Archives for Animal Mentors

Animal Mentors

Of Dogs and Prisoners

I have always had a phobia about being locked up.

No matter how alluring the crime or how rich the prize, even the vaguest thought of being sent to prison afterwards would be sufficient motivation to keep me honest.

Not to mention that orange is definitely NOT the new black in my personal color palette, and I really like my personal space (a whole house full of it when I can get it).

Plus, prison seems to make already grumpy people even grumpier, and since you become like the folks you spend the most time with, that is a whole lot of grumpy I'd like to avoid.

But when I saw a documentary called "Dogs on the Inside" on Netflix, I just had to check it out. Reason being, I had the thought that if they are now allowing prisoners to bring their pets with them, I might be able to at least downgrade it to my "minor fears" list.

Turns out that isn't precisely what "Dogs on the Inside" refers to.

But it is still really, really cool. 
Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

Optimist Versus Realist Versus Pessimist

As I've gotten older, I've increasingly realized the lines separating behavior that is "optimistic," "realistic" and "pessimistic" are blurrier than I thought.

So rather than getting all tangled up in the various permutations of each, I try to keep it simple and choose my "optimist mentors" wisely.

Let's take my baby tortoise, Malti, as an example.

She loves to go outside and play. In particular, she enjoys a game I call "Malti tries to sneak in the forbidden gate....again."

The game is played like so: I let Malti down in the yard, and she takes off. She makes a beeline parallel to the fence all the way to the gate that closes off my neighbor's yard (which is full of cats, dogs, chickens, a huge koi pond and large water turtles).

Her goal? To get to the gate and under the wrought iron spikes.

My goal? To catch her before she achieves her goal.

Here I've learned that baby tortoises can suddenly get a lot faster when you take your eye off them for a few seconds.

I've also learned that Malti can play this game all day long (and I do mean ALL day long).

She never ever ever gets tired of trying to get inside the forbidden gate.  
Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

How a Puppy Taught Me to Trust My Gut

I didn't blog about it at the time, but back in July of this year we lost our 13 year-old dachshund, JP Morgan, Sr.

JP and I shared a birthday.

He was just one year younger than my parrot, Pearl.

Like the rest of his family, he enjoyed naps, walking slowly, watching TV and eating.

He also loved people.

He wasn't super crazy about other dogs, but man oh man did he crave the company of people! When my mom would take him out for a walk, he would stop when he saw a person walk by and refuse to move until that person (even if they were a total stranger) came over to give him a pat.

If ever I have met an animal whose sole purpose was to love and be loved, it was Morgan.

He went into a decline quite rapidly, losing the use of his hind legs, then his back half and all the functions that go with it. With surgery out of the question (long story) and cancer, an enlarged heart and other assorted ills already present, the kindest choice seemed to be to assist him to depart.

But this was quite a difficult choice for his little human family to make!

As fate would have it, I had just begun reading a series of books by Marta Williams, an environmental biologist-turned animal communicator (I started with "Learning Their Language: Intuitive Communication with Animals and Nature").

I had no idea I would end up calling Marta just a few weeks later for help connecting with JP in his final week. I just knew the book title intrigued me and the idea of being able to somehow intuitively communicate with the non-human world tugged at my heart strings.

When I emailed Marta, we had no idea what to expect.  
Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

A Choice Between Safety and Survival

Last night I started watching a new BBC series called "Hidden Kingdoms."

In this series, little wild beings like mice and beetles get their 15 minutes of fame as the camera takes a look at what it is like to be tiny and totally on your own in the wild world.

For instance, if you are a sengi, or elephant shrew, and you are not even as big as one toenail on the giant creature you are named after, how do you cope when that same giant creature lumbers by and obliterates the trail-based safety system you worked on all morning (and your whole life, really)?

If you are a sengi, you rebuild the trails, of course.

But then what if lightening strikes in the African desert right near your trail system and you have to run for your life?

What then?

