think less about their daily troubles or health issues, actually can not only avoid sickness, but can significantly improve their current conditions. Studies show that people with pets have more interesting daily activities, which is a huge predictor of living a long life. Simply petting your dog, cat or your pet of choice has a profound relaxation effect...people who have the ability to relax are simply healthier. Even fish which don't allow for physical contact can be soothing...just sit and watch some fish swim around and you have an instant blood pressure reduction...pretty cool!!!

Animals also have a profound effect on mood...have you ever had a lousy day, come home, spent a few minutes with your furry friend and all of a sudden you can barely remember what was bothering you??? Unconditional love is a powerful mood enhancer. Doctor's actually prescribe pets for older people who live alone to help fight depression. Animals just make people happier...when I walk my dog, Oliver, everyone smiles at him. Yes, he is beyond adorable!!!! Watching others react to him even makes me feel happier.

Of course, as with anything, pets are only one ingredient in the recipe for longevity, so make sure to eat food that is good for you, to exercise, to get lots of sleep, to drink water...you know the drill!!! There are so many animals that desperately need a loving home, so adopt from your local animal shelter and start down the path to a healthier lifestyle!!!!”

Check out Eddie’s blog. He offers delicious recipes and great suggestions about how to improve your well being ~ including having PETS!

~ Lori

Bernie is My Healer
Monday, June 14, 2010
Just before my wife passed away this past December she said to me, "You've always wanted to be a Delta Society Pet Partner, so when I am gone…get a dog to keep you company and visit other people in need of emotional support."

So my children and I started visiting the ASPCA's animal shelter on 92nd street in NYC and in February we adopted Bernie. The behaviorists at the ASPCA were helpful at suggesting dogs that had "good potential" to become a Pet Partner. ASPCA's Delta instructor and evaluator--the amazing Michele Siegel--spent some time with Bernie and said his temperament was very well suited for the work of being a Pet Partner.

Now Bernie is helping to heal my broken heart after a 35-year "love affair" with Janine Snow, the most incredible and wonderful wife a man could ever wish for. Bernie is my new best friend…a companion who distracts me, keeps me busy and makes sure I get lots of love, fresh air, exercise and even humor. He gives me another reason to get up in the morning and face another day without Janine; he goes to the office with me and even kisses me at the end of the day!

Bernie also provides me with a "sense of purpose" as we train together to become Pet Partners at the ASPCA's Delta Society program under the direction of my friend and fellow Delta Society board member, Greer Griffith. My goal is to do the important work of helping to heal others by sharing the human–animal bond that Bernie and I are forging together.

Isn't it fascinating to think of how Delta Society is "giving back" to me, after years of my donating time and money to Delta? With the Delta Society Pet Partners program I now have an important goal to work toward, which will provide me with a meaningful way to redirect the painful feelings which stem from the emotional trauma of loss and sorrow.

Mal Brett. Schwartz
Chair, Delta Society Board of Directors

Did you know that the fees a Pet Partner pays to Delta Society only cover half of the costs Delta incurs to provide this life-altering service? Help our Pet Partners who share the warmth of their human–animal bond and bring joy to millions of people who are living in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities. Please make a donation to show your support for the over 10,000 Pet Partners throughout the country.

A little rabbit opened my eyes
Friday, June 11, 2010
I have a little rabbit named Bun Bun Super Rabbit who is extremely special. She stays in a cage while I am away from home, and used to have free run of the house while I was home.

One morning I had let Buns out of her cage and gotten into the shower when I heard a horrible noise. Something clicked in my brain and I knew it was Buns screaming. When I got out I saw my sweet bunny at the bottom of the stairs screaming in pain. I got to her quickly and she settled down and within minutes was giving me kisses.

I took Buns to the veterinarian, and unfortunately, once the doctor saw the x-rays, she told me Buns needed to be put to sleep. She emphasized she was in pain and probably would not live very long. She also called a veterinary specialist to see if surgery was an option but they said no. I was distraught.

I took Buns home and begged her to “poop and pee”. I knew if her bodily functions were working properly she would be OK. To my delight, the next morning everything was working as it should! The doctor called and I told her how well Buns was doing. She was shocked. She did not believe my sweet rabbit would make it through the night. She suggested we put her on an anti-inflammatory medication and a pain medication for 2 weeks.

