Author Archive

Charlotte Jensen

Charlotte Jensen (@JensenChar), an internationally published journalist and former executive editor of Entrepreneur magazine, is an editor and writer with more than 15 years' experience. (She's also Kathleen's sister.) She loves cats, chocolate, traveling to London, writing kidlit and spending her days chasing her cherubic toddler son.

The most adorable animal stories from the blizzard of 2016

As residents and cities still try to dig their way out of the blizzard of 2016, which dumped more than three feet of snow on parts of the East Coast last weekend (thanks to winter storm Jonas), heartwarming stories of animals have begun to emerge. Especially in times of crisis and hardship, it seems animals always find a way to crawl into our hearts and help us—either directly (see the story of some powerful horses below!) or indirectly, guiding us to finding our compassion or reminding us there are still reasons to smile in challenging times such as theses. Below, we’ve rounded up six of the most heartful and amazing animal stories from the blizzard of 2016, sure to warm your heart on a cold day:

Piglet saved from freezing in the snow

When Perry Smith noticed a shivering piglet on the side of the road, stuck in the growing piles of snow, he and his 13-year-old son rescued the little guy from certain death. The heroes then nursed him back to health with warm blankets and plenty of healthy snacks at their ski resort hotel room. Wee Wee thrived and has since been placed at an animal sanctuary in Washington State. Here, check out Wee Wee enjoying a banana from his hotel bathtub.

Horses help to plow the streets

When even snowplows aren’t enough, local citizens, including farmers, kind neighbors and even the Amish, pitched in to help clear the roads. In fact, someone took a photo of this Amish man and his two powerful horses working hard to plow the streets in Auburn, Kentucky—and the feel-good snap soon went viral. As reported in this News Democrat Leader article (which also features the photo), the Amish often help out their neighbors when there’s a big snow; one local citizen has even set up a GoFundMe page to help out the local Amish community.

Southampton mayor’s cat returns after getting lost in the blizzard

When animals get lost during a blizzard, we often prepare ourselves for the worst. But luckily for 13-year-old Lilly, a beautiful tuxedo cat belonging to Mayor Mark Epley of Southampton Village, New York, she miraculously made it home safe. The entire community came together via social media to help spread the word and offer support, but as reported in Southampton Patch, she came home safely on her own.

Adorable blizzard puppy videos fill social media

Being snowed in for days on end can be tough for us humans—but for our dogs, it’s just another excuse to play! After animal lovers took to Twitter and Instagram to share pics and videos of their dogs hopping and playing in the snow, Gothamist rounded up the best of the bunch. Click here to see puppies acting like “tiny buffalos,” making snow angels and just having a blast! Kathleen and I especially love this pic: what an impressive “snowdog”!

Deer frolic in empty DC streets

A quick-thinking Twitter user called @ltrayers captured this amazing video of four deer leaping through the snow-piled streets of Washington, D.C. What beautiful, elegant (and playful) creatures they are!

Happy dog pulls little kids around in snow

This dog is super excited to pull two little kids around in a sled through the piles of snow. Looks like fun!

Did you find yourself stuck in the blizzard of 2016? How did your animals help you pass the time?

Charlotte Jensen, an editor and writer in Indianapolis, is a regular contributor to the It’s a Heartful Life blog.

Essential oils for animals: what you need to know

I can’t believe it’s been nearly five years since I toured Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary in England. It’s one of my sister Kathleen’s SARA sanctuaries, and she’ll actually be teaching equine Reiki classes there again next month. (Click here for info on attending!)

Caroline Thomas, one of Remus’ dedicated volunteers (and now a friend of mine), was sweet enough to take me on a tour that day to meet the animals. Caroline is not only a SARA teacher, but also the owner of Hoof and Paw Holistic Therapies and an expert in essential oils.

The powerful therapeutic benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy have been known since ancient times, dating back to Ancient Egypt (and probably even before). Recently, Kathleen—having had so much success with Reiki and animals—decided to give essential oils a try. I’m happy to report that, thanks to Caroline’s guidance, she’s had much success adding them to her dog Mystic’s wellness routine.

