Archive for the ‘animal stories’ Category

Luna’s story

Monday, May 15th, 2017

The beautiful story honoring the short but wonderful life of Luna and her conscious natural death as written by her human dad Joel who has given me permission to share it. She was a truly enlightened being. While death is one of the hardest parts of my work, what is important is honoring every moment we are here and have with our loved ones.

luna-sunAs many of our friends and family know, our one year old girl kitty, Luna, was diagnosed with a fatal virus a month ago. Luna and her shelter brother, Astro, came to us from a local cat rescue last June. Luna was curled up in a cage all by herself. We were told she had been brought to the shelter by someone who found her (at two months old) living in the parking lot of a local super market. As soon as we picked her up she started purring and she made it very clear that she was coming home with us.

At first Luna wanted nothing to do with Astro. All he wanted was a playmate. But every time he approached her she would growl at him. The sound she made was very much like the sound Marge Simpson makes when she disapproves of something. We almost named her Marge because of this. But Astro persisted, and after about a week she accepted him as something to chase and wrestle to the ground, and then she allowed him to groom her, and then they began to snuggle and sleep together. And her disapproving growl evolved into the sweetest little peep. Thereafter, her nickname around our house became Miss Peep.

Having been abandoned in a parking lot, Luna had a little more life experience in the real world than Astro did (he spent his formative weeks with his mom and siblings in a foster care home), so she taught him some very important lessons. Between the two of them, she was always the trailblazer. She was fearless and was always the first to jump up on high places to get a better view. She was the one to greet new people who came to visit, and always the first to explore new things; like the joys of empty shopping bags, and the challenge of catching flies. Astro learned from her and loved her. Wherever she was in the house, all she had to do was peep and he would come running to be by her side. He would constantly shower her with kisses, which she usually tolerated for a little while and then when she had had enough would gently push him away with her paw. She was his queen, and he loved being her devoted subject.

luna-dadsBrad and I watched Luna learn how to love and how to be loved. And in addition to being a companion to Astro, she was my meditation partner every morning. Wherever she was in the house as soon as she heard the chime on my meditation timer she would come and lay by my side. Sometimes I could feel her soft fur against the back of my hand she would lay so close. And when the final chime would ring signaling the end of a session I would open my eyes and there she would be looking up at me. These times are what I am going to miss most about her.

When Luna was first diagnosed, I contacted Dr. Lena McCullough, the acupuncturist who had treated our previous cat, George, when he began to decline from the kidney failure of old age. Dr. Lena immediately instilled in us a sense of hope and we began treatments for Luna. This hope created a happy, healthy home environment for Luna (and us). I think when we feel we are going to lose someone we love we naturally tend to want to avoid them because it is simply too painful to interact with them knowing they will soon be gone. But when there is hope, when you hold in your heart the possibility of a miracle, you actually seek out interaction because you want to encourage and support what is so precious to you. This hope was good for Luna to feel and it was good for me and Brad because it allowed us to sleep at night and get through our days.

Because of the virus, many things changed in our house very quickly. Luna’s appetite completely disappeared. The only way she would eat would be if we hand fed her, literally one kibble at a time. Over the course of a day it would take about two hours to get enough food into her for her to maintain her weight. At first we didn’t know how we were going to be able to devote this amount of time to sitting with her to hand feed her. But we quickly adapted and came to realize how much time we actually spend each day in wasteful pursuits. Over the course of the month of her illness, Brad and I both dropped many of the social media and television distractions we had grown so accustomed to and suddenly found we actually had so much more time in the day to focus on what was truly important.

The news of Luna’s illness shocked us and I think a great deal of our suffering came from the expectation we all have that things in the material world are going to last- be it a relationship with a friend, a family member, a partner, or a pet. If we enjoy the relationship we create this expectation that it will simply go on indefinitely. Or in the case of a kitten, at least 12-15 years, which is the normal life span of most cats. We quickly realized that by holding onto this expectation, we were contributing to our own suffering. And by letting it go, we were much more able to appreciate the time we had already had and whatever time we had left with Luna in a much deeper, more meaningful way.

Over the past month we treated Luna with all different modalities of healing, including Western Medicine, Acupuncture, Reiki, herbs, and toward the very end we brought in an animal shaman named Rose De Dan. We brought in Rose to get an idea of what Luna was going through and where she was at emotionally and spiritually in the process. At the point we brought in Rose, Luna had not eaten for almost three days and was very weak and could no longer go up or down the stairs in our house, which only weeks before she would zoom up and down in a flash.

