animals

Talking Turkey

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Happy (day after) Turkey Day!

There is a reason that Benjamin Franklin stated that he though the Wild Turkey "was a much more respectable bird" than the bald eagle with respect for it being chosen as the symbol of America.

They are quite beautiful in so many ways - some of my favorite photography subjects are the wild turkeys that roam our neighborhood.  Goodness knows we get plenty of opportunity to watch and digitally capture their activities where we live.

When we first moved into our little cabin in the woods four and a half years ago, we quickly discovered that the turkeys were hardly wildlife, but actually fellow residents.  They spent quite a few nights on the roof of our house when we first moved in.  We found them fascinating from the start, and watch for "Our Turkeys" on their route through our yard and around the neighborhood every day, so they are good friends these days, even if they can be maddeningly destructive to the plants we spend a lot of effort growing!

Despite their reputation for not being the brightest of birds, turkeys are actually quite intelligent and have a very complex social structure.  They look out for one other, especially their young, and I once witnessed a group of turkeys mourning over a family member after she'd been struck by a car on Paradise Road near my house.  The whole family stood vigil over her, despite cars on the road. I honked and waited for them to get out of the road, hoping they would stay safely out of traffic and out of the road.  It was heartbreaking to see how hard it was for them to leave their friend.

I giddily look forward to seeing the chicks every spring, and it's really an honor to see the hens that we hang out with all year, raising their little ones, sharing their family moments with us. I imagine looking into the beautiful, doting eyes of a turkey mama watching over her poults is not very different than looking into the eyes of any mother, human or other wise.  We've been privy to watch them napping in our yard, hens shielding the chicks with their wings, mamas teaching the young ones to fly when they're ready, then watching the young ones grow into teenagers and mature adults.  We once had the opportunity to save a group of stranded babies after they got stuck in our planter box a couple of years ago.  What an experience!

The antics of our Toms are fantastic comic relief, especially during breeding season.  Even when you can't see them, you can hear their gobbling for hours on end as they fight for their places in the gaggle.  We've observed them strut back and forth in front of a shiny car for hours, unsure whether they're practicing, aware that they're seeing themselves or if they're just merely confused, and thus offended by their own reflections.  We've been witness to parading gobblers shaking and vibrating like feather-covered exotic dancers.  The first time I saw a pair of Toms tussle, in a chest-butting, wings flapping, feathers flying display of manliness, I worriedly wondered if the would actually kill each other over a girl.  I stood in the window wringing my hands as they circled the yard, grabbing each other by that wrinkly flap of skin over their beaks (appropriately called a snood) and pulling for all their worth.  How they could squawk and hold on, I couldn't fathom, but I was pleasantly surprised that, as delicate as it the snood might appear, it didn't come off when pulled to what seemed like far beyond the limit during a hearty wrestling match.  Every bird survived his battle, but I suppose there was some hierarchy established as a result.  There were some sore snoods and weary wattles to follow, I'm sure.  Ouch!

Our group of turkey friends has evolved since our first year here in so many ways.  They no longer sleep on our roof at night, but go uphill and roost in the trees.  We often time our evening walks with "Turkey Launch Time", when they all take to the trees, one at a time, by running downhill first, then leaping into the tree branches in the creek below.  Although they are nearly impossible to tell apart, we do miss "Gimpy", "Consuela" the adopted peahen, and "Mr. Big Tom" (with only 3 tail feathers) from the first couple of years we lived in our little cabin.  This year's group is bigger than ever, with 6 toms and almost 15 hens.  And as grumpy as it makes me when they thrash the plants on my deck, I try not to scare "Miss Limpy" too much when shooing our friends away from the vegetable garden.

Our flock of feathered friends provides a steady stream of live entertainment, like our own custom Turkey Learning Channel.  And I love those Birkey Turds.

Master Plant Thrasher

Just Learning

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Sitting in the green grass, sun on my back, I watch my horse move his wrinkled nose through the plump, sweet blades.  Bliss.  His eyes are bright beneath an increasingly gray brow.  He is happy, too.

I look up at the cloudless blue sky; a breeze floats across my face.  I look back at Stevie, the sun makes his copper coat shine, the breeze sifts through his tail.  He looks up from the grass for a moment, his eyes close in the sun.  I admire my lovely friend in the quiet afternoon warmth, enjoying the peace of a wordless bond.