It has now been over a year since her accident and she is the most remarkable animal I have ever known. She is a very happy little rabbit who now wears baby diapers. And she is so inspiring. People are so intrigued and amazed by her. She has not let her disability stop her at all. For her protection, she no longer has free run of the house, when I’m home I bring her out on my lap, but occasionally I will let her scoot around the house –she “runs” so fast, I cannot catch her.

I have given a lot of thought to sharing Buns with the rest of the world. I feel she would be the most inspiring to children who have special needs. But, with her being so fragile now, it wouldn’t be fair to her.

In her own special way, Buns has taught me about what animals can do for us. There is a reason for everything and I believe the reason behind her accident and the bond we have formed in dealing with her special needs together is to encourage me to pursue Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). While she will not be my therapy animal partner, she is the catalyst to getting me started in this direction.

My mother unexpectedly passed away in November. All my pets helped me as I struggle with this grief process, but on the worst days of my life, I knew I had to go on because I had a responsibility to take care of Buns. And in return, she curls up beside me and will often scoot around and face me with her gentle “honking” noise – almost like she wants to make sure I’m alright. My degree is in psychology and it would be the most wonderful tribute to my mother and the love she gave me for animals, to get my certification in AAT and work with those who are grieving a loss.

My story told you of a wonderful little rabbit who really has changed my life. We are all on a course in life and we don’t understand the challenges that we face, the events that are introduced into our lives or the reason we meet specific people until we take the time to turn around and re-evaluate. My mother always told me things happen for a reason. When I take the time to turn around and re-evaluate the past 13 months, I have a better understanding of the reasons things have occurred and where I am being led and why I have faced certain challenges.

And I have a little rabbit to thank for opening my eyes.

Guest Blogger
- Johanna LaRose

A pet can make a HUGE difference in your life!
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
When I first met Shadow in 1992, I had no idea that she would be the inspiration for my life’s work. Shadow had been abandoned, and was brought into the health club where I was working at the time. Something about her touched my heart, as well as those of the club’s members and staff. Shadow quickly became the club’s “mascot”.

Our maintenance man, Richard, had a special bond with Shadow, and ended up adopting her. Seven years later, when Richard was diagnosed with cancer, Shadow was a constant source of comfort to him and his family. As Richard was dying, Shadow was his constant companion, and refused to leave his side. When Richard passed, Shadow was lying next to him.

At the ripe old age of 20, Shadow still lives with Richard’s wife and family. The love and compassion they gave to Shadow by adopting her has been returned back to them tenfold.

In 1995, I founded Whisker City, a shelter solely dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of abused and neglected cats. From its inception, I decided not to judge people who, due to very human problems, have to surrender their cats. As my husband, Mike, puts it: “I have yet to see a cat knock on our door, asking for help.” In doing so, we’ve created a climate where people can surrender their pets without feeling humilated, instead of choosing to abandoning them on the streets to fend for themselves.

Now, fifteen years later, Whisker City keeps me in touch with the way animals heal other people’s lives, as much as we heal theirs. Nothing erases the stresses and strains of a hard day like opening your door, and having a fur covered bundle of unconditional love (or two or three of them!) running to greet you.

As a no kill shelter, we make sure that our cats have a loving atmosphere to be in while waiting for their forever homes. Our dedicated volunteers give them everything they need, from clean cages and warm blankets to toys, cuddles and playtime! I never get tired of hearing our volunteers tell me how the love they give to the cats comes back to them tenfold.
While preparing for Whisker City’s annual fundraiser, the Sacred Cat Ball, I’m more aware than ever of two things: how difficult running a non-profit in this challenging economic climate can be, and how absolutely critical it is that we continue to do so. With government funded shelters closing down or drastically having to cut back resources, the need for Whisker City’s services is greater than ever.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I think of Shadow and Richard, and remember this: One person – or in this case, an abandoned cat – can make a huge difference.

Guest blogger ~
April Brown

Thanks to April for sharing this ‘tail’ about Shadow and Richard. And thanks for all you do to help felines in need of furever homes….your efforts are certainly commendable.

To learn more about Whisker City, please visit their website.

~ Lori

On the Road Again
Monday, June 07, 2010

In 1960 author John Steinbeck began a cross-country trek from Long Island in a custom designed recreational vehicle. Wanting to experience the beauty of the country and to understand the American character, he traveled from the East Coast to the West Coast, proceeded down the coast of California and then traveled through the South before returning to New York. His only companion on the 10,000 mile, 34 state jaunt was his standard poodle, Charley. In 1962, the same year he received the Nobel Prize for Literature, he recounted his adventures in Travels with Charley.