There was agreement among all of her doctors and caregivers that Luna was not suffering. So before she did, we made an appointment for a home euthanasia. We had scheduled for this to happen last Monday at 2:30pm. The previous day, Luna had enjoyed a beautiful sunny afternoon where she spent the whole day on her favorite perch bathing in the sun and feeling the cool breeze from the open window in her fur. Three hours before helping Luna transition, she had her meeting with Rose.

When Rose began to communicate with Luna in order to prepare her for what was to happen in a few hours, Rose said that Luna immediately shut the conversation down. Rose said the image she got was a door slamming in her face. Luna told Rose that she was still fighting. The next image Rose saw was Luna at the edge of a cliff. Rose explained that when an animal is close to death she almost always sees this image, and depending on how close the animal is to the edge of the cliff signifies how close the animal is to death. Rose told us that Luna was still about four feet from the edge. And then she described something that surprised both her and us. Rose said that Luna was not facing the edge and the dark valley below, but had her back to it. She said Luna’s face was turned toward the sun and her back was in shadow. Brad and I interpreted this to mean that Luna was still fighting for her life and we decided to cancel the home euthanasia, and at least as long as she was not suffering, to allow things to progress on their own.

Rose told Luna that if she was still going to fight she had to start eating again. So we were hoping that she would. But after another full day, it became apparent that she was not interested in eating. And it also became apparent to us that when she told Rose she was still fighting it wasn’t for her life, but for a conscious death. She didn’t want to be euthanized. And the image of her facing the sun instead of the dark valley beyond the edge of the cliff was her turning away from the darkness of ignorance from fear of death toward the light that can come from a conscious, natural death.

lunaAt this point we were under no illusion that she would be cured. But we needed to support her in this process and not cut it off prematurely. As long as she was not suffering we wanted to give her what she wanted. It is said that some of our most important lessons are learned in the days/moments as death approaches. And for a being that only had a year of living this time around, every moment was a valuable and important part of the evolution of her consciousness. Brad and I didn’t want to deny her these precious moments because of our own natural discomfort and fear of the dying process.

For Luna, this process began in earnest a day and half later, on Wednesday night at about 9pm. At this point she could no longer walk, so when her breathing became very rapid, we carried her upstairs to a spot she had chosen several days before. Brad and I and Astro were with her through the night. At about 2:30am I began to whisper the Gayatri mantra to her. This is the mantra I end all of my meditation sessions with, so she was familiar with it from our many sessions together. It is also the mantra I would chant to her in the car on our way back from each vet appointment to let her know we were going home. The Gayatri is the mantra of light and it seemed to calm her down and slow her breathing. At 5am, Luna stopped breathing and was still. She never suffered. She passed with a whispered sigh.

Brad and I sat with her body for an hour. Astro came to see what was happening and literally stepped right over her body, like she wasn’t there, like he didn’t see her. We wrapped her in a cloth and then in the same tapestry we had wrapped George in three years ago. Then we placed her on top of her favorite perch where she would remain for the rest of the day. It is very important when a being dies that the body remain in place for a period of time so as not to confuse the now disembodied soul. Astro immediately jumped up onto his perch right next to hers, where they had spent many hours lying together in the sun. To our amazement we watched as he began to focus on the air about three feet above Luna’s body. Then he began to paw at the air above her, like he was reaching for something only he was seeing. This went on for over a minute. Had Brad and I not seen it for ourselves I’m not sure we would have believed it in a story.

Later that day, we brought Luna’s body in to the vet to be cremated. Since then we have cried through many half eaten dinners. But as time has gone by it has gotten easier to think about her and not be filled with a sense of loss and grief. Astro seems to be doing ok. He is a little more needy for play time these days and wakes us up in the middle of the night for company. We’ve told him he is just going to have to get used to being held and hugged even more than usual, both for his sake and for our own.