He turns to me to make sure I'm still watching, and I smile.  I'm sure he smiles back, then lowers his nose into the grass, back to the business of eating. 

He knows what's important.  Smiling again, I marvel at his courage, his honesty, his loyalty, and his humor as I remember our years together and think that we are finally just learning to be.

Be-ing a Horse

Goodbye, Old Friend

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Preface: I said goodbye to my dear, 29-year old Saddlebred lesson horse, Stevie, last week. I'd known him for over half of his life - I met him at William Woods University in 1996, where I was a student and he was a donated lesson horse.

My dear, brave, sweet Stevie,

It's hard to imagine how reluctant I was to buy you, considering that we've had twelve years together.  I still remember the first time I rode you my first semester at William Woods - it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and it happened right in front of  world-famous riding instructor Gayle Lampe!  We had to canter a figure-eight, my saddle slid sideways, you went hopping around, sporting a trimmed mane and nothing to grab onto, and you weren't interested in helping me one bit!  You never did have much interest in figure work -  you were a Champion Three Gaited Saddlebred with a mission to take those victory passes on your own terms, often leaving your young riders in the dirt as you trotted out of the ring with your blue ribbon!

You taught me a very important lesson that day - I had a lot to learn and I didn't ever want to ride you again!  Your constant antics in the stall, your hunger strikes, your epic victory passes, your habit of eating students - you were a perpetual source of disruption in the William Woods barn, at the horse shows, and in the classroom as we learned that there are exceptions to every rule.  Especially with Stevie.

So when Gayle Lampe called me the year after I graduated to ask me if I needed a lesson horse, because you were for sale, I told here that I was not interested in a lesson horse that eats students and bucks people off at horse shows.  And she replied, "He doesn't do that anymore - he's older and more mellow now."  Or something like that.  But I was not a fan of the Getting Even Steven, so I told her, "No, thank you."

But a month later you were for sale again.  The phone call went something like this:   "Lisa, it's Megan, from William Woods - I bought Stevie, but I need to sell him because I'm taking a job that won't let me have a horse, and Ms. Lampe said you might want to buy him."

Sigh. Who was I to argue with Gayle Lampe?  At least not twice, anyway!  So I sent Megan a check and she put you on a trailer from Ames, Iowa to Oshkosh, WI.

By the time you stepped off the trailer in Oshkosh, you had taken all of your shoes off and ripped your tail out.  You didn't have a mane the last time I'd seen you and it had grown in nicely - on the wrong (left) side.  I don't really know what I was expecting.  

But hey - I'm a lefty, too, so maybe we had more in common that I'd thought!

I quickly learned that mellow wasn't your style.  But I admired your spirit, and thought I could teach you a thing or two, and we'd figure out how to teach lessons together.  Ha!  Turns out I was the one that had some stuff to learn, didn't I?

You were far more patient with me than I was with you.  After all I was just a dumb kid and you already knew EVERYTHING, right?  By the end of our first summer together half of my students hated you, and the other half were kind of afraid of you.  But I was merely annoyed with you, and didn't figure I could convince anybody to buy you, anyway.  So off to Colorado we went...

Where I quickly learned that you already had quite a reputation.  When I proudly told the trainer I was going to work for in Denver that I was bringing a horse named Getting Even Steven, she startlingly exclaimed, "You can't bring that horse here!  He's completely crazy!  I've seen him try to kill people!"  Whilst wrapping my head around the fact that you'd already made a name for yourself as an outlaw in the horse community to which I was scheduled to move the following week, I explained, "He doesn't do that any more - he's older and more mellow now."  Whoa, channeling Gayle Lampe!  

Many students and blue ribbons later, including Arizona State Pleasure Driving Champion, you were a local superstar, and turned that ugly old reputation for being naughty (mostly) on its head!  In the eight years we taught lessons together, I had about as many people offer to buy you as ask me, "Is that old horse really worth all the trouble?"  "No, he's not for sale," and "Yes, he most certainly is worth it!"

Our adventures were never boring - you had a way of taking any sure thing and adding a Stevie Twist, usually in the final moment!  There was a surprise outcome to everything you did - you made me think on my feet!  You were still teaching me how to train, teach, trust, and love while giving many young students the ride of a lifetime.  You taught me a lot about hard work, determination, and courage.  And that you don't do trail rides.

