I don’t know about you, but when winter sets in, along with colder, darker days, I like to think about planning a fun future trip. (Even if I don’t book anything, it’s fun to research!) So when I started looking into vacations for the animal lover, wow, I uncovered some of the most absolutely amazing experiences in all corners in the world. I’m grateful in my life to have the opportunity and ability to travel if and when I need to. With that in mind, here are five things I’m feeling gratitude for today …
1. Amazing (animal-friendly) vacations for animal lovers: One of these I’ve done: Best Friends Animal Society. (Totally recommended!) But that’s just a start … how about riding horses in Iceland! Or taking rescued cheetahs for walks in South Africa, swimming with wild pigs in the Bahamas, touring the Kangaroo Sanctuary at sunset in Australia, going “wolf howling” in Minnesota, sleeping with sloths at Costa Rica’s Sloth Sanctuary B&B, attending the Golden Retriever festival in Scotland, dining with giraffes in Kenya, sharing the beach with wild horses in Maryland, or visiting Japan’s famous bunny-covered island? And more! Links here, here and here.
2. The special bonds between shelter pets and adopted kids: This heartful essay by adoptee Lisa Bernier shares the science (and emotions) behind the deep connections shared by adopted and foster children with their adopted shelter pets. It’s just one more reason to consider adopting from a shelter and not a breeder or pet store.
3. My Friend: Changing the Journey: I can’t wait to watch this ground-breaking documentary from the CLEAR Foundation, a nonprofit focused on canine lymphoma education, prevention and treatment. The film was recently awarded Best Documentary Feature at the Los Angeles Movie Awards. Unfortunately, too many of us have been affected by our animal friends suffering from cancer.
4. This new PBS series looks interesting: Earth: A New Wild, premiering February 4. Hosted by a conservation scientist, each episode will look at how humankind and animals depend on one another and uncover ways in which we can all live in unity.
5. And for the sports fan: This Sunday is, of course, Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl XI! Featuring goat cheerleaders, a pregame show and a Kitty Halftime Show, this yearly tradition is not to be missed.
My life’s work literally is animal Reiki—coaching animal lovers worldwide on their journey toward peace and wellness. But Reiki is not the only natural treatment out there for our beloved animals. In fact, Reiki is a great complementary therapy to not only Western veterinary medicine, but also a whole host of holistic and natural options, including the three listed below. Tell me, have you given any of these a try?
Acupuncture: My last dog, Dakota, benefited greatly from acupuncture treatments, which work by restoring balance. When he was in hospice, acupuncture allowed him to use his back legs to walk a bit longer than would have otherwise been possible. And amazingly, animals don’t seem to mind getting stuck by dozens of needles. They just “go to sleep,” says veterinarian Nicole Kayser in this informative article from Ithaca.com. To find a holistic vet near you who offers acupuncture or other healing modality, try this helpful search function from the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.
Aromatherapy: Animals have a keen sense of smell, and humans who swear by aromatherapy for their dog or horse say it does wonders for stress, their immune system, motion sickness, skin rashes, hyperactivity and more. But essential oils should be used cautiously, so always work in tandem with your vet and also read up on the subject. The comprehensive guide Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristen Lee Bell and this article in Huffington Post are good places to start.
Why is it that all the beautiful handbags are made of leather? And often, if it’s not made of leather, it looks cheap or unfashionable. No longer: Meet chic new fashion label Freedom of Animals, which produces 100 percent green and cruelty-free luxury handbags. Their elegant white-and-black PETA X Freedom of Animals Ina Tote, in particular, donates 20 percent of proceeds of each sale to PETA. Elle.com recently interviewed the founders for their thoughts on their inspiration, why sustainable fashion still lags behind, and their hopes for fashion’s future.
Luckily, cruelty-free design, while still not ubiquitous, is gaining its cool factor and becoming easier to find than ever before. Here, Care2 offers a list of 12 animal-friendly clothing companies and retailers that have pledged not to sell fur. Those down feathers in your winter jacket? Another story altogether: Animals usually suffer as the down is harvested for fashion. But leader Patagonia has promised its down is “100 percent traceable,” a weighty goal North Face won’t achieve for two more years. Those looking for animal-friendly fashions can check out PETA’s Shopping Guide to Compassionate Clothing.
This stat kind of surprised me: Did you know that the market for high-tech wearables for pets is going to explode over the next 10 years? According to a recent report by market research firm IDTechEX in Cambridge, England, the market for wearable tech for pets is expected to hit a staggering $2.6 billion by 2025.
