Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.
Those words above are attributed to Mother Teresa and I have no reason to doubt that.
I selected them because they seemed to capture the mood that flowed out at me from a recent essay by George Monbiot.
Many will know George for he is a British writer very well-known for his environmental and political activism. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books.
Way back in the early days of this blog I was moved to republish some of GM’s essays and sought his permission to do just that. He responded promptly giving me blanket permission to republish any of his essays.
Now it’s a long time since I have availed myself of that permission for the simple reason that so very often George writes about matters that are tough to read and I choose not to share with you because there’s no shortage of tough commentaries about today’s world. That’s no criticism, actual or implied, into George Monbiot’s integrity as a reporter and writer.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 3rd October 2016
Two years ago, I wrote a column for the Guardian in which I argued that what distinguishes our age from those preceding it is an epidemic of loneliness. Throughout human history, we have been hyper-social animals, dependent on each other for both physical and psychic survival. Thomas Hobbes’s claim – that our natural state is a war of “every man against every man” – is a myth proposed by someone whose understanding of human evolution was confined to the book of Genesis. But the myth is now being realised through the religion of our time: a celebration of extreme individualism and universal competition. The resulting loneliness, I argued, is a deadly condition, which kills as many people as smoking or obesity.
To my astonishment, the article exploded, and the ripples can still be felt today. A documentary it inspired, called the Age of Loneliness, aired recently on BBC1. Several publishers asked me to write books on the topic, but I could think of nothing more depressing than spending three years sitting on my backside, documenting social isolation. There was plenty I wanted to say on the topic. But how?
A few weeks later, I dashed out to buy some screws from a hardware shop. Ahead of me in the queue was an elderly woman. She lent on the counter, dithering about what she wanted and trying to engage the sales assistants in a riveting conversation about her state of health. Stuck behind her, I quietly fumed: it seemed as if she would never leave.
But as I cycled home, and my frustration ebbed away, I saw what should have been obvious: here was a person who seemed desperately lonely. “Where’s your empathy?”, I asked myself. “Isn’t that what you were writing about?”. What if that conversation was the only one she would have all day? I felt guilty about my feelings in the shop.
When I returned to my desk, I began dashing out a rough poem about a woman living with little to keep her company but memories, who goes to the shops in the hope that she might talk to someone, but discovers that the tills have been replaced with automatic checkouts. As I wrote, it seemed to me that it was trying to become something else: a ballad. Suddenly I knew what I wanted to do with the topic: I wanted to write an album.
There were just a couple of minor hitches. I can’t read music, I don’t play an instrument and my singing is banned under international law. But I knew who to ask.
I first heard Ewan McLennan while listening to Late Junction on Radio 3, in 2011. I was transfixed by his voice, his playing and what seemed to be an almost supernatural ability to find the heart of a song. He was just 25. I bought his first album, Rags and Robes, and listened to it over and again. Three years later, I heard him interviewed by Mary Ann Kennedy, whose programmes I’ve followed since she began broadcasting on Radio Scotland. He spoke with the same ease of expression I had heard in his music. He was relaxed and funny, politically engaged and plainly fascinated by the roots and text of songs and poems. He came across as a cracking bloke.
I did something I have seldom done: I sent him a fan letter. I invited him to a talk I was giving in his home city, Bristol. He came, and over dinner afterwards we clicked. So, a few months later, with some trepidation, it was to him that I sent my idea of collaborating on a themed album.
To my delight, he agreed. I would start by thinking up a story and writing a rough sketch, which might incorporate some potential hooks, rhymes and choruses. I would send it to him on the understanding that he could do whatever he liked with it. I did not try to write to his style, as I knew he would take from each sketch what he wanted and make the song his own.
I wasn’t wrong. A couple of weeks after I emailed the first sketch to him, I found an audio file in my inbox, and opened it with the excitement of a child at Christmas. It was wonderful – he had turned my base metal into gold. The songs he sent back to me were riveting and heart-wrenching, capturing sensations I have long struggled to express.