You were the original Energizer Pony - when the going got tough you never, ever quit.  You had more try, more heart, and more soul than any horse I've ever known.  You were also the sportiest, most athletic horse I've ever known, and I'm including your trail riding gymnastics and carrot-trick yoga games with all of those enthusiastic victory passes.  And yours was certainly the proudest blue ribbon I ever received - Open English Pleasure Champion - when you were 20 years old!

I know now that you put up with all the beginner students, summer campers, and Halloween costumes because you liked hanging out with me.  I was your mom, your cheerleader, friend, and your human counterpart.  And if you behaved, you got to go to horse shows, where everyone could admire you as you trotted out of the arena with another blue ribbon.  I remember watching you size up the competition before your classes - you really did know everything, didn't you?

Neither of us handled your retirement very well.  Pasture life clearly was not up your alley, but you eventually learned to live outside in a "private" run - it was easier to torment your neighbors when you could actually reach them, anyway!  The first time I caught you picking up your rubber feed pan to wallop the horse next to you, I couldn't help but belly-laugh, you were very seriously hilarious in your distate for horses not quite up to "Stevie standards".  Which includes most every horse you've ever met.  Especially geldings.  And horses with spots.  

I could write forever about my spunky little white-faced horse and our adventures, but I'm afraid any attempt to summarize your life, a life lived so powerfully, so purposefully, and so profoundly could only fall painfully short of describing the once-in-a-lifetime, larger-than-life, rockstar- superhorse-companion-partner-teacher-healer-and-friend that you were to me.  So I'll stop here for now, but I'll write more later, because there's just so, so much more.  I am honored to have had the privilege of sharing almost half of your life with you.  Thank you for reminding me to laugh at myself, live with relish, love hard, and be myself, no matter what anyone else says or does.

I can't wait for our next ride, Love.

Google-Eye

Greener Pastures

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I said goodbye to my dear Stevie this week, just a month shy of his 29th birthday.  While my heart hurts to think that I won't get a chance to scratch him under the chin or run my fingers through his mane again, I'm taking comfort in knowing that the days suffering in a body too old for his young spirit are finally over.

So many Stevie stories - I've written pages and pages about my "little horse that could", never publishing most of it, because there was always more.  Stevie's life was a never-ending stream of anecdotes, where would I start?  And he seemed to have nine lives - we'd had so many near-misses, so many rebounds, I figured his story would never end.  I suppose it really hasn't! 

I do know that Stevie's ability to overcome the impossible wasn't exclusive to his twelve years with me.  There are thirteen previous owners listed on his American Saddlebred Horse Association registration papers before mine.  I got to meet one of them in Colorado several years ago, and she recounted the story of how close she had come to putting Stevie to sleep following a seemingly unsuccessful colic surgery.  She and her veterinarian couldn't seem to manage Stevie's pain with a common pain reliever, "Banamine", as he was waking from the anesthetic, and he was thrashing around violently, unable to get up.  Afraid that he would fatally injure himself, she decided to put him out of his misery as soon as the "pain relievers" wore off and her vet could give him the lethal injection.  She had a horse-sized hole dug on her property and prepared to say her goodbyes, when Stevie suddenly got more comfortable and stood up with a big sigh.  Happily stunned by this reversal of the inevitable, she changed her mind, the hole was filled, and a conclusion made: Stevie would be fine, but no more Banamine!

Stevie certainly had a flair for the dramatic, but in other ways he could be very stoic about pain, he always looked years younger in the show ring, because adrenaline would kick in whenever there was an audience.  We won an Open English Pleasure Championship in a class of professionals aboard their best and brightest, when Stevie was 20.  It was my proudest blue ribbon ever, not to mention a ride that I wish everyone could experience in their lifetime!  He was as proud that I was navigating him through the class as I was to be riding him!  There was no doubt that Stevie loved attention, seeking it out in every way possible, even if it meant toothmarks!  "Hey!  Are you listening to me?"  I'm still sporting the remains of one of his "love bites" on my thigh from the day before he died -  the little booger always wanted to make sure everybody knew exactly how he felt.

The consummate Energizer Pony, Stevie could outlast everbody else - student riders, other (much, much younger) horses, even me.  And don't let him catch you feeling sorry for him - he had way too much pride for any such nonesense!   Well into retirement, arthritic body failing him, he'd sense somebody watching and puff himself up, putting on a show that inevitably caused someone to ask, "How is old is that horse, again?"  I loved watching their faces when I revealed his vintage.

