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}

 

New food trend: faux fish

Dear friends, what are you up to this weekend? Tomorrow and Sunday I am excited to be teaching Reiki 2 at BrightHaven (though we will miss little Joey so, so much). Here are a few interesting and important links from around the web of things I’m grateful for today:

1. A vegetarian alternative to fish: Whether or not you’re a vegetarian, overfishing and mercury levels are real problems when it comes to consuming your favorite fish, whether it’s ahi, bluefin or even unagi. Now enterprising chefs and companies across the nation are experimenting with savory, visually appetizing alternatives to your favorite fish dishes. Vegan options and veggie-based foods like “tomato sushi” (which looks and supposedly tastes like the real thing) are starting to roll out. Though demand is still small, I love this idea and can’t wait to try some of these products. Read more here on the flourishing faux-fish trend.

Amazing vacations for animal lovers

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 visiting the rescued farm animals of Catskill Animal Sanctuary while exploring their amazing vegan cooking classes and even staying on site? How about riding horses in Iceland! Or 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.

What are you grateful for this weekend?

How to help military dogs

We see so much in the news about our brave men and women in uniform who are deployed overseas. But what about the animals by their side, either at home or abroad? The following nonprofit organizations are doing amazing work to support our servicemen and women, veterans and even active duty dogs:

Mission K9 Rescue: This wonderful organization is dedicated to ensuring military and active duty dogs find a loving home and lifelong care following their retirement. It also funds missions to bring combat working dogs home from Afghanistan and other war-torn countries and reunite them with their handler for a special adoption. It costs around $3,000 to bring a military dog home. Click here for info on the dogs they’re working to bring home today.

Pets for Vets: This amazing organization pairs U.S. military veterans suffering from PTSD with rescued shelter dogs. Pets for Vets matches vets up with great dogs to fit their personality, then brings in dog trainers to get the dog ready for his or her new life and home. Check out these heartwarming photos and adoption stories (note: you may want to keep a tissue handy).

Fostering military pets: When our active duty members get called to serve, sometimes they need a loving home to place their pet until their return. If you are interested in fostering or making a donation to support these animals in need, the following three organizations can help you get started: Dogs on Deployment, Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet and PACT for Animals.

Do you know of any other ways we can help military dogs?