Archive for February, 2015

5 books to warm a dog lover’s heart

My dearest dog lovers, are you looking for something special to read this weekend? Curl up with one (or all) of these truly inspirational books about canine rescue …

Dog Is My Copilot: Rescue Tales of Flying Dogs, Second Chances and the Hero Who Might Live Next Door by Patrick Regan: Learn the heartwarming stories behind 24 real-life rescue missions facilitated through Pilots N Paws, a wonderful organization that pairs death-row dogs (and sometimes cats) with aviators willing to fly the animals thousands of miles to their new home, shelter or foster situation. Also included: more than 100 color photos of the pilots with these special canines in flight. $12.70 at Barnes & Noble

dog copilot

The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Jim Gorant: This well-researched book is for pit bull lovers especially. Though it’s difficult at times to read about the investigation surrounding Vick’s dog-fighting ring, learning the stories of these beautiful dogs—and the heroic men and women who helped to rescue and rehabilitate them and reshape the public’s perceptions of pit bulls—reminds us that even in darkness, there is hope in humanity. $12.08 at Amazon

lost dogs

DogTown: Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Redemption by Stefan Bechtal: You may remember the National Geographic Channel’s show DogTown, filmed at Best Friends Animal Society a few years ago. (Loved it!) This book, a “companion to the hit” show, highlights the stories of 12 sweet dogs at DogTown and their journeys from rescue through rehabilitation. Though sad at times (some of the so-called “unadoptables” came from terrible situations, such as war zones and puppy mills to dog-fighting rings and hoarding situations), thanks to the dedication of the team at Best Friends, these stories reveal dogs now living happier lives. $11.69 at Amazon

dogtown

Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills by Carol Bradley: In case you’re still not convinced that animals for sale at pet stores should be outlawed, read this. In this book, author Bradley, a newspaper reporter, follows the raid of a horrific puppy mill in Pennsylvania and the subsequent difficulties in making legislative changes (though progress has been made). But this story isn’t just about an adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel being rescued; you will see how she rescued her human as well. $13.09 at Amazon

saving gracie

Rescue Ink: Tough Guys on a Mission to Keep Our Animals Safe by Rescue Ink and Denise Flaim: The tough, tattooed bikers behind Rescue Ink are awesome! As revealed in this book, the guys at this Long Island, New York, animal rescue do whatever necessary (“within the means of the law”) to save the lives of all kinds of animals. Included are heartwarming rescue tales of abused and neglected animals, as well as a look at what inspired the various Rescue Ink members to follow this path. Like DogTown above, Rescue Ink is also a companion to a National Geographic Channel show. $13.26 at Amazon

rescue ink

What are your favorite inspirational books for dog lovers?

4 wild facts about animals’ (very real) emotions

Every animal lover knows it’s true: Animals are capable of complex, and very real, emotions. Our society doesn’t quite accept this—yet—but research is continuing to put forth evidence way beyond the anecdotal. The latest? A study revealing dogs’ amazing capability to recognize human emotions (more on this below).

But dogs are not the only ones. Here are four amazing facts about all species of animals and their complex, humanlike emotions:

1. Dogs and human emotions: Dog owners (me included) could probably have already told these researchers this, but now science confirms evidence of what animal lovers already know: Dogs are able to recognize the emotions on our faces! The study, which you can read more about here, confirmed that dogs clearly understand the difference between happy and angry expressions. The study didn’t look at cats or other animals, but my sister Charlotte reports her Persian Paddington is totally clued into her emotions; he always pads over gently in support if she’s feeling blue.

2. A whale’s complex emotional center: Recent research points to a highly complex “limbic system” in whales that may even be more complex than humans’. The limbic system supports emotion, memory and other brain functions—and it’s so highly developed in whales that neurobiologist Lori Marino was inspired to co-author the “Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans,” which states that cetaceans have the right to “life, liberty and well-being.” Marino is also director of the Nonhuman Rights Project, which works to gain “legal rights for members of species other than our own.” This article delves even deeper into whales’ and dolphins’ advanced communication, cognition and emotions.

