15 warning signs you like animals better than people

They don’t argue back, they’re wonderful listeners, they love cuddles, and they never lose enthusiasm for seeing you at the end of a long day. Animals are the best, aren’t they? They’re so awesome, in fact, that sometimes I think I like them better than people (my family excluded, ahem). Here are some warning signs to look out for to see if you, too, tend to like animals better than humans:

1. When you get some great news, the first “person” you want to tell is your dog.

2. When you snuggle up on the couch to binge-watch Downton Abbey, the warm body next to you has furry legs and paws.

3. That secret ingredient in your amazing coconut-vanilla cupcakes (and all of your cooking, really) is 1 dog hair.

4. When your cat starts to cough up a hairball (again), you’re at the ready with a towel or paper bag to catch the mess before it hits the floor.

5. When holiday shopping, you can easily spend 30 minutes deciding whether she’d rather have the pink or red heart-shaped chew toy.

6. “Vacation!!” means hitting the road for some fun in the sun at your favorite pet-friendly hotels, beaches and restaurants.

7. When the person next to you on your flight to New York brings a ferret on board as an “Emotional Support Animal,” you don’t bat an eyelash.

8. You actually think rat tails are cute.

white rat

Fact: Rat tails are cute.

9. When your neighbor adopts a dog from the local animal shelter, your first question is, “Is it a boy or a girl?”

10. “Deathly afraid of needles” quickly turns into “superstar subcutaneous fluids-giver” when your cat becomes diagnosed with kidney failure.

11. When your best friend talks about her new shoes, you immediately think of your horse’s shoeing appointment you forgot to schedule.

12. The first thing you see in the morning when you wake up is your cat’s stomach laying across your face.

13. Your favorite smells are puppy breath and fresh manure at the barn.

14. When you find a spider in your apartment, you summon all your bravery and find a glass (or wide-mouthed jar, depending the size) to safely put it outside.

15. Your dog knows how to eat off a fork.

What about you? (Guilty as charged?) When did you know you were a delightfully unapologetic animal person?

5 awesome projects you can help to support right now

Have you seen Kickstarter? This amazing crowdfunding site lets you support a variety of creative projects for very little cash. Kickstarters set a financial goal (say, $1,000) and a target deadline. People then start sending donations—and the person behind the campaign gets to keep all that cash (and more) if they hit or exceed their financial goal by their target date. And, of course, if you have an idea for a project of your own, you can launch a campaign on Kickstarter, too!

Though some of the projects can be, ahem, a little bit strange (such as “Pug-let: The First All-Pug Production of Hamlet” and “A Dr. Who Concept Rap Album”—OK, I admit I’d probably watch/listen to both!), the following are actually some really solid ideas and goals I’d like to see come to fruition—some even help animals, too! Just this past Tuesday on Kickstarter, Walkzee, a free online platform that matches shelter dogs needing walks with “dog lovers looking for a walking buddy,” surpassed its $20,000 goal! I look forward to seeing the Walkzee site someday soon. Here are a few more projects that look interesting:

8 incredibly useful apps for animal lovers

I don’t go anywhere without my smartphone. Life’s a juggling act, whether I’m taking calls, working or even snapping pics of my dog Mystic. How awesome that I can also use my mobile to keep Mystic on point in her training, get animal first aid tips and find dog-friendly hiking trails in Marin? I can do all this, and more, with apps—and here are eight of the best for animal lovers:

1. Puppy Coach 101: Coaching your new puppy isn’t easy, so why go it alone? This video-based app guides you in crate training, potty training, teaching sit, teaching them to learn their name, nipping and biting, and more. Learn tactics instantly with videos featuring professional dog trainer Joanne Lekas. $2.99 (iPhone)

2. Dog Clicker Training: To go with the training app mentioned above, this easy-to-use app gives you professional HD clicker sounds to assist in those training sessions with your dog or cat. Free (iPhone)

3. Pet First Aid: This app from the American Red Cross offers up all you need to know to help your cat or dog in an emergency. Includes how-to videos (such as animal CPR), an early warning signs checklist, the location of your nearest emergency hospital, common first aid tips and more. $0.99 (Android, iPhone, Amazon)

4. BarkBuddy: Thinking about adding a new member to the family? BarkBuddy, which links to 2,500 rescues nationwide, connects animal lovers with “the perfect match” at their local shelter. Simply swipe to see photos, bios and distance from you. An Android version is in the works. Free (iPhone)

5. Pose A Pet: With 20 sound effects including “meow,” “zing” and “squeaky,” this app ensures your cat or dog looks at the camera every single time, ensuring a perfect photo. The app was created by Jennifer Whaley, an animal photographer who used similar sounds to take pictures of 2,500 rescue dogs. Free (iPhone); $3 (Android)

6. BringFido: Traveling with your dog just got easier. With BringFido, just swipe to find pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, parks, beaches and other places that are happy to see you bring your four-legged friends, too. Free (iPhone)

7. ASPCA: Keep your pet as safe as possible in a natural disaster with this app. Not only can you store medical records, but you can also access important information during an emergency, learn how to search for your animal (if he becomes lost in a major storm, for example), create a “lost pet” digital flyer to share on social media, and more. Free (iPhone and Android)

8. Cute or Not: Do you have the cutest dog on the block? Upload a pic to Cute or Not and see if others agree. The app also lets you rate other people’s pets (for cute, the app says “swipe right!”) and see trending photos. (But wait—who’s swiping left? Aren’t all animals cute??!) Free (iPhone)

What are your favorite apps for animal lovers? Share here!

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?