Mystic suffered some past traumas as a puppy (before they found each other), and today she sometimes shows aggression. Now Mystic is able to “take charge of her own healing,” as Caroline says, thanks to a variety of essential oils she recommended for Mystic: angelica (which helps with fears stemming from childhood trauma), neroli (for separation), yarrow (to address past traumas when nothing is known), violet leaf (when a traumatic incident has changed behavior) and carrot seed (for abandonment).

“In the wild, animals naturally choose plants to help them heal physical and emotional problems,” says Caroline, who offers essential oils and consultations worldwide via Skype. “And this is exactly the same way I use the essential oils.”

Kathleen and I are essential oil newbies, so I went straight to Caroline with all of our questions. Here, she gives us the lowdown on essential oils—the best oils for animals, how to use them safely, how they work, and the five top oils every animal lover should stock in their medicine cabinet:

IAHL: What are some common problems in animals that essential oils are great at helping?
Caroline: Essential oils can treat a multitude of ailments—from animals being fearful of fireworks to animals needing a flea repellent. The most common problem I use them for, however, is for fear issues, due to animals not being socialized enough when they were young. The world then becomes a very scary place for them.

What are your favorite oils for cats and dogs?
I own around 40 essential oils, and I do have my favorite ones, such as carrot seed, which is excellent for animals who feel abandoned. It is such a comforting essential oil. Yarrow essential oil is brilliant for animals when you do not know about their past, as it allows them to release old wounds. I use this oil a lot when working with rescued animals.

How do essential oils work?
As your animal breathes in the fragrance of an essential oil, the molecules are transported into the limbic system of your animal’s brain (the part of the brain that processes emotions and memories). The essential oil works here to promote happiness, calmness and physical well-being. All essential oils are safe, as long as they are used correctly.

You bring up a good point. I’ve heard a lot about the risks of essential oils.
All oils are potentially toxic if used incorrectly. It is important to have an understanding of the cautions. For example, bergamot is phototoxic, and fennel should be avoided in pregnancy. I always give clear instructions to my animal owner clients, so there is no misinterpretation of how they are to be used.

How can we use them safely?
You will need to dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil, such as calendula or grapeseed oil (one drop for a cat, and two to six drops for other animals). Find a quiet place and take the lid off the diluted bottle. Let the animal sniff the oil with the lid on, and if they are trying to lick the top of the bottle, this is a very positive indication that they need that specific oil. If your animal wants to lick the oil, pour some onto your hand; equally your animal may just want to sniff the oil, so hold the bottle tightly and let your animal sniff. The most important point is that they are choosing how to interact with the essential oil, as this will allow them to get the exact dose that they need.

How often do they need it?
I usually offer the essential oil twice a day. Your animal may sniff it once and then not need it anymore because that is the exact dose they need. Or they may choose to sniff it for a longer period and then not need it. Be assured that your animal knows best, and if you have invested in an expensive essential oil, don’t try to force more of it onto your animal, as this is when problems happen. Always leave an escape route, as the olfactory system of a cat or a dog is more advanced compared to ours. If they need a specific essential oil, they will happily sniff it; if they do not need the essential oil, they will happily move out of the room.

Do essential oils work for other animals, too, outside of cats and dogs?
Essential oils work for all animals if you use them as [intended].

Where can our readers find safe oils for their animals?
The essential oils that you use with animals need to be of medicinal quality; they need to be 100 percent pure. I buy my essential oils from Kobashi Pure Essential Oils. Their oils are of a very high standard.

Can you recommend the best oils for getting started? Which oils should all animal lovers stock in their medicine cabinets?
Yarrow, carrot seed, seaweed, valerian, Melissa and a carrier oil such as sunflower oil.

What are the therapeutic properties of these oils?
Essential oils are excellent for behavioral issues, but they also help with physical issues, too.

• Yarrow: emotional—past abuse, unknown past, fearful anger; physical—inflammation, skin problems, arthritis.
• Carrot Seed: emotional—abandonment, loss of will to live; physical—loss of appetite, slow-healing wounds.
• Seaweed: emotional—extreme lack of self-confidence, depression; physical—arthritis, immune stimulant, poisoning.
• Valerian: emotional—chronic fear, hysteria, panic; physical—shock, sedation.
• Melissa: emotional—anxiety, hyperactivity, over sensitivity; physical—high blood pressure, hormonal irregularity, viral infection.