Stevie was always giving me a reason to smile.  Like right now.

PSST:  Do you have a Stevie story?  I know I have many more!  Post yours in the comments, and I'll write more soon!


Blue Ribbon Moment

That's Crap

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Stevie taught me something about being present when I was out visiting him at the farm today.  I gave him a bath, and we went out to find some grass for him while I toweled him dry.  After my towels were mostly wet, and my horse was mostly dry, I sat down on the lawn to watch him happily munching on green grass.  As I sat back against a tree, I thought maybe I'd check my email, now that I had a moment, so I pulled my phone out of my pocket.  

As soon as I held it up and looked down at the screen, the contented crunching stopped.  I looked up to see my horse frozen in place, his eyes empty, staring straight ahead.  Definitely an expression of resigned sadness.

"You okay, buddy?  What's wrong, Steve?"  I stood up, went over to him.  The phone was back in my pocket.  I put my hand on his neck and he didn't move.  Where was my horse with the big personality?

Then I heard him, "You came all the way out here to stare at your phone?  Really?  Because that's crap, if you ask me."  And as if to emphasize his point, he crapped, right there on the lawn.

Oops.  Sorry, man.  You are so right.

Next time the phone stays in the car, my attention on my horse, and my mind in the moment.

The Gift of Being Present

Wellness At The Cancer Center Of Santa Barbara

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Cancer's a weird thing.  For all the pain and distress it brings, I've found that it can bring equal amounts of opportunity, hope, and enlightenment for everyone affected.  The avenue to health through cancer can be eye-openingly positive with the right kind of support.  And my Yellow-Brick Road to this conclusion went directly through the front doors at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara.  As I've told so many people, "Santa Barbara is the place to have cancer, if you must, because of the Cancer Center."

The staff and doctors at CCSB took me in for treatment before I was qualified for any financial assistance, because I needed treatment "now, not whenever the state figures out that you qualify."  The caring staff felt like a family by the end of my seven weeks of radiation.  I was actually sad it was over, because I wouldn't get see them every day!

In addition to offering outstanding medical care, cutting-edge technology, and an ultra-caring staff; CCSB provides a vast array of classes, therapies, and counseling - all free of charge to patients through their CCSB Wellness Programs.  I've been taking watercolor and yoga classes, receiving Healing Touch Therapy, and attending support groups at the CCSB Wellness Center for almost a year now.  Their Wellness Programs perfectly complement the outstanding medical care provided by top-notch physicans with opportunities to heal mind and spirit while the physical body battles cancer.  I can't say enough to express my gratitude for CCSB's emphasis on healing the Whole Person through Whole Wellness.

Through my activities at CCSB I'm learning new skills, keeping myself sane and happy, getting the help and support I need, and meeting lots of interesting new friends.  There are a lot of amazing people with whom I may have never come into contact if it weren't for the common thread of cancer and the CCSB.  I've met so many people through the CCSB's Wellness Programs: fellow cancer survivors and warriors, amazing staff, volunteers, teachers, and family members of my cancer peers.  

One of my new friends is a fellow brain cancer survivor and watercolor student, Michael Orchowski.  He is an inspiration: a bright, shining light to everyone he meets, and I'm super-lucky to get to spend time with him every Monday in art class.  

Here's his remarkable story: Following brain cancer surgery, Michael embraced painting classes offered by the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. Losing strength and control on his right arm and hand, Michael learned to be left-handed.  Inspired by his beloved Corgi dog, he began using his left hand to paint particular images and colors without making conscious decisions of what he was painting. Michael's cancer is no longer active thanks to the skills of surgeons and the wonderful medical and spiritual support of many medical staff, friends and family and the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. 

Michael donates most of his paintings to CCSB, and they've taken five of his doggie paintings and printed them on notecards to sell in 5-card assortment packs for $10 (All 5 cheerful images, shown above, right!).  I've bought a pack, my parents have bought a pack, and I'm suggesting that if you like these cards, you do, too.  Your purchase will help a tremendous organization continue to help people like me, when they need it the most.  The cards will brighten the day of whoever receives them.  Just like the smile of my friend Michael brightens everybody's day and lights up every room he enters.