My dog is pretty low-tech at the moment, but perhaps that will change in the future. Especially after discovering these amazing new high-tech products! Though not all of the techy products below qualify as “wearables,” one thing’s for sure: Companies are finding smart ways to keep us better connected to our animals, whether we’re at work or traveling. And some are even going that extra mile to help us keep a watchful eye on their health and wellness.
Binatone Scout 500 dog tracker: This product is so much more than your average pet collar; it’s more like a smartphone for your dog. The Scout 500, available this summer for $199, provides GPS tracking, a microphone for voice commands so you can talk to your dog no matter where they are, and video streaming so you can see what they’re up to.
FitBark : This dog activity monitor syncs to your smartphone and tracks your dog’s activity levels (rest, active and play time) 24/7. The FitBark, available in a variety of colors, attaches to your dog’s existing collar and lets you set health goals, compare your dog’s activity levels to other dogs, and notice important changes in your dog’s behavior. Cost: $99.95; available in March 2015.
Petcube Camera: Video chat with your pet? Yes! When you’re at work or out of town, you can use the wireless Petcube Camera to stay in touch with your favorite furry friends (and even play laser games with them!). Features an HD camera, two-way audio and smartphone compatibility. Cost: $199.
Petnet SmartFeeder: This high-tech food dispenser lets you manage your pet’s meals from your smartphone, tablet or laptop. You can adjust feeding times, manage portion sizes and even the speed at which you want food dispensed; you’ll also get notifications with meal confirmations, info about food inventory and more. Cost: $249 (for sale in Q4), or pre-order for $199.
Tagg GPS Plus Pet Tracker: This techy pet tracker, which attaches to your dog’s existing collar, aims to prevent your animal from getting lost. Once you create a “safe zone” around your home, the product offers 24/7 animal monitoring, real-time notifications if your dog runs away, nationwide GPS pet tracking and a temperature sensor. Cost: $99.95.
Voyce: This waterproof “smart collar” is basically a wearable computer for your dog. The Voyce monitors your animal’s health, sharing vital signs like resting heart rate, respiratory rate, activity levels, calories burned and so much more. All that info grabbing lets you see wellness trends over time, which can then be shared with your vet. Cost: $299 plus $9.95/month membership plan; available in March 2015.
What do you think? Are you ready to fit your animal with high-tech gadgets?
This fascinating article in The New Republic declared 2014 the year of mindfulness. Because meditation is such an important (and beneficial) part of my life, I love that it’s starting to take off in such a big way and that people in general seem more open to this idea than ever before. But the article left out a very important factor: animals. In my work with Reiki, I’ve realized they just “get” meditation and the idea of living in the moment more than we ever will. In fact, by following their lead, it’s easier than ever to find that mindful “ideal” we’re all striving for.
With that in mind, here are some easy ways we can all practice daily mindfulness with our animals (a.k.a. our best meditation teachers):
1. Savor the sun and smell the roses. Yes, it’s cliché. But next time you’re on your daily walk with your dog, instead of rushing through so you can get back to your next task, take a few moments to experience everything around both of you in nature. Smell the salty air, breathe and feel the sun on your skin. Resist the urge to do your daily walk on autopilot. You can even wander in a new direction; the two of you can just enjoy the moment and see where it takes you. If you’re more of a horse person, take the same approach on your next trail ride with your horse.
2. Give 100 percent full attention to your animal. This isn’t always easy. Next time you cuddle with your cat and talk sweetly to her, do so without any other distractions—no TV, laptop, phone, magazine or the like. When grooming your horse, focus on the moment and truly take it in: the sweeping of the brush, his nickers, the shine of his hair. Sit with your dog and give him your 100 percent attention. Really try to feel and embrace every aspect of the moment—sights, sounds and so on—instead of letting your mind fall back on other distractions, like your to-do list or what you’re cooking for dinner tonight.
3. Practice mindful eating—for both you and your animal. We all know the benefits of thinking about what you put into your body. Support your health by eating fresh, wholesome foods—and support your animal’s health, too, by doing the same and serving natural, nutritious foods. Thankfully, due to consumer demand, premium and organic dog and cat foods are easier to find than ever before. And when you want to spoil your favorite dog, whip up some easy (and deliciously healthy!) homemade treats.
4. Meditate and “be” Reiki with your animal. I’ve created a special series of six 20-minute meditations to help you tune into and connect energetically with your animal, with the natural world around you, and with that deep inner space of peace and strength within yourself—all important ingredients to mindful living. Click here to get started.
5. Take 10. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or the very last part of your night, take 10 minutes to breathe, be calm and just “be.” If they’re not already, your dog or cat will probably end up in your lap!
How do you practice mindfulness in your daily life?
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