The album is a mixture of dark shades and light: sad ballads and stirring anthems. We want to use it as a means of not only talking about loneliness, but, in a small way, addressing it. With advice from charities working on the issue, we are designing our gigs to try to bring people together. I will talk about the themes and Ewan will perform the songs. We will encourage people in the audience to talk to each other; then it will end up with a party in the nearest willing pub. Music naturally makes connections; we want to take it a step further.
In one respect, the album is already succeeding, as the collaboration has relieved the usual solitude in which we both work, making our lives less lonely. I hope it has the same effect on other people.
Breaking the Spell of Loneliness, by Ewan McLennan and George Monbiot, is released on October 14 by Fellside Records.
Here’s a short video about the project, featuring some of the music:
This remarkable collaboration between author George Monbiot and musician Ewan McLennan seeks to address the curse of our age: a crowded planet stricken by loneliness. Using music and the written word, it seeks to make connections in a splintered world.
Now, dear reader, you would be disappointed if I didn’t close today’s post without reference to the value of a dog or two in one’s life, and I have no intention of delivering such disappointment!
From the dozens of pictures that have been presented here over the years I chose this one.
Because I have this notion that one can never be truly alone if there is a dog in one’s life.
The power of forgiveness displayed by our animals.
Last Sunday’s Picture Parade was mainly photographs of Jean out with our ex-rescue horses Ben and Ranger. Let me share the one of Ben as it is relevant to what follows.
A regular reader, Susan Leighton, the author of the blog Woman on the Ledge, commented (in part):
Ben and Ranger are handsome! They are known as roans, correct? I have always loved horses.
I didn’t know but said that I would ask Jeannie (and they are Chestnuts, not Roans!). It then struck me that republishing the post that was first presented back in March, 2014 might be of interest to others beyond Susan.
First, understand, for it is not specifically spelled out in this post, that Ben was removed by the Sheriff because he was being starved, being beaten and having air-gun bullets fired into his chest (the scars are still visible)!
Here’s that post from 2014:
Welcome Ranger – and Ben!
Our new boys- the story of two horses!
Regular readers of Learning from Dogs will remember a post just over a month ago The lone Ranger. Essentially, that explained that we had visited Strawberry Mountain Mustangs in Roseburg, Oregon and, subject to their approval, had decided to adopt Ranger, a 15-year-old gelding.
Thus it proceeded to the point where two-days ago Darla, of Strawberry Mountain, ably assisted by Cody, brought Ranger and Ben to us here in Merlin. It’s been a wonderful twenty-four hours (at the time of writing this). Why Ben? Please read on.
Darla and Cody making a safe and timely arrival a little before 10am last Tuesday.
Why did we take the two? Last October, Ben had been found starved and showing the signs of a great lack of confidence. He was ‘rescued’ on orders of Darla’s local sheriff because of Ben’s condition despite being in private ownership. Darla was certain that Ben had been physically beaten in recent times, hence him being very wary of strangers. Thus his relationship with Ranger was part of his journey of returning to a healthy, confident horse. Darla offered us the opportunity of fostering Ben because Ranger had become a good companion for him. Darla explained that Ben was a very wary horse, especially of sudden movements from men.
Another 100 yards and the start of a new life for these two gorgeous animals.
In the those first few minutes after Jean and Darla led the horses to the grass paddock, Ben seemed to have an expression on his face that suggested it was all too difficult to believe! Ranger just got stuck into munching! But not to the extent of not enjoying a back-rub!
In the afternoon, it was time to bring Ben and Ranger for an overnight in the top area where the stables, food and water were. Ben was very nervous at coming through the open gate and for a while there seemed to be a complication in that Ranger kept thrusting at Ben as if to keep him away from the fence line separating the horses from Allegra and Dancer, our miniature horses.
But in the morning, yesterday, things seemed much more relaxed. To the point that when Ben and Ranger went back out to the grass, Ben was much more relaxed towards Jean and me, as the following pictures reveal.
OK, want to turn back to Darla.