Like twenty-first century Steinbecks, the Melnicks, Miriam and John, sold their house on Long Island when John retired, packed up their belongings and their two Maltese, Sheyne and Shayla and began a similar journey. They now live in a 40 foot recreational vehicle on the road, and home is, in Miriam's words "Where we park."

Before their lifestyle change, the Melnicks and their dogs derived great satisfaction from volunteering as Delta Society Pet Partners teams. So when the Melnicks were bitten by the wanderlust, they saw no reason not to continue and found a way to incorporate it into their travels.

Whenever Miriam and John know that they will be staying in an area for any length of time, they go online and search for a licensed assisted living facility. Miriam will call and ask to speak to the Recreation Director. She explains that she has two small registered therapy dogs and adds "they would like to visit and make the residents happy." She also mentions that she has veterinary records showing that her dogs are up-to-date with their vaccinations and free of parasites. Using this approach, since Jan. 2009 they clocked 66 hours of service, in 23 states.

"When I first started taking Sheyne to Assisted Living residence on Long Island, I would visit the Alzheimer's unit, 'Reflections'. Something wonderful happened there that I will never forget. Even though it has been almost seven years, I can still remember the faces. I was kneeling next to an elderly man and woman. I placed Sheyne on the woman's lap. I helped her pet him. I told her some things about him. She said, 'Nice dog.' I agreed with her. I then noticed that the man sitting next to her had started to weep. I asked him what was wrong. He told me that the woman had not spoken in six months. I thought this man was a resident himself. He was not; he was her husband."

"A similar thing happened in one of the places we visited on the road. There was a very old, frail woman sitting in a wheelchair, looking down and sullen. I placed Shayla on her lap and the woman looked up and smiled at me. The Recreation Director was in tears. He told us that this old woman had been unresponsive for a long time."

Sheyne, now12 years old, born in a "puppy mill" and Shayla, who is 11, adopted from a breeder, are no couch potato fluff balls as their breed would lead a person to think. While Shayla, always immaculately groomed, appears to be a diva with a fondness for Swarovski crystal barrettes and collars, she is also athletic. Both she and Shayne enjoy two to three mile walks a day and are naturals at agility, easily jumping hurdles and scaling the A-frame. No doubt these activities help keep them healthy so that they can continue being effective therapy dogs. Not being able to participate in therapy animal work would be a great loss for Miriam and John Melnick. They love having their dogs make a difference in this world. As Miriam says, "It is truly incredible how two very little beings can touch people's souls."

And so we wish the Melnicks and Sheyne and Shayla, "Happy trails!" Keep those tails wagging and keep making people smile.

Florence Scarinci - guest blogger
Monthly columnist for Bideawee
Delta Society Pet Partner with Penni and Coach

Bideawee is one of the nations oldest no-kill shelters and one of the pioneers in therapy animal work. It is also a place where Delta Society Pet Partners Team training courses and evaluations are held. The Melnicks are wonderful supporters / volunteers of Bideawee in addition to being Delta Society Pet Partners.

Lessons learned from my four-legged sister
Friday, June 04, 2010
At age 7, I got my first pet… a brown and white rabbit named Snooper. I would snuggle him and he would pee on me. He taught me responsibility… feeding, cleaning his cage, etc. He was only with us for a short time. It was a Sunday and my dad broke the news to me that Snooper had died. That was the first time I can remember experiencing true sadness.
We got a puppy shortly after getting Snooper. A cocker spaniel named Muffin. They loved to chase each other around the yard. Their antics would make me giggle with delight. After Snooper died, Muffin spent a few days looking for him in his hutch and his favorite hiding places in the yard. I think she missed her "playmate." She also started paying a little more attention to me, a grieving seven year old, who didn't fully understand why her rabbit died. And that's when she became my new best friend.

Pets weren't looked at as family members 20 years ago. I hated that Muffin had to sleep in the garage, except when it was cold out. These days, that would be unheard of in my family! (Both my dogs sleep on our bed like they own it!) Sometimes I would sneak Muffin inside after my parents went to sleep, just so I could curl up with her on the couch (sorry mom!) I knew that putting her in the garage at night wasn't where she belonged. To me, she was family. I got into many fights with my parents over why she wasn't allowed to sleep in my room. It was a fight I never won.

