Thursday, February 26, 2009
It is my great honor to know some truly wonderful people and organizations that I come across in the day-to-day operation of my alternative healing practice, but Kindred Souls Foundation based in Steilacoom, WA stands out.
I first met Kelly Nelson, founder of Kindred Souls, at a Psychic Fair, of all places. Somehow I felt drawn to her booth that offered information on her totally volunteer organization, and we struck up a conversation. In the course of that conversation she told me about a street dog that they were trying to rescue, that they called Hobo, and that no one seemed able to catch. I volunteered my services as a "dog whisperer" and animal shaman, and became part of the team, which included both human and canine rescue members.
I was very impressed by the dedication of Kindred Souls Foundation to rescue and foster work combined with alternative healing and training methods, all without benefit of an actual physical facility.
I just received an email from them regarding a senior cat, "Roger," who needs a foster home/forever home, and was astonished to read that their adoption policy matching senior humans with senior cats includes lifetime veterinary services and transport, and donations of food and cat litter! What a wonderful program!
Here is more information from them, do you know how to help Roger find his new home?
“Roger was found abandoned with no food or shelter. We do not know his history, but do know that he needs a family! Weighing in at a mere 5 lbs when found, he is now a hulking 6 lbs. since being on the Chambers Body Building Circuit! Doctors estimate him to be 15 years old, neutered, FeLV and FIV NEG, and having remarkably normal lab work results.
Roger is currently boarding at CCVH and needs to be moved in to a foster or adoptive home. If you cannot care for him, please help us network to find him a home.
If you know of a senior person who would like the company of a cat, Roger would be a great fit! We do have a senior program open to anyone 72+ where we match senior humans with senior cats. This program is limited to those living locally* as we provide transport to CCVH for medical services throughout the lifetime of the cat. In addition to the medical services and transport, we also provide donations of food and cat litter for the remainder of the cat’s life. Contact us to learn more about this new program.
*Steilacoom/Lakewood/University Place/Dupont, or other local cities in which we have a volunteer who can help with transport.
Contact Kindred Souls Foundation or call 253-226-3135.
Click here for other Animal Shelters and Rescue Groups listed in our Resources section on our website.
Rose De Dan
Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC
Animal and Reiki Art: www.cafepress.com/reikishamanic
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
February 24 is officially Spay Day USA 2009, an annual campaign of The Humane Society of the United States to inspire people to save animals lives by spaying or neutering pets and feral cats.
Originally I thought that I might republish one of the very first articles I had ever written as a way to inspire people. In rereading it I realized that not only was it dated and too regionalized, having been published in The Laramie Sunday Boomerang, December 19, 1982, but that after all these years I finally wanted to follow the advice of a teacher, and write it differently. I guess with my increase in age and experience his wisdom finally had a chance to sink in!
At the time I was living in Laramie, Wyoming, and decided to take a class on how to get published. The teacher was Donald Murray, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist. I was not really certain why I was taking the class other than the opportunity to be guided by someone who could write well enough to win such a prestigious award. In retrospect I think it was my writing blood yearning for an outlet.
My assignment for the class was to choose two topics on which to write, write them up as a query to a publisher, and submit the final for publication. Having no idea what to write about, I decided to write about what I did know, animals. Topic Number One was a story about my pet rats (which ultimately resulted in a cooking column for the University of WA student paper, a story for another time). For Topic Number Two, I approached the local animal shelter and asked if I could research an article about the shelter and the animals they tried to save. They agreed, and I spent a week tracking the animal residents, looking for the angle that would result in a good story. And I got it, but like so many stories there is always more under the surface to be unearthed.
But before the final choice of story was made there were others that did not get told. The Laramie Animal Shelter is a city shelter like so many others across the United States, small and underfunded. Staffed by dedicated and hardworking men and women who did their best to make the right choices and care lovingly for the many animals that came their way—an overwhelming tide of animals. At that time over 10 million animals were euthanized in shelters every year due to a lack of enough homes. The Laramie Animal Shelter was no exception, as of 1982 an average of 25 percent of its dogs and 12 percent of its cats had to be euthanized.
Most of the 24 cages and 35 kennels at the shelter are usually filled. The animals are well taken care of, but they lack one thing — a loving owner. Everywhere you go the paws reach out for you, and the eyes of the animals are filled with the hope that you might be the one they are looking for.
As I cruised the aisles, face after furry face stared back at me. The dogs would lunge joyfully toward me in hopes that I was the answer to their canine prayers. Number 4717, an eight-month old puppy, was no different. For every visitor she put on a tail-wagging exhibition guaranteed to soften the hardest heart.
My attention was caught by one large black dog who did not greet me eagerly, he huddled in the back of his cage, and his gaze spoke volumes to my heart, he wanted to trust but was no longer sure that he could.
I took notes of the numbers on each cage, and the occupant, and asked the shelter workers for what background stories they had. Most of the dogs had been found wandering, numbers increase dramatically during the summer. Tourists frequently left Fido behind by the side of the highway, apparently a dog was too much trouble to take care of while having fun on vacation. One story that stood out for its special lack of humanity was the dog surrendered because the owners had redecorated, and he did not match the new décor.
The cats were less effusive in their greetings, but nonetheless hopeful. My gaze was caught by one way up top who peered down at me and meowed. The size of his big apple head belied the information on the cage that he was female, and when I questioned a shelter worker his sex was double-checked, and it was discovered that she was a he. My question bought him another week of life, and the possibility that he might find a good, loving home.