To give an insight into the awe-inspiring work of Darla and her team (and many others across the Nation) and to recognise the need of the authorities to have such outlets as Strawberry Mountain, here are two photographs of Ben shortly after he was removed from the people who had stopped loving and caring for him.
Strikes me as only one way to end this post is with the following as seen on Darla’s Facebook page.
Thus this post is offered in dedication to the good people all over the world who know the value of the unconditional love we receive from animals and do not hesitate to return the same.
How about giving the nearest animal, or human, a big hug telling them at the same time how much you love them!
When Jean and I moved to Oregon back in 2012 we lost two dogs; Chester and Paloma. Frankly, it was very much the fault of ‘yours truly’ for I was far too complacent about assuming that all the dogs would very quickly know this place was their new home.
We never saw Chester again and even today, some four years later, if his name comes up in conversation I can see the pain appear on Jean’s face.
Captain Ron is a favorite at the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. He was taken in by the rescue group about two years ago when he was picked up as an older stray with health issues. They knew the aging dog likely wouldn’t be adopted at a traditional shelter and probably wouldn’t make it out after the three-day hold period. So Captain Ron became a permanent resident at the home-based sanctuary where older dogs go to live out their senior years.
Captain Ron’s photo is often shared on the group’s Facebook page, where the sweet-faced pooch caught the eye of some very special people: his former owners.
They reached out and contacted the shelter, so happy to see that their four-legged best friend was happy and in a wonderful place.
It turns out that Captain Ron’s original name was Oscar. He lived on a farm with cows and sheep and is a Grand Pyrenees/Rottweiler mix. He lost his eye from a fungal infection called blastomycosis and was just getting over an illness when he disappeared from the farm. The owners have since moved out of state and agreed that the best place for 13-year-old Captain Ron is with his new canine family where he is settled and happy. At the sanctuary, Captain Ron shares his days and nights with about 50 other dogs.
Captain Ron’s family was thrilled to share photos of the pup in his younger days.
Although fans of the sanctuary’s Facebook page are divided over whether the owners should have tried to bring the dog back or let him stay where he’s been the past two years, most are glad that they got to see Captain Ron/Oscar happy and healthy, long after they had given up hope he was lost for good.
This is certainly an age where the world wide web is changing hugely the ways we live our lives. This is one very positive example of that change.
Here Are Some Heavy Duty Dog Toys You Can Make Yourself
#1: “Indestructible Dog Toy (Made with Dried Sweet Potato)
Shesparticular on instructibles.com came up with this idea for a DIY chew toy for her mom’s dog. Her mom’s dog, Molly, loves to play. She says when Molly plays it “usually involves rounding up all her toys and ripping them to shreds.”
In Shesparticular’s pictures of Molly, you can tell she’s a little dog. It may seem surprising, but little dogs can do just as much damage as big ones. So this recipe she’s come up with is pure genius if you want to make strong dog toys that are healthy for your dog.
Here’s what you’ll need and instructions on how to make this toy at home:
Hemp or jute rope. Nine 2 1/2 foot ropes braided together to make a larger rope works for medium sized dogs. You’ll need to adjust the length of the rope based on your dog’s size.
Sweet potatoes or yams. One potato for a smaller toy, two for a medium toy and three to four for a larger toy
Sheet pan and parchment or foil
A sharp knife
Round cookie cutter a bit larger than the diameter of your rope
Vegetable peeler (optional)
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit
Wash your sweet potatoes well. Peeling them isn’t necessary unless you prefer it.
Slice the sweet potato into rounds approximately 1/2″ thick
Using the cookie cutter, remove the center of each round
Place rounds on cookie sheet and bake for 2 1/2 hours then flip them over and bake for another 2 1/2 hours.
They’re done when they’re dried out and hard. If there are any soft parts, bake them longer and check them every 30 minutes.
Once they’re done, allow them to cool.
Once your sweet potato rings have cooled, you can start making your toy.
Start by tying a knot at the end of your hemp rope. If you’re using many thinner pieces, braid them together. This will make it easier to string the sweet potato pieces on.