I was 22 years old when we discovered she had a cancerous growth in her left "armpit." We had it surgically removed, but unfortunately, she had a stroke while under anesthesia, which wasn't that surprising since she was 13. Her left side was paralyzed and she couldn't walk. The doctor gave her cortisone to try and help with the symptoms, but it didn't.

The night before we went back to the vet, I got up in the middle of the night and went downstairs to visit her. I gently picked her up and laid her down with me on the couch. She was panting heavily, which I later learned was a sign of discomfort and pain. I stroked her head and told her how much I loved her. She licked my face as if to return the compliment. I started telling her "remember when" stories, stories of her life with us... Jumping into snow drifts. Talking about her puppies. Running crazy in the backyard. Going "bye bye". I know she heard me because at one point, she wasn't panting as hard. She seemed relaxed. I laid there all night with her, thanking her for being such a wonderful friend.

I was with her in her last moments at the vet. I was the last person she saw before she crossed the "Rainbow Bridge." It was the hardest thing I had ever done, but I wouldn't have done it any differently.

Muffin is one of the main reasons I have such a passion and appreciation for animals. She taught me what unconditional love is. She showed me that animals can be our best friends and our protectors. And most importantly, she taught me that animals are family. And she is why I do what I do for them.

Muffin Meg Buff, I sure do miss you!

If you find yourself grieving over a beloved pet, visit the Pet Loss & Bereavement section on our website to find resources for support.
Giving Thanks for Riley
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
It was Thanksgiving weekend 2000 and I was getting started on my Christmas shopping. The shopping mall had an SPCA office where they would bring some of the pets from the shelter on the weekends in hopes of getting them adopted. As I walked by, a nine-week old puppy bounded up to the storefront window and sat and stared at me as if to say, “What took you so long?” I knew right then that I would be taking him home.

As he grew up, I noticed how people seemed to be drawn to him and I noticed how he loved to interact with everyone. It didn’t matter what gender, age, ethnicity or status they were. He was just happy to see them. Riley was even tolerant with the little children who were a little rough when petting him and little toddlers who grabbed a fistful of fur. I was already doing some volunteer work with the local police and fire departments so when someone suggested that he would make a good therapy dog, I thought it would be a perfect activity for the two of us to share.

After becoming a registered Delta Society Pet Partners team, our first visit was to a senior home. The staff had brought the residents into an activity room for the teams to visit. As we entered the room, Riley immediately went to an empty chair next to a woman who was sitting quietly. He jumped onto the chair, leaned in and licked her cheek. The woman was sight-impaired and was not aware of Riley until she felt his tongue on her cheek. She exclaimed, “Oh, the dogs are here!” and spent the next 15 minutes petting Riley and telling me about the dogs she had growing up and how much she missed them. She said that she was feeling lonely that day and had almost decided to stay in her room instead of participating in the visit. Somehow, Riley knew that she needed his attention more than the others in the room.

Riley’s knack for sensing who needs comfort continued through his career. We would be walking down the hospital halls and he would suddenly stop in front of a room of a patient needing a visit or approach a staff member who was having a rough day. ER and ICU staff members especially look forward to their Riley fix for some stress relief.

Riley’s impact continues long after our visit. I have had people stop me on the street to tell me that they remembered Riley from his visit with them or their relatives and what a difference it made. One memorable experience involved a young woman at a popular outdoor mall. As we walked by, she cried out, “Riley!” and crouched down to give him a big hug. She stood back up, gave me a hug and told me that she remembered Riley from when we visited her in the hospital when she was 15 years old. She is now going to veterinary school and one of the things she took with her to school is the Polaroid picture of Riley and her at the hospital.

My visits with Riley have been personally rewarding in many ways. Besides the fulfillment I get from seeing the transformations I see in the people we visit, I experience calmness from being with Riley. As a manager for Boeing, I eagerly anticipate our visits to escape from my work anxiety. Seeing Riley’s unconditional openness towards everyone has made me become a better person. Even outside our visits, I will now strike up a conversation with just about anyone wherever I may be.

Perhaps there is some significance that my life with Riley started on Thanksgiving weekend. I have been giving thanks for his loving companionship every day.

Dennis Cajili

Thank you Dennis for all that you do and sharing your story with us!


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