Your $10 donation is tax-deductible and (much-needed) proceeds will be donated to the valuable Wellness Programs at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. To learn more, please email the Wellness Center Coordinator, or call (805) 898-2204.  Please tell them that Lisa Tomlin sent you. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Michael O's Corgi Notecards

Both Sides of the Truly Story

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This weekend marks the "Birthday" of our fabulous feline friend, Truly.  Behold, the story of that day:

It was the Saturday before Mother's Day, 2009.  I'd been home from the hospital about a week since my brain cancer diagnosis.

There was no adjustment period, it was as though someone had flipped a switch; priorities instantly rearranged themselves.  It was Time To Take Care of Myself and it was a full-time position.  For Boyfriend, too.

Which is what we were doing that lovely spring morning: Boyfriend and I were sitting on the deck drinking our morning tea, enjoying the scenery, sunshine and fresh air.  We noticed a tabby cat come around the neighbor's house, stalking a bird.  I reached for my camera, but the sudden movement took the cat's attention away from her prey for a moment.   She looked back to the bird, but it was gone.  As was my photo-op.  Suddenly the cat's eyes lit up, and she bounded over to us, jumping right up on the deck to introduce herself. 

Hi! I'm your new cat!

"Well, hello, little one," said Boyfriend, and we reached down to stroke her her tiger-striped coat.  She purred with enthusiasm as she rubbed against our legs and jumped up on our laps.  I'd never met a cat so instantly sweet and friendly.  "I wonder who she belongs to...," I thought aloud.

Why, you, of course!  Silly humans!

As we continued our introductions, we couldn't help but notice how bony her little body was under her soft fur.  We hadn't seen her around before - could she be a stray?  Left to fend for herself in the woods? "Where do you live, little one?" questioned Boyfriend.

Right here - I'm home!

It was already warm and the weather had been hot all week, so I fetched the little cat a bowl of water, which she proceeded to lap up.  Just as we were considering breaking open a can of chicken for her, something caught her eye and she leapt off the deck...

...and we turned just in time to watch her skillfully catching and downing a lizard!  Nothing finicky about this feline, I thought, and what a hunter!  She was clearly in need of groceries, so back in the house I went to get some chicken...

Humans are so easy to train!

We had been talking about getting a cat, but that was BBT - Before Brain Tumor.  The whole world was different now.  Everything was different.  Nothing mattered, but suddenly everything did.  Up was down.  Black was white.  Needless to say, taking on any uneccessary responsibility, such as choosing and caring for a new pet, had been removed from the New To-Do List.  We didn't have time for any more responsibility...

You're not getting it...

But the Universe had another plan, and the cat chose us.  Here was this spunky, sweet, starving, little bundle of love in need of a home.  Literally falling into our laps!  But why us?  

Because you need me!

Just when we were contemplating where to keep our little friend safe while we made sure she wasn't one of the neighbors', she jumped off of our laps and trotted to the back door.  She stood up and pawed at the door, right underneath the handle.  After the latched door didn't budge, she sat down, facing it, and turned her little face to look back over her shoulder at us.  Her perplexed expression seemed to ask, "Um, should we go inside?"

Humans can be a little slow to get the message, even the smart ones!

Suddenly we were struck by the blatant fact before us; here was a fur-covered, bursting-with-love, cat-shaped friend, staring up at us, with nowhere else to go.   We needed her as much as she seemed to need us, and what were we waiting for, anyway?  So inside we all went, a happy family of three ever since.

We named her Truly because we believe there are truly no accidents.  That she was truly meant to be our cat, and that she truly appeared at exactly the right time: Just when we needed an on-call nurse, healer, and furry friend.  And if the timing of her appearance in our lives weren't enough, it didn't take us long to determine she knew better than us what we needed; whether it be cuddling, warmth, love, someone to talk to, distraction from work or pain, or comic relief!

Don't forget about all the mice I catch...

Oh, right, and she's a terrific mouser - a real pro.

Thank you.

Thank YOU, Truly.

Note:  We live off of Paradise Road, in the National Forest above Santa Barbara.  None of our neighbors had ever seen her before, so we gather that she may have been dropped off to fend for herself in the wild.  We have a lot of wildlife here, including raccoons, fox, wild pigs, mountain lions, bobcats, and wild turkeys.  Truly sits on our screen porch and watches the turkeys go by nearly every day, but shows no desire to go after them.  And she is completely disinterested in going outside.  Happy to have her "wild" days behind her, she is a very contented housecat and feline healer!