String two potato rings onto your rope then tie a knot in the rope. Continue adding two rings at a time and tying a knot after each pair until you reach the end of the rope.
When you’ve finished, hand this toy over to your dog and watch them chew for hours.
# 2: Knotted Hand Towel Toy
This toy’s so easy to make, even a dog could do it. Taylor Martin from cnet.com came up with this simple way to repurpose old linens and make a great dog toy.
All you have to do is take an old, tattered hand towel and tie a knot in the middle. You can even use a full sized towel and make several knots.
My dog is a Pitbull mix, so though this is a tough toy, he would likely still rip it to shreds. The good news is, it doesn’t cost a cent. So even if it only lasts a few days, you didn’t lose any money on it.
#3: Ring Dog Toy
A user called J3443RY at instructables.com designed this indestructible dog toy. This is just a basic rope knot toy.
If you know how to tie a crown knot, all you need to do is create two lengths of rope by tying 4 lengths of rope in crown knots. All you need to make this toy is some nylon repelling rope.
Here are some step by step instructions for creating this toy
Cut 4 equal lengths of rope. You can adjust the size of the toy based on the size of your dog. 4 Inches of rope is equal to 1 inch of the finished toy. For example; for a 6 inch finished knot you would need 24 inches of rope to start.
Use 2 of the 4 ropes to create a 7″ long finished crown knot.
For step three, the user has included an instructional video. This will help you to combine the two finished knots into one ring.
When you’re finished with this toy, you will have a nearly chew proof dog toy that your dog can enjoy for hours.
For more advice on caring for your dog and other great recipes, visit metroeastrba.com.
Now Check Out Some Cool Doggy Dental Treats
#4: Darla Cook’s Homemade Greenies
Darla Cook is a blogger and a lover of culinary arts. She is a student at The Culinary Institute of America, so you know her recipes must be the best.
Darla’s blog focuses on general cooking and there aren’t many dog recipes on her blog. But I found a pretty great recipe there for homemade Greenies for dogs. She calls these adorable toothbrush shaped treats Franks Breath Brushes.
If you’re a pet owner, you know that Greenies are a great dental treat for your dog, but they’re expensive to buy.
If you want to save money and have more control over what goes into your dog’s treats, make them yourself at home.
Here is Darla’s recipe.
Franks Breath Brushes
3 1/2 brown rice flour plus 2 cups more (rice flour for crunch)
1 tablespoon of activated charcoal (I opened 12 capsules for 1 tablespoon.)
Preheat over to 400F. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the charcoal with 3 1/2 cups brown rice flour and set it aside.
Put parsley, mint oil and 1/4 cup of broth or water into food processor. Process until chopped, like pesto. Add 3-4 droppers full of chlorophyll. Pulse a few times to mix. Add this green paste to flour mixture and mix well. Beat egg and mix in. Knead adding the rest of water/broth. By this time you should have a sticky dough ball. Flour the work surface and knead dough until an even green color. Divide dough into workable portions and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Add flour to the work surface and dough surface as needed to take away stickiness as you work. Cut out with your favorite shapes, and dock with a fork to keep puffiness down. Bake for 25 or 20 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
#5 DIY Doggy Breath Mints
I’ve found yet another great dog breath freshening recipe. This recipe, by Clifford Genece at skinnyms.com, has something in common with Darla’s recipe. It doesn’t contain any wheat flour.
It is so important to avoid giving your dog anything that contains wheat flour. Many dogs are allergic to wheat products. It can cause some pretty intense itching and skin irritation.
Rather than using flower at all, this recipe calls for oatmeal. This recipe also calls for eggs. So Clifford even provides advice for people whose dogs are allergic to poultry products.
Here’s Clifford’s simple recipe for these yummy treats.