All through Luna’s decline I would kiss her three times on the top of her head and repeat the mantra “You are strong, brave, and wise.” I would do this countless times each day. It seemed to comfort her and she would lean into my kisses and the gentle mantra I offered with them. Thursday was the first morning since we adopted Luna and Astro that she was not next to me when I sat down to meditate. Her favorite toy was a small stuffed raccoon that she would carry around the house in her mouth and drop at our feet as a gift, or leave on the bedroom floor for us to find in the morning as a sign she had visited us during the night. I placed her raccoon on my altar along side the other objects that represented others in my life that I love that have passed; my father’s glasses, my grandmother’s rhinestone pin, my grandfather’s bowtie, a small trio of bells owned by my aunt and uncle, and George’s wicker ball.

I set the meditation timer for 45 minutes and began my session. I went through my regular sequence of practices; following the breath, repeating an affirmation, humming, chanting the Gayatri, then sitting in silence to finish. At some point near the end while my mind was wandering, I was suddenly brought back into the present moment by a flurry of what felt like three kisses on the top of my head. It was so surprising that I opened my eyes and looked around before I realized what had just happened. Immediately after these three quick kisses the timer chimed signifying the end of the session. As I sat there in a state of awe I got the very real sense of Luna zooming away. The same way she used to zoom up the stairs in our house. And then it felt like she was gone.

Luna was only here in this beautiful little body for a year, so we feel very fortunate that she chose to share this brief time with us. She was a fierce, sweet, wise old spirit, and we will always cherish having been blessed with the opportunity to love her. Luna passed on May 10th, me and Brad’s 28 anniversary. For a being whose “soul” purpose this time around seemed to be to learn how to love and how to be be loved, we will be forever grateful for this important reminder as each future anniversary rolls around.

The day Luna passed was also the day when her namesake, the moon, was full. And not just full, but what was called by Native Americans, a Full Flower Moon. This moon signified the time to plant the spring seeds for new growth and new life.

Holding hands

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

lark3

It always makes me feel special when animals love to come to my treatment room. Lark always impresses me in that she also can jump up on the couch and sit in a way that I can place all her acupuncture needles and she always has an awareness of where they are, never knocking them out.

Lark is one of those animals who is very emotionally sensitive. She likes to connect to those she cares about. I appreciate that I am one of Lark’s people.

 

 

lark2Today she set her head gently on my hand and so I moved it thinking that she actually wanted to put her head on the couch.

When I moved it out of the way she said,” no I meant to do that” and not only placed her head over my hand but also her paw. She wanted to hold hands while she had her acupuncture treatment. It’s small things like this that warm my heart.

Confessions of a hospice worker

Friday, May 17th, 2013

I have the best job in the world except for on the days when I want to go become someone’s secretary, when I would do anything to not have to be a responsible adult anymore. These are the days that I can no longer deal with one more animal I love dying, one more person I care about losing their best friend.

A long time ago I was told about the basket. The basket is where you put your own emotions, your own problems while you work. It is a common thing for anyone in a health profession. Every morning I get up and I put my own problems in the basket, I put my sorrow for the lovely golden retriever and the Irish setter with the great sense of humor who I both knew for six years who recently passed away, I put my fears over if the 16 year old dog I am seeing that morning will be here next week, I put my worries about if I will be able to help the little dog newly diagnosed with cancer, I put the frustration and unfairness of seeing so much death, I put the guilt from when I can’t help. It all goes in the basket.

They say at the end of the day you take that basket down again and you face everything you have put in it. But you know the truth; most days I can’t face it. Most days I go from work to being a mother to my son, to feeding and loving my four feline companions, to supporting my partner, to making sure we are all feed. Most days by the time I get to a point of taking down the basket I decide I would rather bury myself in a good book and ignore it all.

People talk about compassion fatigue. When I worked at the shelter we had workshops on this. You know when you are the one sticking the needle in and killing healthy cats and dogs while trying to save as many as you can there is a lot of that. We all suffered from it. Some days I would go home and lock myself in the bathroom and cry my eyes out but the next day I would get up again, pick myself up and go back to work. I believed that the good I was doing outweighed what we had to do everyday. I still believe that. But there are still nights I have nightmares about all the animals who died at my hand.

My work now is different. I no longer have to see animals die because we have too many. I know it happens, just not in front of me. I no longer allow myself to be the one holding the needle in the end. The last euthanasia I did was almost six years ago and with it came up every animal I had put in the basket while I was at the shelter and I vowed that I couldn’t be the person holding the needle any longer. I learned sometimes if you fill it too high the basket will overflow when you don’t want it to.

