Archive for April, 2015

6 super-healthy superfoods for your dog

I’m all for superfoods—you know, healthy ingredients high in nutrients that give your immune system and well-being that extra oomph. Kale, broccoli, quinoa: bring it on! But did you know, there are also a bunch of superfoods you can safely feed to your dog or cat? Next time I’m snacking, I won’t feel so guilty sharing a bite or two with my dog Mystic. Here are a few animal-friendly superfoods I’ve come across in my research:

1. Organic coconut oil: A spoonful a day can help allergies, improve their coat, support bone health, minimize dreaded “doggy breath” and more. Plus, you can also use it topically to sooth cuts and inflamed skin. For safe feeding, the recommend amount is 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds body weight. (Too much can cause loose stools.)

The power of accepting things as they are

We all want to help our animals when they face tough times. But in order to do that, we have to be able to hold all things, good and bad, and to accept even the most difficult moments, rather than run from them. No one can live forever, and life always changes. All we have is this very moment. The more we can accept this reality and even embrace it, the more open our hearts become and the more we can support our animals when they face difficulties.

To accept things as they are, we must develop an inner spaciousness, where our hearts can open up. One way to do this is to reflect upon life’s impermanence so we can embrace the moment. Here are three quotes to help you. Contemplate them in meditation or write about them in your journal:

1. “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” – Rabindranath Tagore
This quote inspires me to ask questions such as: What is time? Is it the past? Is it the present? Is it the future, or is it more?

2. “Bees have to move very fast to stay still.” – David Foster Wallace
What is movement and what is stillness? Can you experience stillness while you move? Can you experience movement while you are still?

3. “When you truly embrace your human impermanence, you connect with the power you have, and the influence you have, over the time you have.” – Steve Maraboli
What is true power? Power is often seen as something negative, but is this true power? Are you afraid of your own true power?

In one way, this present moment is illusory, as it always leads to the next moment, and the next and so on. And yet at the same time, there is so much depth to this present moment. There is so much love and goodness we can infuse into it. We must learn to see things with our hearts; in this way our fear of the impermanence of life loses its grip on us and we can live more fully in the present. For example, we might look at our animal who is ill or suffering and we can see the suffering with our eyes, but that is not all there is; it is only the surface of things. If we look deeper, with our hearts, we can also see our animal’s inner spirit: a perfect, bright and beautiful light. No outward, changing circumstance will dampen this wonderful light. We can connect to this light each and every moment. We can share compassion and peace right now.

Accepting things as they are means that we can be present with the outer circumstances, which even when they are difficult, are always changing. At the same time we can bring our awareness to the deeper truth of the spirit, which is always balanced, bright and harmonious. Focusing on the heart of things will help us embrace impermanence, while offering unwavering, courageous support to our animals when they need us most.

4 questions to guarantee happy volunteering

Volunteering at an animal shelter is a dream come true for so many of us. But just like any job, the first shelter you come across may not be the right fit for you. Due to the time commitments involved and the level of devotion required by volunteering, it’s important to find the right “match” ahead of time to ensure the best experience possible.

With that in mind, here are four vital questions to ask the shelter (and yourself!) in order to guarantee the happiest experience possible:

1. Is it a no-kill shelter? If not, are you comfortable working with animals that may have to be euthanized? Are you comfortable being present with these animals, perhaps at the time of transition? It’s important to let the volunteer coordinator know your comfort level with discussions surrounding euthanasia at the shelter where you volunteer. It can prevent an uncomfortable or emotionally charged discussion at a later date.

2. Will they require you to complete a training program? If so, how long is the program, and what are the requirements? Once you have completed the program, what minimum hours per week will you be required to volunteer, and how long-term of a commitment do they expect? (Some shelters require at least a year.) What duties will you be expected to assist with? What percentage of your time will you be able to devote solely to the tasks that interest you the most?

3. Which staff member will you report to directly? Which person will be involved in helping you with the animals or giving information about which animals to work with? Will this person be notified of your volunteer role at the shelter? If not, make sure to introduce yourself to the staff and volunteers when you meet.

4. Are you prepared to handle the ups and downs? Volunteering at an animal shelter has its magical moments—the first time you bond with a cat that hides from everyone else, the older dog who finally finds her forever home—but there will be plenty of heartbreak as well. Ask yourself how you will cope when you witness innocent animals recovering from abusive situations, see cats and dogs suffering and in pain, know that the animals “no one wants” are being euthanized, or even miss your favorite animal once he or she is adopted? Unfortunately, those who dedicate their lives to caring for others (human or animal) must watch out for compassion fatigue, a traumatic stress disorder and occupational hazard for shelter volunteers which I wrote more about here.

What questions do you always ask before volunteering at an animal shelter?

{Adapted from The Animal Reiki Handbook: Finding Your Way With Reiki in Your Local Shelter, Sanctuary or Rescue by Kathleen Prasad}

How to honor a beloved animal that has passed

When my dog (and animal Reiki teacher, and best canine companion) Dakota died a few years ago, I was absolutely devastated. He was old, and of course I knew he couldn’t live forever, but still, I didn’t want to face the inevitable. And when he finally passed, my world fell apart, and my heart broke into a million pieces. It was months (and maybe even years) before I started to find my way back and life began to feel “OK” again.

During those dark times, I wanted to find a way to cope but didn’t know how. I wanted to honor his memory but nothing felt right. Slowly, as days unfolded into weeks, I began to find solace in a few small things. And looking back now from a place of strength, I see that these three little steps, which seemed so inconsequential at the time, actually helped me on my journey toward peace and acceptance. Here’s what worked for me:

1. Create a lasting memory: One of the first things I did was go through all the hundreds of photos I’d taken of Dakota throughout his life, from his rescue from animal control as a puppy all the way up through my toddler daughter petting and hugging him. But most of these photos had ended up in a box gathering dust. Then I realized: I could use these photos and create a lasting memory of his life and share his amazing self with the world by making a tribute video thanking him for all the love and joy he brought me for so many years. After many hours and help from a video production company, I have this beautiful video that still brings me to tears when I watch it. I have to thank Natalie Merchant’s record label for allowing me the rights to use her song “Kind and Generous” as the background music. The lyrics perfectly fit my Dakota.

2. Make a dedication: I have always turned to meditation for help during difficult times, but after Dakota died, I felt lost and found I literally couldn’t meditate; he had always been by my side and now all I felt was emptiness. But then my Reiki teacher told me of the Buddhist monks who dedicate their meditations to their teacher after he passes. Something clicked within me and I thought, “I can do that, too!” And so I began to dedicate my meditations to Dakota and his memory, and I was able to meditate again. It doesn’t have to be a meditation; you can dedicate anything that is meaningful to you to your animal’s memory.

3. Statuary: There is something so peaceful and beautiful about statuary. After Dakota’s death, I found a statue of St. Francis petting a wolf, and it looked so much like Dakota. I placed it in my yard with a rock engraved with “Pups,” which was his nickname. And now, several years later, every time I look at it I think of Dakota. And when flowers grow around it, it looks so beautiful. My sister Charlotte tells me she also uses a beautiful Persian cat statue in her yard to honor her feline soul mate Sterling, who passed after several years fighting Polycystic Kidney Disease. It is a daily reminder of his beautiful life and a special place she can adorn with flowers in his honor.

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Sterling

As a side note, I want to mention there are a multitude of resources for pet owners coping with the loss of their animal. It’s important to remember you are not alone, and there are others going through the same thing as you. Petloss.com, the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement and the ASPCA all offer a multitude of resources.

I would love to hear: What ways have you honored your beloved animals after their passing?

HOLD YOUR HORSES!

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