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1 large egg
1/4 cup of water, plus 1 teaspoon
3 tablespoons coconut oil (unrefined extra-virgin is best)
Preheat the oven to 325° F
Add oats to a blender and pulse to a flour like consistency. In a large bowl whisk together diced parsley and mint, egg, water, and oil. Add oat flour and stir to combine. Knead dough a few times then turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Using your hands or a rolling pin, flatten dough to about 1/8″ thick. Using a cookie cutter or knife cut out approximately 40 (1-inch mints) mints. Place mints about 1/4-inch apart on a parchment lined or non-stick cookie sheet. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
Allow mints to cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container.
Tip: For dogs with allergies to chicken products, substitute one large egg with 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce.
These are some of my favorite DIY dental treats and dog toys for powerful chewers. These treats and toys are a great way to keep your dog’s jaws strong and breath fresh. Don’t forget to take a look in your dog’s mouth every now and then and make sure their teeth are in good condition.
Description: Dental treats and dog toys for powerful chewers can be expensive, so why not make your own at home? Give these helpful recipes and DIY dog toys a try.
Don’t know about you but we think this has been a very valuable and useful article from Sarah!
I was contacted by Sarah a few weeks ago with regard to her writing a guest post for you good people. For reasons that have escaped me I kept overlooking to publish it. That is now being corrected; indeed it has so much great information that I am splitting it over today and tomorrow.
Top 5 Homemade Treats and Dog Toys for Powerful Chewers
I’ve never met a dog that didn’t love to chew, but it’s not just a fun canine pastime. It’s necessary for their dental health and for training Fido to stay away from your shoes. Are you too busy to brush your dog’s teeth every day? There’s no need to feel guilty, I am too.
Not everyone has time to do a full dental routine for their dog every day. However, there are other ways to ensure your dog’s dental health. I’ve done some research and found that there are many ways to do this without lifting a finger. Including some dog toys for powerful chewers and even some yummy dental treats.
Why Your Dog’s Dental Health is Important
Dogs aren’t in the habit of brushing and flossing. Most dog owners don’t even realize how important a dog’s dental health is. In fact, I didn’t even know that it was necessary to brush my dog’s teeth until I did some research on the subject.
There are other things you can do to keep your dog’s teeth sparkling if you don’t have time to brush them every day. You need to give them fun things to chew on and snack on in place of regular brushing. Such as some sturdy dog toys or rawhide chews.
According to PetMD “Actively encouraging the dog to utilize chew treats that require some “exercising” of the teeth, such as is provided by compressed rawhide chewies, hard rubber or nylon chew toys, can assist in keeping the mouth structures vital.”
If you do have time to brush your dog’s teeth, it’s important that you do it correctly. Here is how you should do it, according to Banfield.com.
Use a toothbrush that is just for dogs.
Never use your toothpaste to brush your dog’s teeth. There is toothpaste that you can buy just for your dog that is not toxic if swallowed.
Give Fido a small sample of the toothpaste so that they become familiar with the flavor.
Lift your dog’s lips to expose the gums and teeth. Brush the teeth like you would your own, but be gentle.
Most dogs won’t allow you to brush the inside surface of the teeth. Focus on the outside surfaces.
The molars and canines tend to build up tartar, so make sure you give them a good brushing. And of course, reward your dog for letting you put them through that. They are likely confused to why you were all in their mouth, so pats, play, and healthy treats are in order.
Now that you know how to brush your dog’s teeth, let’s learn other ways to improve their dental health.
Rawhide Treat Benefits
Rawhide treats and chews are a tasty way for your dog to keep their teeth clean and jaws strong. It’s good for cleaning their teeth and keeping their breath fresh but it also gives their jaws a good workout.
All dogs need to chew. Providing treats like rawhide keeps them from chewing on your nice leather shoes.
There’s not a whole lot of risk to letting your dog chew on rawhide. But there are some risks you should know about. For example, rawhide can sometimes contain small amounts of chemicals, according to Pets. WebMD. Your dog can even come in contact with E. Coli or Salmonella when chewing on rawhide.
Some dogs can be allergic to rawhide anything that’s used to make rawhide treats. This can cause unpleasant discomfort associated with diarrhea.
Sometimes rawhide can be a choking hazard. If a piece breaks off it can become lodged in the esophagus. If this happens, in some cases, a vet can remove any lodged pieces through the throat.