The answer is surprisingly unpleasant...for both the sengi and BBC's viewers. 
Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

The Sheep, the Wolf, and the Sheepdog

For some reason, ever since I heard the movie was coming out, I have had a real eagerness to watch "American Sniper."

If I'm being honest, this reason probably had a lot to do with Bradley Cooper (who is - in my opinion - both uncommonly talented and uncommonly good-looking).

But as I started watching the film, I was captivated by much more than just its star.

In fact, the moment I knew I was hooked was a scene early on, when Chris (Bradley Cooper), his younger brother Jeff, and his folks were all sitting at the table eating. Jeff was getting picked on at school, and Chris had intervened.

At first, the boys' father misunderstood. He thought they were just beating up on others because they could. So he took off his belt, and told them a story.

There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.

Their dad went on to explain that he wouldn't tolerate any sheep or wolves in his household. When the boys explained what had occurred - that Jeff was being beaten up by bullies and Chris intervened - their dad asked Chris, "Well, did you finish it?" Chris nodded.

That was the end of that.

As I was popping around here and there online while writing this post, I realized this story resonated with lots of viewers. I am glad.

I too want to be a sheepdog....even on the days when I feel like a sheep, and even on the days I desperately wish I was a wolf instead.
Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

How to Know You Really Love Animals

It says "To Shannon, love Jack Hanna." :-)

Back in May, I got to meet legendary zoo director and animal activist Jack Hanna.

He even signed a cool postcard to me - addressing me by name.

At the time, I was pretty confident we were meeting as equals - two fellow animal lovers who simply choose to cohabitate with different numbers of non-human companions (me, 2; Jack, 200? 350?).

Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

The Birds of Pandemonium

Granted, now that Pandemonium Aviaries is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Michele has lots of volunteer help. But no one knows better than a fellow nonprofit founder (aka moie) that the pressure to do more, and do better, never ever stops.

Not to mention that - especially in the early years - she faced a rather staunch brotherhood of exotic bird breeders who overall hadn't much use for a gal with a soft heart for the injured, abandoned, neglected, misunderstood, and otherwise traumatized cast-aways in the exotic bird world.

But none of that stopped her. 
Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

The Face of Unconditional Love

It has taken nearly half my life to realize unconditional love is a very achievable experience that I really can have.

I can receive it. I can give it.

However, being me, at first I tried to tackle unconditional love the same way I try to tackle everything new - the hard way.

I tried to give it long before I knew what it felt like to receive it (no experience = no ability).

I also tried to find it with people first (in a word - whoops).

And I tried to find it in big chunks rather than in fleeting moments (which was all I could sustain at first).

Later I learned it is much easier to find unconditional love in nature before seeking it amongst my own kind. 
Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

You are Wonderful

"You are wonderful."

Those have to be three of the most, well, wonderful words in the world.

I say them about 2,500 times a day to my parrot, Pearl, and my baby tortoise, Malti.

I often share that having pets is like having built-in reminders to say my daily affirmations.

This is because, even though I'm speaking the sweet words to other beings, in a way I'm saying them to myself at the same time.

I can tell this is true because I also feel more wonderful after telling someone else I think they are wonderful.

After a time, after so many affirmations spoken very authentically from my heart, I begin to believe they apply to me too. 
Continue Reading

Animal Mentors

Why an Apple a Week May be a Better Plan

I went for my annual checkup today.

I really love my doctor - a delightful first in my medical history.

She is easy to talk to, practical, and (a must for anyone who has ever suffered from an eating disorder) non-dramatic when it comes to the normal ebbs and flows of medical test results and daily life.

When she asked how I've been doing, I shared I feel better than I ever have before in my whole life.

I feel more balanced - insides with outsides.

I feel healthier in my relationship with my body.

I feel really good about my mental state.

I feel like a better "me" than I've ever been able to be before now.

But then I told her sometimes I still worry when I don't eat everything I want to include in my meals every day.

And that is when she said it - a nugget of pure, true wisdom I am sure will stay with me for the rest of my life. 
Continue Reading