Big thanks to Caroline for sharing her thoughts and expertise on essential oils. What about you and your animals? Share your experiences here! (For more info on essential oils and animals, check out Essential Oils for Natural Pet Care. Written by a holistic veterinarian, the book addresses some of the controversy over oils and their safety.)

This article is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice.

5 reasons my cat wins my heart every time

My sister Kathleen and I were talking the other day about all of our cats over the years—and their very unique personalities. Her first cat, a spunky tortie, ultimately gave birth in our garage to my first cat, a tender-hearted orange-and-white tabby. Oh how we miss them! There have been other special kitties over the years, too—each one unique in his or her own way.

Like my own cat right now, a big ball of fluff tabby Persian named Paddington. No matter what else is happening in my life, no matter how busy I am, he always manages to win my heart! Here are five of his heart-winning habits. Any of them familiar? I’d love to know how your cat wins your heart!

1. Chill factor: Paddington is always super chilled out and relaxed. Nothing seems to make this cat nervous. Whether I’m walking him around the yard on a leash, putting his carrier in a wagon and taking him on long walks around the neighborhood, letting toddlers loose to poke and play with him, having large groups to dinner or even flying him under my seat on an airplane, nothing ruffles Paddy’s stripey fur. He’s always open to new experiences and people, and I just love that about him!

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2. Hunter extraordinaire: Even at age 6, Paddington still loves to play. He loves to chase me, my hubby and son around the house and will always follow a piece of string if I drag it behind me. To Paddy, everything is a toy to be explored—including snowflakes falling from the sky, which he tries to attack from the closed window.

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3. Sweetness overload: Without a doubt, Paddington is the sweetest cat I have ever known. He’s never in a bad mood. He loves making biscuits, is a complete purr-monster and is always up for cuddles. He gives lots of “head butts” (kisses) to everyone in our family, follows me around the house all the time, and keeps our bed warm at night, too. He is happiest when snuggled up on my lap.


4. Athletic like a pro: If Paddington were human, he would be the star goalie for any soccer team. He will catch any and every ball thrown his way, no matter how fast or high. Nothing gets by this cat. In our last house, when we used to let him loose in the yard for some supervised sunshine time, he pretty much every time ended up jogging by with a huge lizard in his mouth. (And lizards are difficult to catch!) He looks like a calendar kitty, but Paddington definitely has that tough hunter cat DNA.

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Photo copyright Jenner Rose Photography

5. Watchful guardian: Paddington keeps tabs on everything in this house. He knows whenever any of us is sad and immediately pads over to offer emotional support. This was especially sweet to witness as my baby grew up into a toddler; anytime he fell or bumped his head, Paddington was always there to make sure everyone was OK. He also has an internal clock and knows exactly the moment the clock turns to 7:30 for dinnertime. Even when the clocks change for daylight savings, it just takes him a day or two to adjust. If you’re even one minute late, he’ll jump onto the counter (in your face) and meow like a starving kitten!

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{Photos © Charlotte Jensen unless otherwise noted}

Live sustainably, protect habitats

I was stunned recently to hear the following statistic: In order to survive, the United States will need 5.3 planet Earths if we continue using up natural resources at the rate we are now. In the UK, that number is 3.5 Earths, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

“Unless we change our lifestyle into a One Planet lifestyle, then we’re going to be in trouble,” says Richard Pope, who serves on the Expert Panel for environmental charity Bioregional‘s One Planet Living initiative and has 25 years’ experience in residential master plans, as well as 10 years’ experience in sustainable/green building. “Sooner or later, we’re going to run out of resources if we keep using them at the rate we are now.”

If any of you have taken my sister Kathleen’s animal Reiki classes at BrightHaven Healing Arts Center for Animals, you may have actually had the opportunity to meet Richard—he’s also the co-founder, with his wife, Gail, of the holistic hospice/sanctuary for animals in Sebastopol, California.

Bioregional is hoping to make sustainable living easy, attainable and attractive for everyone. They’re already starting: A 200-acre site in Rohnert Park, California, with 1,800 residential units and commercial space (including a business incubator for social and sustainable startups) is already underway. Richard is the development director for the site, called Sonoma Mountain Village. It’s also North America’s first fully certified One Planet Living Community—and has a waiting list 2,000 people long.