3. Marc Beckoff’s comprehensive research into animal emotions: Marc Beckoff—author, award-winning scientist, behavioral ecologist and columnist on animal emotions for Psychology Today, who also wrote a nice endorsement for my first book Animal Reiki—has spent his life documenting and researching animals and their very real emotions. His book The Emotional Lives of Animals, which shares scientific and anecdotal case studies of all types of animals feeling joy, sorrow, embarrassment, humor, altruism, empathy and more—questions the ethics of using animals for food, experiments and the like. (I recommend everyone read this and share it!) He’s also co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. This recent article by Beckoff in Huffington Post argues research on rats should be “abolished once and for all.”

4. Jane Goodall’s life’s work revealing chimpanzees as emotional creatures: As noted above, conservationist Jane Goodall co-founded EETA with Beckoff. And after 50-plus years in the field, her observations have concluded without a doubt that wild chimpanzees are not just biologically close to humans in their DNA—they share a wide-ranging, and very human, emotional capacity as well. Here’s a TED Talk from Goodall about what really separates humans from chimpanzees (hint: it’s just language):

And on a parting note, enjoy this TED Talk on moral behaviors observed in animals:

What are your thoughts on the emotions of animals?

{For more on the subject, check out this, this and this.}

Sanctuary spotlight: The CARE Foundation

I’ve just finished another awesome, whirlwind weekend teaching animal Reiki and mindfulness at a very special place: The CARE Foundation in Florida, an exotic animal rescue center and SARA shelter. Every year Leah D’Ambrosio (my Shelter Animal Reiki Association partner) and I fly cross-country to spend time with the beautiful big cats and reptiles (and my students, of course!). I can’t wait to share more about my adventures with you, but until then, here are some fun facts about this amazing wild animal rescue:

BASED IN: Apopka, Florida (about 30 minutes from downtown Orlando)

ABOUT THE animals at CARE: CARE is a wild animal rescue center and wildlife educational facility that gives permanent homes to “non-domestic, non-releasable” animals. The wide variety of species at CARE includes bears, big cats, birds, crocodiles, monkeys and more.

BEHIND THE acronym: CARE stands for Creating Animal Respect Education

WHAT’S SPECIAL about CARE: I love that CARE loves animal Reiki! But CARE doesn’t just help animals; the organization helps the local community, too, by assisting with disaster relief as needed, teaching students at the University of Central Florida’s College of Business Administration how to run a nonprofit, offering externships to students of the Florida Institute of Animal Arts, and providing facility tours and hands-on time with some of the animals to autistic and special-needs children. All of these fantastic programs exist because of CARE’s amazing founder, Christin Burford, who has, through her love of animals and hard work, manifested one of the most amazing exotic animal sanctuaries in the world. Walking the property, visitors can’t help but feel the love and peace that Christin has created. This is a one-of-a-kind place!

SIZE OF the sanctuary: 10 acres

NUMBER OF animals at the sanctuary: More than 200

TRAVEL TIPS: Call in advance if you want to visit; private guided tours promise an “up close and personal” experience with the animals. Plus, as mentioned above, I visit and teach Reiki and meditation classes at CARE every February—I’d love to see you at next year’s classes!

{Slideshow photos © Kathleen Prasad and The CARE Foundation}

New trend: Emotional Support Animals

How sweet is this: Superman star Henry Cavill was recently photographed at LAX with his dog Kal-El wearing a blue vest with the words: “Working. Do not pet. Emotional Support Dog.” And it’s also well-known that Ryan Gosling flies with his dog George, a registered Emotional Support Animal, or ESA.

Despite some of the bad press surrounding ESAs (did you hear about the woman who caused a stir by bringing her therapy kangaroo into a McDonald’s in Wisconsin?), as animal lovers, we know how strong that bond with our animals can be and that yes, being with our animal can calm us. And thanks to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act, ESAs, like traditional service dogs, are allowed in airline cabins. (By law, ESAs are also allowed in apartments that typically turn away pets.) The law does allow for common sense to prevail, however, so if you plan on taking a hyper goat or a 500-pound pig into the economy section on your next flight, the airline will probably turn you both away.

Though ESAs have been “on the books” for several years, more people today—not just celebrities—are signing their animals up as ESAs than ever before.