It was the Saturday before Mother's Day, 2009.  I'd been home from the hospital following my brain cancer diagnosis about a week.

 There was no adjustment period, it was as though someone had flipped a switch; priorities instantly rearranged themselves.  It

was Time To Take Care of Myself and it was a full-time position.  For Boyfriend, too.  

Which is what we were doing that lovely spring morning: Boyfriend and I were sitting on the deck drinking our morning tea, enjoying scenery and the fresh air.  We noticed a tabby cat come around the neighbor's house, stalking a bird.  I reached for my camera, but the sudden movement took the cat's attention away from her prey for a moment.   She looked back to the bird, but it was gone.  As was my photo-op.  Suddenly the cat's eyes lit up, and she bounded over to us, jumping right up on the deck to introduce herself.  

Hi! I'm your new cat!

"Well, hello, little one," said Boyfriend, and we reached down to stroke her her tiger-striped coat.  She purred with enthusiasm

as she rubbed against our legs and jumped up on our laps.  We'd never met a cat so instantly friendly, we began to wonder who she

belonged to...  

Why, you, of course!  Silly humans!

As we continued our introductions, we couldn't help but notice how bony her little body was under her soft fur.  We hadn't seen

her around before - could she be a stray?  Left to fend for herself in the woods?  

I'm here for you! I won't be much trouble, I promise!

It was already warm and the weather had been hot all week, so I fetched the little cat a bowl of water, which she proceeded to

lap up.  Just as we were considering breaking open a can of chicken for her, something caught her eye and she leapt off the deck.

 We turned just in time to watch her skillfully catching and downing a lizard!  Nothing finicky about this feline, I thought, and

what a hunter!  She was clearly in need of groceries, so back in the house I went to get some chicken... Humans are so easy to train!

We had been talking about getting a cat, but that was BBT - Before Brain Tumor.  The whole world was different now.  Everything

was different.  Nothing mattered, but suddenly everything did.  Up was down.  Black was white.  Needless to say, taking on any

uneccessary responsibility, such as choosing and caring for a new pet, had been removed from the New To-Do List.  

Not so fast!

But the Universe had another plan, and cat chose us.  What's that, you say?  You're too busy taking care of yourself to help anybody else?  We had taken it off the table, but here was this spunky, sweet, starving, little cat in need of a home.  Literally falling into our laps!  Why us?  

Because you need me!

Just when we were contemplating where to keep our little friend safe while we made sure she wasn't one of the neighbors', she jumped off of our laps and trotted to the back door.  She stood up and pawed at the door, right underneath the handle.  After the latched door didn't budge, she sat down, facing it, and turned her to look over her shoulder at us.  Her perplexed expression seemed to ask, "Um, should we go inside?"

Humans can be a little slow to get the message, even the smart ones!

Suddenly we were struck by the blatant fact before us; here was a fur-covered, bursting-with-love, cat-shape staring up at us,

with nowhere else to go.   We needed her as much as she seemed to need us, and what were we waiting for, anyway?  So we all went

inside, a happy family of three ever since.

We named her Truly because we believe there are truly no accidents.  That she was truly meant to be our cat.  And she truly

appeared at exactly the right time: Just when we needed an on-call nurse, healer, and furry friend.  She has a sense for what we

need when we need it whether it be cuddling, warmth, love, someone to talk to, meditation, grounding, distraction from work or

pain, or comic relief!

Don't forget about all the mice I catch...

Oh, right, and she's a terrific mouser - a real pro.

Thank you.

Note:  We live off of Paradise Road, in the National Forest above Santa Barbara.  None of our neighbors had ever seen her before,

so we gather that she may have been dropped off to fend for herself in the wild.  We have a lot of wildlife here, including

raccoons, fox, wild pigs, mountain lions, bobcats, and wild turkeys.  Truly sits on our screen porch and watches the turkeys go

by nearly every day, but shows no desire to go after them.  And she is completely disinterested in going outside.  Happy to have

her "wild" days behind her, she is a very contented housecat and feline healer!