You should always talk to your vet before you decide to introduce any new treats into your dog’s diet. Here Are Some Heavy Duty Dog Toys You Can Make Yourself
Come back tomorrow to learn how to make these great toys.
Yes, nature can be cruel but in ways that we understand. Animals, to the best of my knowledge, do not hunt for sport. Animals do not lie. They don’t seek political power (sorry; couldn’t resist that!).
All of which is my short introduction to an item that Dan sent me yesterday.
A wolf pack: the first 3 are the old or sick, they give the pace to the entire pack.
If it was the other way round, they would be left behind, losing contact with the pack. In case of an ambush they would be sacrificed.
Then come 5 strong ones, the front line. In the center are the rest of the pack members, then the 5 strongest following. Last is alone, the alpha. He controls everything from the rear.
In that position he can see everything, decide the direction. He sees all of the pack. The pack moves according to the elders pace and help each other, watch each other.
For once I am speechless, I knew that wolves are different, but didn’t realize how much we could learn from them…
Compelling, eh! But factually correct?
In this case Nature is not guiding us. It is man misguiding us.
That makes for a compelling and inspirational story about teamwork — but it’s not true.
David Attenborough took the photo in question for the BBC’s “Frozen Planet” Series in 2011. It shows 25 timber wolves hunting bison in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. The female alpha wolf led the pack, and the others followed in a single file line to save energy as they made their way through deep snow, according to the environmental website Benvironment.
Wolf packs are typically about half the size of the pack pictured in the photo from 2011. Most packs don’t hunt prey the size of bison (which is 10 times the size of a wolf), but the larger pack is able to. And the wolves walking in a single file line through deep snow is a classic example of how they’re able to use weather conditions to their advantage while hunting prey that’s much larger than them.
Also, the idea that wolves have to be on the lookout for “ambushes” or attacks isn’t true, either. Wolves are at the top of the food chain and have no natural predators. Aside from turf battles with other wolves (which wouldn’t start in an ambush) bears are the only threat to wolves in Canada. Even so, experts say that bears are only able to prey on wolf pups because grown wolves are too fast, swift and clever to get caught by them.
I will close with this quotation from Andre Gide:
Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.
Like many other authors of blogs when someone decides to follow these scribblings and they are also the author of a blog I go across to their place and leave a thank you note. Frequently, I also say that if they would like to write a guest post for Learning from Dogs that I would welcome that.
Regular readers of this blog will know how often it is my pleasure to publish a guest post from another blogger.
So it is today.
Not very long ago there was a new follower who is the author of the blog: The Well Rounded Individual. I went across there and liked very much what I saw, especially a recent post about dogs.
I am honoured to have permission to share it with you all.
Throw the Ball Already and Other Things I Can’t Live Without
I’m just going to put it out there. I love dogs. I have almost always lived with at least one member of the canine variety and I plan on doing so until I am no longer able to care for a furry friend. My early years were spent with a Cockapoo named Maxie. She was a miniature in size only. My parents adopted her before I was born and saved her from an abusive environment. Because of that she was a bit skittish around unfamiliar people. We usually had to keep her in a bedroom when company was over to avoid any incident. She was a loving dog and loyal to the family until canine parvovirus finally claimed her at about sixteen. After a few years of a pet-less house, my father surprised the family with an amazing ball of fur and fury that would grow into a 200 plus pound St. Bernard, Bernie. She was too smart for her own good and would use her size and strength to escape the back yard sending me sprinting through the neighborhood after her. She was the family’s center of attention for about three years. Then came rescued sisters. A Smooth Collie already named Lassie and a Shepherd, Malamute mix aptly named Rusty, would grace our home and create a circus for many years to come.
I mentioned they were sisters. Yes, they were litter mates. Two completely different dogs from the same mother. Ah, biology. I will let you do the research.