Here’s a closer look how ESAs differ from the typical service/therapy animals we’re used to seeing:

Service animals: Service animals, predominantly dogs, are professionally trained to perform major life tasks for someone with a disability; seeing-eye dogs are one common example. But miniature horses—which are highly intelligent, can live for 30 years and are very gentle out in the big, wide world—make great seeing-eye and service animals, too. Another type of service animal is the Psychiatric Service Animal, or PSA. PSAs assist individuals with mental health disabilities, like PTSD. I read in the news once about a PSA parrot (worn around town in a cagelike backpack) that recognizes the onset of a psychotic episode and calms his owner down with words. (Wow!) Goats, ducks and monkeys have also been known to be trained as helpful service animals. Ferrets and boa constrictors, too, can apparently recognize the onset of a seizure so their human can take their meds on time.

Emotional Support Animals: These animals, usually companion animals/pets, give therapeutic benefits to the owner through love and affection. They do not receive training but are prescribed by a mental health professional in a letter. This letter, which explains the mental illness being mitigated by the animal, then allows the ESA to fly with their person or the right to live in “no pet” housing situations. All types of species qualify as ESAs: cats, dogs, bunnies, miniature pigs, alpacas, snakes and others.

In her article in The New Yorker, Patricia Marx took an interesting (albeit humorous) look at the controversy surrounding ESAs and the rising number of people now taking their often disruptive animals everywhere for emotional support. Though I believe ESAs have true value, like helping extremely nervous fliers, one quote in the story stood out to me. In it, she quoted Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation. He said, “Animals can get as depressed as people do [so] there is sometimes an issue about how well people with mental illnesses can look after their animals … If it’s really so difficult for you to be without your animal, maybe you don’t need to go to that restaurant or to the Frick Museum.” Something to think about.

Therapy animals: These animals, usually dogs but sometimes cats and mini horses, provide emotional support to adults and children in hospitals, hospice programs and nursing homes. The best therapy animals are “good citizens” that enjoy socializing—like this beautiful white (and deaf!) sheltie that just loves serving those in need. Therapy animals also participate in “animal-assisted” therapy, such as the horses that provide equine therapy to kids with learning difficulties.

What do you think about the rise in popularity of Emotional Support Animals?

Celebrating the Year of the Goat at Chenoa Manor Farm Sanctuary

Tomorrow marks the Year of the Goat (also known as the Year of the Sheep or the Year of the Ram, depending on whom you ask)! What better way to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year than to prepare for my trip in May to the Chenoa Manor Farm Sanctuary in Pennsylvania? They have so many cute goats and sheep there! I’ll be teaching two classes and giving an evening talk and healing circle at Chenoa May 28-31; please join us if you can. (More details here.)

Chenoa Manor Farm Sanctuary does such wonderful work; I can’t wait to work with the animals. Here are some fun facts about this amazing nonprofit sanctuary:

ABOUT THE animals at Chenoa: Many of the animals at Chenoa have been rescued from factory farms and laboratories. Abused, neglected and some even readied for slaughter—the animals at Chenoa are lucky to have found their “forever home” and are free to live the rest of their lives in peace, dignity and safety.

BASED IN: Avondale, Pennsylvania

MEANING OF “Chenoa”: a Native American term that means “white dove”

WHAT’S SPECIAL about Chenoa: The holistic farm sanctuary encourages a plant-based lifestyle and works to end violence through humane education. And yes, this sanctuary is open to Reiki! It offers a youth program that pairs high school kids with animals and works to instill in teens compassion, a love of animals, patience and other qualities in the hopes that “those same qualities may be carried over to the teen’s relationships with other individuals.”

SIZE OF the sanctuary: 25 acres (some might say small, but their work is powerful!)

NUMBER OF animals at the sanctuary: More than 200 bunnies, sheep, goats, pigs, cows, chickens, horses, doves, turkeys and more. To help them, please donate here.

TRAVEL TIP: Visitors are welcomed! So if you find yourself in the area, please stop by Chenoa to see the animals, learn about its mission and meet some of the dedicated volunteers. Click here for more info on farm tours and private visits.

WORTH NOTING: Domestic animals are not accepted into the sanctuary.

{Photos in slideshow © Chenoa Manor Farm Sanctuary}