I know it is the time of year when this always comes up for me. I know once we get to summer things will get better again. Less animals die in the summertime. Fall and spring are the hardest for me, for them.

I have people ask me why I don’t see more animals, why I only work four days a week. I think what they don’t realize is I need time to get the basket down, I need time to be sad, I need time to not have to keep it together. I need time to curl up in a little ball if I need to or go down and sit by the sea. I need time to love my family, be a mother, be a partner. In doing this I am able to be more present in everything I do.

And in this all, the basket is really quite helpful. Because of it, when I am at work, I am able to be there fully.

Let me tell you about my work. I love the animals who I work with, I don’t know how to explain how much they touch my heart and teach me. But the part you may not know about is I also get to meet and know some of the most amazing people, people who know the true meaning of love. I feel like I become part of their family and they become part of mine.

I have watched children grow up, I watch people navigate through career changes and jobs, I get to hear about the joys and sorrows in people’s lives, I hear about people’s dreams and what they want, I see people grow and change alongside their animals. I see the incredible love that passes because a dog, a cat, a rabbit and their loved human family. I hear when they feel all alone and feel like no one understands how hard it is and what they are going through and their friends say, “its just a dog.” It and not he or she. I get to see the best of people, I see their love, I see how much they care, I see their true essence of who they are shine through. My heart opens every day as I see the care and love people give their animal companions.

My work is about loving and sadness, joys and losses, miracles and death. Most people only touch death a few times in their lives. I touch it daily. Sometimes I feel alone because of this. The key is in learning how to touch death and still stay alive inside. The danger is in closing down. I know it is better to feel like I can’t do this anymore than to feel nothing. I know that feelings pass and change. I know that after every hard week or day there are easier ones. After every difficult appointment there is someone who makes me laugh, some dog who kisses me on the face, a pug who comes in dancing, a poodle who comes in laughing, a mutt with the funniest ears and expressions. Of course let’s not forget the cats who spring up on the couch and declare that they are king of the universe for that hour as we blink at each other and pass cat kisses back and forth. I ask myself how could I possibly not do what I do. I would miss all this so much. This is what keeps me going day after day. This is what gets me up in the morning.

So it’s strange that the same thing that makes me think I can’t continue is the same thing that makes it so I can continue. It is what I get every day from those I love and work with both human and animal. In love is sorrow, in sorrow is love. This is the risk we all take in loving.

Sometimes I just need to remember that I am human.

I can’t save everyone, there are too many animals for me to help them all, I can’t be two places at once and sometimes it’s ok to lose it, to let the basket overflow. Sometimes it is ok to cry especially when I have loved. After all there is always a fuzzy being there to lick away my tears and make me smile. And in this comes healing.

Did I mention that I have the best job in the world?

The greatest kindness is sometimes death

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Driving back full of excitement because my son Martin’s band had just won the Peakfeast Battle of the Bands on Mercer Island. In the lights something running along the road but something is very wrong. Hard to tell at first, is it a dog? Some other animal? As we get closer I see it is a deer, running on her knees, hind legs broken, one hanging off almost severed. She hauls herself out of the road and on to the narrow walk along Island Crest Way but keeps on going, throwing her body down every step, in a panic.

We pull over flashers on, who to call? Animal Control doesn’t come out in the middle of the night. There is no one for this deer. Thinking, if nothing else she is a traffic hazard, dialing 911, feeling bad to bother them when maybe I shouldn’t but who else to call? The woman on the phone is very nice, says she will see if she can find someone for me but doesn’t know if she will be able to.

Another man pulls over to the side with his young daughter and dog in the car; he also doesn’t know what to do.

I get off the phone with the 911 operator, tell the man who pulled over I am a vet and I will see what I can do. The deer has stopped, lying panting, in shock, in pain. I call to my son to get the blanket we keep in the car for our dog.

If nothing else I can calm her by covering her eyes, remembering some of my wildlife training for smaller animals. I throw the blanket over her and she calms down, I bend down feeling her heart beating fast, she is so scared. Trying to send her calming thoughts. Hoping that her heart will just stop under my hand.

In my mind, this dear one needs to be put out of her misery, I have no drugs, just acupuncture needles, I say to the man helping me, I don’t do western medicine anymore, I don’t have drugs. I wish I did.