These three amazing animals kept the family company, entertained, protected and comforted for the next decade, even as I left for college and then moved out to start my adult life. No visit was complete without at least a few moments of play with each one of the three. They were each unique with their own personalities. They went through rawhide treats like Double-Mint gum. They patrolled the house for intruders. Most were birds, squirrels or just traffic going by the house. There was never a burglar, but we made them all feel like they had kept out Danny Ocean and his crew. The only real crime that ever took place was the untimely death of a new vacuum every year. Cause of death, dog hair.
As I transitioned into my adulthood, I began with a few rescued cats. I loved each of them dearly. They were affectionate and great companions. But, there was something missing. My cats never poked me with a cold, wet nose to get up and play ball. They never greeted me at the door with manic joy, even if it was just a short time since I had seen them. I missed that. Then, after a while something magnificent happened. I met my wife. She is without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me. By this time, I was again pet-less. So with my new girlfriend, came a wonderful Black Labrador Retriever mix by the name of Melanie. I rediscovered what I was missing. Shortly after I fell in love with both of them came some news that hit close to home. This ball loving, bed hogging, cool floor seeking companion was diagnosed with diabetes. Just like me. My soon to be wife was devastated and began to talk to me about how hard it would be to put her down.
I have never been one to put my condition out in the open. People know, I will talk about it, but it does not define me. But now, I had to stop and open up. I drew parallels between the two of us. And she began to see that this could be manageable for her too. It would require a little extra attention, but she could live a rich normal life. And she would. She stayed with us for another six years, making it beyond her twelfth birthday. As time passed and we moved to Phoenix, after four years, our girl developed cataracts. We checked into getting them removed, but were told they would only grow back. Instead of giving up, we took a different route.
After looking at a number of dogs, we had decided on a Siberian Husky. We wanted to be sure he was the one, so we looked at a few more. I was satisfied but my wife wanted to look at one more that caught her eye. It was all over. This dog chose us and I don’t think there was any way we were going home with anyone but her. We got the living breathing Ajax tornado. She was a bundle of puppy energy wrapped inside the fur of an American Bulldog. We named her Abby. For those of you who are familiar with this breed, she was of the Classic variety. She took to Mel immediately. She would lead her around the yard and through the house. At night they were always together. Abby would go off on her own to burn what seemed to be an endless amount of energy. She always came back to check on her big sister.
As Melanie began to age, Abby needed a new playmate. We were looking like we had before and this time I connected with a Boxer. It took a little convincing but she came home with us. This would be Sophie. She fell right in with what we could now call a pack. Unfortunately, it was only for a short time. Our beloved Melanie, welcomed her newest sister with open paws, but was only able to stay with us for three more weeks. We all felt the pain. But we had a new addition to the family. Sophie would not let us stay down. As a puppy, she was a true clown. In trying her best to keep up with her sister, she grew into a gorgeous, stout Boxer. She was my constant companion.
We had a few new challenges with our changing family. Abby was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia. This meant, we had more frequent vet visits, new, special food and supplements to keep her healthy. They worked. As Abby grew, she became stronger and would only occasionally show outward signs. Sophie had her own heart murmur. As we learned, this is fairly common for Boxers. These challenges only brought us closer with our girls. So, with Abby at four and Sophie at two, we decided it was time to expand the pack.
Again we looked at many dogs and were undecided. On the third or fourth trip to visit, I had decided I wanted to take a close look at one dog in particular. On our prior visits, there was one dog who was not the one at the front of the kennel begging for attention. She was quiet and still but our eyes had met. I decided (on my own) if that dog was there she was coming home. If she was not, we were going to put the search on hold. I guess I don’t have to say, she was there. The cutest little Boston Terrier was cowering in the back. I asked to see her. When she was brought out to us, she was handed to my wife. We named her Maggie.
Maggie started life with a severe case of giardia. We did not care. We took her to the vet almost weekly at first. We could not cure her. We got to the point that the vet told us she needed a series of injections that would either cure her or kill her. We took the chance and Maggie is still with us.