But what does One Planet Living actually mean? According to Bioregional, it means to live sustainably according to the following 10 guiding principles (born from a collaboration with WWF): zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, local and sustainable materials and food, sustainable water, culture and heritage, equity and fair trade, health and happiness, and natural habitats and wildlife.

Protecting wildlife

The issue of natural habitats and wildlife is particularly close to Kathleen’s heart and her work with Animal Reiki Source. And thankfully, Bioregional works hard to protect biodiversity. Under the guiding principles, if you harm a habitat by building a community, you have to regenerate that habitat and integrate it into the new environment. “It’s not just go in there and bulldoze the land,” says Richard.

Blue Sky Coyote

The ideal of One Planet Living sounds wonderful, but is it possible? “The inspiring thing is, once people have the opportunity to do it, they do it,” says Richard, adding that these communities are replicable. “If you say to someone, ‘You’ll have cheaper utility bills, your friends will love it, it’s within walking distance of your work and schools and restaurants, recreation, and you can save the world at the same time.’ Why wouldn’t you buy there?” These communities show it truly is possible to live in such a way that we only require one planet.

Businesses and communities can take a step in the right direction by following the 10 principles and getting certified by Bioregional. For individuals like the rest of us, a good start is to calculate your environmental footprint (Bioregional provides this handy calculator) and make changes accordingly—for instance, eat local, recycle, protect animals, walk or bike if possible, and cease the use of heavy insecticides. And if you’re a jet-setter, you can buy carbon offsets so that flight to London is slightly less damaging to the environment.

“There’s a change coming,” says Richard. “There’s going to be a great squeeze upwards in the next generation who demand to live in a lifestyle that doesn’t hurt the planet.” Just don’t expect the greening of America—and the world—to happen overnight. “I guess we’re the trailblazers,” he adds. “If we do this and show it’s successful, then everyone will start doing it.” One can only hope.

{P.S. 10 sustainable (and beautifully designed!) homes via Gizmag.}

A delicious (and easy!) quiche for veggie lovers

When my sister Kathleen and her daughter, Indigo, came out for a recent visit, I couldn’t wait to surprise her with my ultimate quiche. This special recipe is authentically French: My friend Christelle, who is French, was kind enough to share her mother’s recipe with me. Though I’ve tweaked it over the years, experimenting with different cheeses and fillings, I give all the credit for this delicious quiche to Christelle and her mother.

Christelle lives in a lovely seaside village in Brittany, France, and she cooked her mother’s quiche for me when I came for a visit a few years ago. We shared it on the most gorgeous, sunny beach imaginable. And even though the wind kept blowing sand into each bite, it still tasted divine.

The windy beach in Brittany, France, where we enjoyed our yummy quiche picnic.

The windy beach in Brittany, France, where we enjoyed our yummy quiche picnic.

Here is my vegetarian version of her quiche. It’s a perfect comfort food on a cold winter’s night, paired with a glass of red wine to warm the soul. Of course, feel free to change it up as needed; in fact, the next time Kathleen visits, I plan on trying this in a “crustless” version. Bon appétit!

What you’ll need:

1 ½ cups assorted veggies, roasted and coarsely chopped (just use your favorites)

1 pie crust (If homemade is too hard, Whole Foods sells a frozen crust, or you can use Pillsbury in a pinch)

5 slices of Colby-Jack cheese (or more if needed; swiss cheese works, too)

3 eggs

¾ cup sour cream

1 ½ cups milk

Salt and pepper to taste (I prefer Kosher salt)


Unroll the crust into your quiche or pie dish. Layer the cheese slices onto the crust. Next, add your assorted chopped roasted veggies. (I like to use broccoli, thinly sliced potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini. Sometimes I even sprinkle a few spinach leaves on top.) In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, milk, and salt and pepper; next, pour this into the crust, over the cheese and veggies.

Bake at 450 °F for 45 minutes or until fully cooked.

P.S. Suggested wine pairings: A to Z Pinot Noir or Beaujolais Jadot.

What favorite comfort foods will help you get through this winter? Let us know!

{Photos © Charlotte Jensen}