Friday, January 27, 2012

My way of thinking/ Mourning the Loss of a Pet

My friend Scott and I met on Facebook a short time ago.  It wasn't long before we found that we had a lot in common, in particular a great love of animals.  Together we started a group called Robin's Hope: A Place for Animal Awareness.  It is a Facebook page where people can share pictures, videos, stories, rescue information, and basically anything to do with animals of all kinds.  The group was a hit from the start and it wasn't long before we realized we needed to do more for our members.  At the suggestion of one of our members, Rhonda Newport, we created a new page called Robin's Rainbow: A Place to Remember.  On this page members can share about beloved pets who have crossed over that rainbow to a place where they wait patiently to be reunited with the ones who loved them.

Robin's Rainbow quickly filled with remembrances and I was struck by the similarities in our grief.  We all shared a common bond and understanding of what it's like to lose a best friend of the four legged, furry kind.  People who have never had a pet find this deep love a little confusing.  But at Robin's Rainbow they can share without those looks that say, gee I'm sorry you're upset, but I don't really understand why.

I have written a number of stories about the dogs who passed over in the last few months.  I'm sure that many of you recognize the picture of Atticus.  Before him I wrote a piece about Maynard.  These were fiends of mine as well as their owners.  I grieved for them too.  Bonnie (also pictured here was one of my dogs) I will always miss her happy personality and the love we shared.  But I went on to have other dogs, and even a cat, in my life.  Atticus' mama has a new kid named Timmy Elijah.  Maynard's mom isn't quite sure yet but, whatever she eventually decides, she carries the love that Maynard gave her in her heart at all times.  Love never dies!

I believe that the more we love, the more we are able to love.  When a loved one goes away for any reason, we don't stop loving.  We can't stop sharing love because of the pain that comes when love changes direction.  This is true of all our relationships.  We can remember the hurt and pain and close ourselves off.  Or we can remember the joy that came with the love we felt.  It is a choice.  My hope is that we can continue to love in spite of the fear of loss.  Take that love that burns within your very soul and give it to another.

Okay.  Maybe a little preachy, but I want you all to enjoy the greatest gift we are given by a loving Universe.  That is the gift of love.  Without it we are sadly incomplete.

                                            Peace and Love,




Thursday, January 19, 2012

My way of thinking/ Mommee the cat

What the....?  An Austin's Thoughts about a cat?  I thought he only loved dogs.  I must be on the wrong blog.  Oh, well it still says Austin's thoughts, guess I'll go ahead and read it. 

Jon and I lived in Key West, Florida from 1993 - 1997.  It is a very different kind of place, almost like living in a foreign country.  We owned a mobile home there in a trailer park that was right smack dab in the middle of downtown.  Right between the Atlantic and the Gulf Of Mexico.  Chickens run around free in Key West.  Kind of like pigeons in the rest of the country.  There are also hundreds of stray cats.  I want to tell you about one of them.

Soon after we settled into our home I noticed a particular little black and white cat that seemed to like hanging out around our lot.  Of course, I was off to Circle K right away to buy some cat food.  She didn't look underfed.  In fact, I thought at first she might be pregnant.  That's why I started calling her Mommee.  I couldn't get near her but I decided to make it my personal challenge to tame this savage beast.  I began moving her food dish closer and closer to the sliding glass door that was the entrance to our home.  Inch by inch at first. Then a foot at a time.  I began to sit outside near her, but not too near at first, while she ate.  Slowly her dish and I were getting closer to each other.  I would talk to her while she ate in my most soothing voice.  She seemed to be listening and enjoying the non-threatening sound of my voice.  When I finally got to the point where her food dish and I were on the step that was in front of our door, I put my hand right next to her food dish.  She was suspicious at first, but I didn't move my hand while she gobbled down her dinner.  She was beginning to trust that I wasn't a danger to her.  After about a week just sitting on the step, I started leaving the door open so that I could sit in the threshhold just above her.  Then I moved the dish up next to me one day.  Mommee was about to take her first step into a home.

She was wary for the first few days of this but curious as well.  Then one day she decided to smell the hand that had been next to her dish for weeks.  I still didn't move my hand.  I just let her sniff.  But I was slowly inching my way further and further inside.  Once we had achieved all four paws inside the trailer, I decided it was time to touch her.  Slowly I moved my hand to her nose as she sniffed it.  Then I caressed her head.  Surprisingly, she seemed to like this.  I'm sure it was the first time she had ever experienced human affection.

I then began to do the opposite.  She was coming all the way inside without fear so I began moving away from her dish.  And lo and behold, she began coming to me for those strokes of love and affection.  I had myself a cat.  This process was weeks in the making, but it was fun to see if I could make a wild cat into a tame one.  Jon had always liked cats and had owned a few, but I had never had one before.  After awhile she was sitting in my lap while we watched TV.  She was allowing me to pick her up so it was time to go to the vet for shots and to have her spayed.  That's a whole story by itself.