I think maybe we can get her to emergency, we try to lift her, I never realized how much a deer weighs, too much to lift and really am I going to be able to get her in the back seat of my little car. Feeling despair. Thinking is there a way I can kill her quickly with my hands, I have done that for smaller animals that are suffering, I hate doing it, it is brutal but humane and fast. This deer is too big, I can’t break her neck.

The man with me, we are both willing to do anything we can for her but we are mostly helpless. Yet neither of us or my son Martin is willing to leave her.

Here I am a vet, I am more trained in doing this than anyone and I have nothing to offer her but my comfort and that is not much considering how scared she is.

The lights of a police car showing up offer so much relief. They may be able to at least help get her to someone who can end her life quickly. He shakes his head, there is no one who will come out and help her, I can tell he is sad also. He tells me gently that he can shoot her. As sad as he is about this I feel so much relief, I did not know that he would be willing to do this. He can end her life quickly and stop her suffering. It is no small thing to offer to shoot another living being but it is the greatest kindness that he can offer. I tell him, I’m a vet, that is what she needs, I tell him how injured she is. Not the greatest surgeon could put this little one right again. I touch his shoulder and thank him, I’ve never touched a police officer before but it seems right. I know he is doing the right thing and it is out of kindness.

He looks at the man’s daughter looking out the window and my son standing by and tells us the best thing we can do is move on so we don’t have to witness what he has to do. Another great kindness, he offers us all.

We get in the car and leave, thinking about that poor deer, suffering on the side of the road. She will soon be part of the heavens and able to run free again.

It is a hard drive home.

A little after midnight I get a call from the police officer. He lets me know that the deer is gone and that he has found a native tribe will be coming to take her body, use the meat, honor her. He thanks me for all I did for her before he arrived. I don’t feel like I did much, how can you leave an animal to suffer alone? I thank him, he had the hard part. I so appreciate what he did, he didn’t have to do it, but he did. He gives us some closure with the call. I hope that it doesn’t take too big a piece of him to have to kill another animal, because in meeting his eyes I know he did it fully with kindness and respect for her. No one could have done more. He was truly her savior that evening. Sometimes death is the kindest thing we can offer.

Thank you to the very kind officer who came to the rescue, thank you to the man with his daughter and his dog who pulled over also, after seeing an animal who needed help, thank you to the 911 operator who did get someone out to help us, even though it was just for a deer. People in this world do care, none of us is alone.

Alli and her catpuppies – getting dogs and cats to co-exist

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

When we first were fostering Alli, I soon feared that she just was not going to be able to live with cats. Alli had been a street dog in Taiwan and it just made sense, small fuzzy things equaled food, not friends. My husband Adam encouraged me to not give up on her but I was worried our cats were going to get hurt. Any movement from our cats and she would go into prey mode. One time she actually came away with a mouth full of hair, which really scared me. Luckily early on we went to a meet up with other people who had adopted Formosan Mountain dogs from Taiwan and received some great advice.

“Don’t give up! My dog was like that at first also and now the cats and dogs coexist just fine.”
“Talk to her, tell her what you want, these dogs have an amazing ability to understand.”

So began our journey from this –

chasetugchase1chase3chase4

 

To this –

 

chasehappyallcatpuppieschasehappymelodyallichasehappyravenallichasehappyravenalli2

So what did we do?

  1. First and most important – make sure your cats are safe. We made sure Alli was in the bedroom when we were not home or not close by. Crating would also be a good option. We bought a bunch of baby gates and when Alli was out with us she was gated in the living room. The cats could jump in and out but she could not follow them. We always had a leash on her so that we could grab her quickly.
  2. Don’t let the chase happen – every time a cat would jump in the living room with her we would go sit with her and give her positive praise for not chasing. Some treats were used in this process also and given when she would look at a cat moving and then look back at us.
  3. Explain what you want – Formosans are smart. So are many other dogs. Alli had puppies when she came to this country – she took good care of them. We explained to her that the cats were like puppies. You didn’t want them to walk all over you but you had to take good care of them and make sure they did not get hurt. We started calling the cats “catpuppies.” This got us in the mindset of believing that she would be able to take care of the catpuppies and not hurt them. Dogs look to us for their cues and if we believed it she would to.
  4. Make sure she knows that you are in charge of the situation and house. Alli is a smart dog, if I am not in charge, she will be. Everytime Alli would look like she was about to chase a “catpuppy” or even thinking about chasing a “catpuppy” I would stand in front of her and say “Mine, leave it!” in a stern voice.
  5. Don’t give up. It was a lot of work and took about two months but we now have a dog who loves her “catpuppies.” We knew we were there when a friend brought her puppy over to our house. He gave chase after one of our cats and Alli jumped in front of him and backed him down growling, “Mine, leave it!”