I spent a great deal of time interviewing the shelter workers, asking about their lives and how they handled the difficult task they had chosen to do. Every week there are animals that have to be euthanized to make room for more, an unending cycle. One worker said, “You get used to it, but you never get to the point where you can accept it.” Another stated, “Sometimes I almost cry if I have too put an animal to sleep by myself. I look at it this way, I would rather put an animal to sleep than have it be pregnant or be a puppy out in the cold, be hit by a car, come down with disease, or be neglected.”
Much as I dreaded the thought, I finally asked the workers if I could be present when the next group of animals was euthanized. I felt as though I would be letting the animals down if I was too much of an emotional coward to witness the reality of what happens when lack of spaying, neutering and proper education results in overpopulation. The workers were concerned as to how I might respond, and were reluctant at first to agree to my presence. Ultimately they made me promise that I would not cry, a promise that I sincerely hoped that I could keep.
When I arrived that day I was understandably nervous, and as it turned out, I was about to get my story.
The cats were first, a paw was pulled out of the cage, and the injection was administered quickly. Next were five dogs, and Number 4717 was among them. Four dogs in turn were placed on the examination table, and given an injection to the heart. Each dropped instantly. It was all so quick, and so business-like, that I was able to hold strong emotionally as I had promised, although I imagined that I would pay for my current emotional distance later, in private.
And then it was Number 4717’s turn. And the injection missed the heart as sometimes happens. She did not drop instantly, it would take more time for the injection to take effect. So, they put her down on the floor so she could wander around freely, and everyone continued on with their morning chores.
The puppy was thrilled to be out, and ran from person to person, tail wagging happily. Her movements got slower and slower. Finally she went to the man who was washing up the food bowls, and with a quiet sigh she laid her head upon his foot, and died.
At that point I lost it, in order to honor my promise I had to go cry in the bathroom. Even now as I write this I am crying, even after all these years. I will never forget that moment as long as I live, a moment that spoke so eloquently of all the years of devotion and love that those shelter animals had to offer, lifetimes that now would never be.
When I emerged from the bathroom, somewhat under control, the bodies of all the dogs and cats euthanized had been laid out in neat rows in the garage in preparation for transport to the city dump. There their bodies would be tossed into an earthen pit, alongside any road-killed animals, and some dirt would be bulldozed over them.
Lest you think this heartless, the city did what they could with what budget they had. There was not enough money to cremate the animals, this method of disposal was quite common in rural areas. It was tough to stay, but I hung in there, feeling as though my presence at least bore witness to the lives of these animals, victims in a quiet war on overpopulation, and gave them some honor in their passing. They did not go unmourned, I cried for them, and for the countless others who had gone before, and the untold numbers yet to come.
Here is the original beginning to “The Animals Are Waiting At the Shelter,” and the epitaph that I wrote for the puppy:
“Number 4714 waited for her owner for five days.
“No one came.
“She waited another five days for someone to adopt her. Again, no one came. She was given a shot of Sleepaway, and at the age of eight months the black and white puppy went permanently to sleep with her head resting on the feet of the only person who cared, an officer of the Laramie Animal Shelter.”
At the time that article was submitted to my professor, Donald Murray, he thought it well written but suggested that there could be more emotional appeal in it. I disagreed, wanting to reach people with logic. In retrospect I realize that deep down I was scared to expose myself emotionally, I just was not brave enough.
Now, years later, I realize that someone else besides the shelter workers did care; I did, and I still do. I now have both the emotional chops and the courage as a writer to dare to share how I felt. This new article was written in hopes that my words will inspire others to care, and to take action.
In checking up on Professor Donald Murray I discovered that he passed away in 2006 at the age of 82, immersed in an internet project to mentor aspiring writers. Wherever you are now, Prof. Murray, I hope you are pleased that I finally took your advice to heart, and put mine out there in hopes of making a difference.
We have made progress in the intervening years, now only 4 million animals are euthanized each year, due in part to aggressive spaying and neutering programs, but that is still 4 million too many. The bad guys are not the shelters, but people who add animals to an already taxed population. The choice you make when you adopt a pet could take a home away from a shelter animal in need.
Here are some suggestions on how you can help.
Don’t buy from backyard breeders. Check with purebred rescue organizations before buying a puppy, there are many adults needing homes.
Encourage your neighbors to spay and neuter; while they may dearly love Fluffy, want kittens like her, and promise to find them good homes, the birth of those kittens means less homes for animals on death row.
Pass this article along to as many people you can think of, whether they have pets or not. They may be in a position to help educate someone else.
Got feral cats in your neighborhood? There are organizations that can help you get them spayed or neutered. Check out the Animal Shelters and Rescue Groups in the Resources section on my website for some suggestions.
Dare to care, and to show that you care—the life you save could be someone’s future pet.
Postscript: After he ran out of time for the second time, I adopted the male cat mistakenly identified as a female. He was a big, loving mush-bucket of a tiger cat, and we named him O’Malley. Goes to show you the power of a single glance!
Rose De Dan©2008
An early pioneer in the field of alternative healing for animals since 1996, Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, offers a unique perspective on animals and the natural world through her writing, art, sessions and classes. As an animal shaman, voice of the animals, and author of “Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism,” she views her role as a healer as one of building bridges between people and animals, and of empowering them to reconnect with Pachamama, Mother Earth.
Animal and Reiki Art: www.cafepress.com/reikishamanic