I just realized that the story of Mommee and me could make a nice children's book.  The ending wasn't a happy one but I could change the real ending for a kid's book.  The real ending came in 1997 after Hurricane Georges ripped through Key West and destroyed our home and everything in it.  Everything but my precious Mommee.  We felt that it was time for us to leave so we gave our kitty to our next door neighbor.  He was a good friend and he had always brought Mommee treats so she liked him.  We had to leave but it was sad indeed to leave my friend behind.  We were taking the Greyhound back to California and I cried half the way there.  I miss Mommee to this day.  I wish I had a real picture of her.  The one I used for this story was borrowed from a friend who is a member of my facebook group, "Robin's Hope: A Place for Animal Awareness".  If you haven't already visited our group, you really should.

There is so much more to tell about Mommee.  I will add more stories as we go along.  For now, I'll leave it with the message that love can truly make miracles.  Austin and his CAT!  Who'd have thought it.

                                           Peace and Love,



Saturday, January 14, 2012

My way of thinking/ Training your dog

I have had dogs all my life.  Starting with a Dachshund in 1959 and moving on to larger breeds as I got a little older.  I began learning to train them very early through my Father who was a stickler for obedience (from the dogs and my brother and me too).  I always loved my dogs and I wanted them to obey me, but I wasn't fond of some of the tricks of the trade.  Things like swatting a newspaper to get their attention and giving treats just because they did what you asked somehow didn't seem right to me, even at an early age.

In 1982 and began raising Australian Shepherds for show.  I had a rescue dog as well, but the idea of going to dog shows and breeding was of a certain interest to me.  I didn't really think it through very well.  The work involved was way more than I had bargained for.  All the obedience classes and all those dog shows.  And the pain of selling them to make room for more was something I hadn't bargained on.  After 10 years I called it quits.  I still had my rescue girl, Cubby, and I kept just one Aussie, Briar.

During my tenure as an obedience trainer, I began to apply some new methods of my own.  Instead of rewarding good behavior with treats, I rewarded them with praise and a kiss.  People at the dog shows were appalled.  I cut out the tricks people like to teach their dogs and went simply for the commands necessary to control and protect.  Dogs need to know how to come, sit, stay, lie down, and stop.  Roll over, shake, sit up, are all cute tricks but unless your dog is going to be on TV these are not necessary commands for your dog's well being.  They are tricks for your own amusement.

When Jon and I got our current two dogs, Roxy and Charlie, we decided together to allow them to act like dogs.  We taught them only the basics and we taught with nothing but our love.  They were given treats occasionally just to show our love, but we only reward them with love when they obey a command.  We found that the more we gave them reasonable freedom, the more they were willing to do to get that loving attention.  Also it seems they learned to understand more things than we had to teach them.  They followed their instincts.  They are loving and sweet.  They are very well socialized.  The only punishment they receive is the silent treatment for an hour or two.  That really gets them more than a harsh word or cracked newspaper.

I call this method "Love Training" and I have even given classes on how to employ this method of training successfully.  Unless you want a circus or show dog, this method works to provide you with a happy, well adjusted, and obedient family member.  Many disagree with me but the proof is in the pudding.  Patience and love are your primary tools in having the best training outcome.

                                        Peace and Love,



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My way of thinking/ Mr. Budders

Every once in awhile a picture comes along that expresses everything  I hold dear.  This picture of my new friend Julie's grandson, Justin with his beloved friend, Mr. Budders speaks for itself.  Can any words speak more eloquently about love?  My readers know that love is my theme.  A boy and his dog.  Me.

Mr. Budders was one of those pet shop impulse buys.  Stores are in the business of making money so they will sell to anyone.  No background check.  No questions about what kind of home environement you can provide.  Just pay and you have a pet.  But we know there is so much more to having a new family member than that.  Mr. Budders was rescued by Julie Harris when she found him in an abusive situation.  She actually took him away from her daughter-in-law who seemed to think a backyard dog was fine.  Geez.  That's right.  Just stick a loving animal in your backyard, put out some food and water if you remember to do it and call him your "pet".

Cocker Spaniels are notoriously overbread.  They often come with health issues.  Julie has learned this to the tune of thousands of dollars.  Every penny was spent with love.  This is a person worthy of having a dog.  But people need to know what they're getting into when they buy that doggie in the window.

Dogs don't usually come housebroken.  Forget carpet.  Buy paper towels in bulk.  Plan on a process of training with lots of love.  If you don't have lots of love to share, stick to ordering out for pizza!  But, if you do have love to spread around, you will be well rewarded by the love you will receive in return.