As Maggie grew, she wanted to be the alpha. Abby was having none of it and Sophie just did not seem to care. Abby ruled the house, Sophie was the nursemaid and my close confidant. Maggie became my wife’s BFF. We had a happy mostly healthy pack for another five years.
About three years ago, my heart was ripped out when Sophie was diagnosed with pancreatitis and lymphoma. I still have a tremendous amount of guilt that I did not see symptoms in time to help her. We put her on medication that gave her a brief remission and made her feel like her old self for a few more months. We gave her one more Christmas, but it was not to be. Our Sophie lost her fight a little over a month later. Abby was nine by this time and her hips were beginning to bother her again and then she blew out a disk in her back. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, a year and a half later, Abby left us also. My soul was crushed, and so was my wife’s, but we still have Maggie.
Here we are, the two of us with our daughter. That is what all of our girls are, our daughters. Maggie is eight and in good health. We have a long list of breeds we want to look at for the next member of the pack. Our next son or daughter could be a pure breed. It could be a cross breed, or even a mutt. It won’t really matter because I know when that next dog connects with us, our list goes out the window and we will have our new child. I look forward to spending time with a new one, seeing the bonds that they will build. I also look forward to seeing Maggie with a new brother or sister. I want to watch her bond with a new furry person, like her older sisters.
I know with every new addition to the family, there is the inevitable pain that will one day come. Would I trade my time with any of my kids to take the pain away? Do not even suggest it. Like any human member of the family, the pain, after time, is easily outmatched by the pure joy they bring. I can’t wait to see who is next!
I would love to hear about your family and I encourage you to donate to the ASPCA or your animal friendly charity. Look into adoption. You will never regret it.
I loved this essay and know many of you will have felt the same way. Fingers crossed there will be more!
Founded in 1998, Animals Asia promotes compassion and respect for all animals and works to bring about long-term change. We work to end the barbaric bear bile trade, which sees over 10,000 bears kept on bile farms in China, and, according to official figures, about 1,200 suffering the same fate in Vietnam.
Animals Asia has rescued over 500 bears, caring for them at its award-winning bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam.
Animals Asia also works to end the trade in dogs and cats for food in China and Vietnam, and lobbies to improve the welfare of companion animals, promote humane population management and prevent the cross border export of “meat dogs” in Asia.
In addition, Animals Asia campaigns for an end to abusive animal practices in zoos and safari parks in Asia, and works closely with governing authorities to improve animal management and increase awareness of the welfare needs of captive animals.
Freed from a bile farm – is this the happiest bear ever?
Watch Tuffy jump for joy in his first days outside – after being rescued from a bear bile farm where he’d spent years of torture in a tiny cage.
Rescued in September last year on the same day as six other bears, Tuffy’s paws have hardly hit the ground since arriving at Animals Asia’s Vietnam sanctuary.
The vet team has been working hard to rehabilitate him after years of having his bile extracted. In fact his gall bladder was so damaged it had to be removed. Examinations had found numerous gallstones, meaning he’d lived in pain for years.
That wasn’t the only surgery Tuffy faced. In addition he had three fractured teeth removed. He also had painful, dry, cracked paws.
Animals Asia Bear Manager Louise Ellis said:
“The cracked paws are common to bile farm bears as they only walk on bars, not grass. Dehydration is likely to have contributed to this too. So for his carers to see him take to the pool so quickly after he first became ready to face the outdoors was an amazing moment.
“Coming from years of little or no water, for Tuffy this must feel like a true oasis after being parched and in pain for so long. It must have felt like such a relief to have the freedom to splash around in the water after only being able to stand on the hard metal bars of the bile farm cage.”
In fact Tuffy loved being outdoors so much he decided not to return to his den in the evening – choosing instead to sleep under the stars.
There are still around 1,200 bears in bile farms in Vietnam and over 10,000 more in China. Animals Asia has rescued nearly 600 bears from the bile industry and continues to care for almost 400.
Bear bile is used in traditional medicine.
Dearest Tuffy! One of the lucky ones.
But that doesn’t diminish the anger and the disgust I feel at the way too many so called human beings can have such disregard for our beautiful animals!