Happiness is a Cat with a Sense of Humor

The Healing Power of Animals

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I've been meaning to write about this for a long time, but it always seems too big a subject to tackle in a single blog post.  And so it is.  But I'll touch on it, anyway, as an introduction of sorts to my next few posts.  In which I'll be writing about my animals: two old horses and a cat, and their incredible gifts.  I may even get into some of the animals from my past, too - I still carry their lessons with me today, and they'll always be a part of my story.

Why now?  Several things came together for me recently to finally motivate me to take on the GIANORMOUS subject of animal healing:

First; October is Adopt-A-Pet Month.  (It's still October, right?)

Then; while flipping through the Santa Barbara Independent's Annual Animal Issue, I came across an ad for "The Cutest Pet in Santa Barbara" Photo Contest.  Deadline was a few days off, why not take the photo-op to brag about my wonderful, healing, feline friend?  Game on!  Hundreds of the cutest photos of Truly later, I submitted my final (it was tough!) choice, along with her "cutest" story, to the paper for the contest.  But I realized that writing about her "cuteness" was merely scratching the surface of all there is to the Truly story, inspiring me to get to the rest of it!

Next; I'm due to start my 7th round of chemo next week. Chemo weeks always remind me of how powerful our connection to our animals really is: mine each mirror my pain in some way, reminding me that I'm not doing anything alone.  As it is every month: Truly is my on-call bed and couch-mate, cuddling with her mom for all the extra naptime; my horse Stevie tends to take a hit to his own health, clearly reflecting my distress; and Reggie, twelve hundred miles away in Colorado, causes my friend Jenny to call me up and ask, "You doing okay?  Is this a chemo week?  'Cause Reggie's really droopy today."   Yep, I've got a pair of horse-shaped pillars on either side of me and a cat purring on my lap - my own personal team of energy boosting, pain-absorbing, animal healers to pick me up when I'm down.

And finally; I received the following email from one of my greatest animal healing (human!) friends, who lives entirely too far away in Switzerland.  Warning: get out the tissue!

I RESCUED A HUMAN TODAY*
                
Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels.  I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.  I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid.
        
As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage.  I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today. Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn't want her to think poorly of them.
        
As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past.  I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone's life.
        
She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me.  I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship.
        
 A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well. Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.  I would promise to keep her safe.  I would promise to always be by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.  I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor.  So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors.  So many more to be saved.  At least I could save one.
        
I rescued a human today.

May you be blessed enough to be rescued by an animal in your lifetime.  If you have already, I welcome your stories in the comments. 

*Written by Janine Allen CPDT, Rescue Me Dog's professional dog trainer. Janine's passion is working with people and their dogs. She provides demonstrations for those who have adopted shelter dogs, lends email support to adopted dog owners that need information beyond our Training Support Pages, and aids shelter staff and volunteers in understanding dog behavior to increase their adoptability. Copyright 2010 Rescue Me Dog; www.rescuemedog.org.

Adopt A Pet

What Did You Do Today?

Post: 

I woke Saturday morning, made myself some tea, and went out on my deck to admire the baby fruits ripening on their vines in my container garden.  At least that's were they were yesterday... but they were GONE!  Cucumbers and tomatoes absconded, drooping leaves, broken stems.  So sad!

I initially suspected the turkeys, they usually mow my flowers and herbs this time of year, but it was a little too clean.  Fruit was carefully picked off the plants, and not a trace of waste.  Something with hands was at work...

So I got busy on crafting a proper raccoon deterrent.  I'm going to leave the following note, in case they can read:

(Not-so-)Dear Thieves,

I'll see your vegetable-vandalizing and plant-pummelling and raise you one super-raccoon-blocking, thief-thwarting, plant protecting, Girlbert's-own-hands-crafted Garden Guard!

I'm not afraid to use the hose, if I catch you, either!

Cordially,

Girlbert

Guarded Garden

Two Wolves

Post: 

I received this fantastic email from a friend, then passed it on to a handful of friends, one of whom posted it on her blogHuh.  There's a novel idea.  Well, YAHOOIE for that, because I get to put some new content on my site without having to write much.  Which is good because I'm on my monthly dose of chemo this week, and the writing's just not flowing...

They call this chemo-brain.  It's like the process I have to go through to convice myself that taking a nap is better that just being a grouchy blob on the couch just to be upright for a few hours a day.

Anyway, this is a great story.  Enjoy!

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all..

One is Evil.  It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Two Wolves
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