My friend, Scott VerSprill and I have started a group on Facebook called "Robin's Hope: A Place for Animal Awareness".  I urge you to join us with your stories, pictures, and love for four legged friends!  My partner, Jon and our "kids", Roxy and Charlie will also be grateful for your love and support.  Together we can all make a HUGE difference!!!

                                        Peace and Love,



Saturday, January 7, 2012

My way of thinking/ Doggie adoption

When Jon and I decided to retire and move to Palm Springs, our first order of business was to adopt a dog.  We hadn't had a dog in some time due to our rather peripatetic lifestyle, but now it was time to settle down, stay in one place, and start a family.  Well, OUR kind of family.

We adopted Roxy soon after finding a place to live that would allow a dog (not easy when you rent).  We waited awhile and then pushed it by adopting Charlie, our second "kid".  Our landlord is a dog lover (thank God) so, after a bit of grumbling,we were allowed to keep our family intact.  And then I wanted to do more for animals in need of a home.  What to do?

First, I became an ASPCA Guardian.  After just one of those terribly heartbreaking TV commercials, I was on the phone, bank card in hand.  But I didn't just want to give money so I asked about other ways to help.  They suggested we volunteer at a local shelter and they supplied me with the names of local shelters and phone numbers to call.  Jon and I began by helping clean cages and taking dogs out for walks.  That went well but then I had an accident and broke a hip.  No more walking for me, at least for awhile.  But that's when I got an idea.  What if I got a ASPCA volunteer to bring dogs to us.  We could bring shelter dogs into our home, walk them (Jon's job at first), and give them our love for a day out of their crowded cages.  Roxy and Charlie pitched right in by showing these animals what being loved is all about.  My little idea was an immediate hit!  We were helping shelter dogs get ready for forever homes and adoptions were happening at a faster rate.

When my hip finally healed and I could use a power wheelchair to get around, we began going out for coffee with our two pups and two shelter pups every morning.  Because I find it very easy to talk to people, we began making friends and finding homes for our fosters right away.  It wasn't long before I had all the necessary paperwork with me at all times and we were getting adoptions on a regular basis.  Then I began a list of people who wanted to adopt but had specific requirements.  That list has grown over the past year to over 300 names.  When I find a dog that matches someone on the list, all I have to do is call.  Voila!  Another forever home.  By the way, I check people out as if I am an FBI agent.  Serious dog lovers only need apply.  I even tell them what to feed their new family members and warn them about all those little pesky things dogs are known for.  Sometimes I even talk people out of adopting (or even owning a pet of any kind) but better that than having a failed adoption.

I know that I have written about this many times, but it is important enough to continue sharing my stories with all those who share my love for animals.  Together we can make such a difference!  Please, no more puppy mill pooches.  You need look no further than your local animal shelter when you wish to add to your family.  Believe me, the animals know they are being rescued and they will be grateful to you all their lives!

                                        Peace and Love,



Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My way of thinking/ Optimism

Optimism. Merriam-Webster defines it this way:  1:a doctrine that this world is the best possible world.  2: an inclination to anticipate the best possible outcome of actions or events.

I personally choose door number 2 on that definition.  It just sounds more like me.  When Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the song "A Cockeyed Optimist", I wonder how they knew I would be born a decade after they wrote my theme song.  They must have been clairvoyant!  "Cause I'm stuck like a dope with a thing called hope, and I can't get it out of my heart.  Not this heart."  Those words have stuck with me all my life and I, for one, am grateful that mom introduced me to that song (along with thousands of others).

My Mother was the ultimate optimist.  In the face of what appeared to be insurmountable health issues, she retained her sense of hope.  She knew that one day at a time was not just an ideal, but an absolute necessity.  It was a given that her life would be a short one here on Earth, so she made the most of every moment.  Admiring her as I did, it wasn't much of a stretch for me to want to be just like her.  I hope that I have achieved that goal.

When counselling people who have lost everything,  I am struck by the few who have retained their hope for a better future.  They are optimists with the best chance at a better future.  The people who have lost any sense of hope are the hardest to help.  For people in that predicament, my first order of business is to try to help them find some kind of hope.  Attitude adjustment is what is needed.  It is something that you have to practise.  You have to remind yourself every blessed day to believe that there are good possibilities in front of you.  But you have to be willing to see those possibilities.  There IS effort involved.  Learning to look at challenges as possibilities rather than obstacles takes work.  It's a challenge in and of itself.

Believe it or not,  I get a great boost by watching my two dogs.  They are the embodiment of optimism.  They greet each new day with a joy and enthusiasm that inspires me to do the same.  They join me as I greet the sunrise with a morning meditation in which I allow the powerful energy of the sun to infuse me with light energy, hope, and love.  Start each day that way and you can't go wrong.  You may still face challenges but they are easier to face with the positive faith in hope and love.

                                       Peace and Love,