Note – there are some cats and dogs that absolutely can not coexist. If you are in doubt get a behaviorist out to help you figure out if there is hope and make sure to not put your cats in danger.

Cosmo – star dog

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

cosmo2Joe always told me how fast Cosmo was. In his younger days he could outrun anyone, faster than the wind. By the time I meet him he had slowed down quite a bit but he still had fire in his eyes. He was tired but not ready to give up.

His prognosis was poor. Because the tumor that was found on his liver had been bleeding it was likely to continue and probably take his life sometime in the next few months. Luckily my favorite western vet, Tim Kraabel, had already sent Joe down to the International District for Yunnan Baiyao and for the time being the bleeding had stopped.

Cosmo settled in for his first acupuncture treatment and relaxed into the needles. That was one of the last times he made my job so easy. He was one of those dogs that acupuncture really energized and as he started to feel better and better I got to see Cosmo’s goofy side. He loved waiting until me and Joe were distracted and then shake, throwing needles around the room. I swear he was laughing as he would do it. Of course it wasn’t in spite, he did like his acupuncture just perhaps felt we were a little too dull for his taste. “Enough of this zen stuff, let’s have some fun!”

I think Cosmo got his attitude about life from Joe. I always knew when Cosmo was on my schedule that I was going to have a good day and get to laugh and smile a bit. Both Joe and Cosmo approached life with love and excitement. Joe often told me that he believed that his buddy was going to do well and would picture him being happy and healthy. I know Joe’s attitude helped Cosmo do better. There is a lot of power in positive thought. I also know that Cosmo held a special place in Joe’s life because of his family being on the other coast.

In the end Cosmo got to take one last cross country road trip back with Joe to their home on the east coast, he saw Joe back home. He stayed around for awhile, made sure that everyone was fine and then at 14 years of age decided it was time for him to move on.

I like to think that Cosmo is up their running through the stars, as fast as light itself.

Joe wrote me this amazing letter and gave me permission to share it – it tells more of Cosmo’s story-

cosmo1We pulled up to your office and Cosmo could not wait to get out of my car. It was as if he actually knew where we were going. Once you opened the door and welcomed us in, Cosmo began wagging his tail, in excitement. It had been a couple of long days before we met where I had doubts that I would ever see him wag his tail again…

We met Dr. Kraabel at the Lien Animal Clinic. The vet knew right away that Cosmo was in severe distress. After several tests were conducted to diagnose what actually was going on with Cosmo, it was determined that Cosmo was bleeding internally from an apparent mass on his liver. (He was diagnosed with Cushings Disease over a year ago back east) Dr. Kraabel stabilized Cosmo and told me to take him home for the night and not make any decisions until morning. Dr. Kraabel did inform me about your practice and a Chinese herb, Yunnan Baiyao (also known as Yunnan Paiyao), that has worked on other dogs in stopping internal bleeding.

After arranging for Cosmo’s “nanny” Michele Liese to come over and watch him, I immediately drove to the International district and picked up a supply of Yunnan Paiyao. While I was gone, Michele, (owner of an outstanding dog walking/dog care service in West Seattle), read all about the herb and felt really confident that it would work. Within an hour of giving Cosmo the first capsule, he was noticeably better. I brought him back to Lien a couple of days later, and they determined that the internal bleeding had, indeed, stopped. I was ecstatic, Cosmo wagged his tail with approval.

By the time I brought him in for his first acupuncture, he had improved so much, he was back to himself. Doc, you welcomed us to your practice, gave Cosmo a treat, and from the time you inserted the first acupuncture needle into my buddy, you began to turn the clock back. Cosmo just lay there content and actually sighed a few times acknowledging his pleasurable treatment. There were of course, other moments where he would attempt to shake as if to dry himself off, as we both covered up from the “projectiles” shooting off his body. And, of course, the acupuncture relaxed him so much that there were moments when he would let them rip, very quietly but strongly, and in close quarters. You took it all in stride and just laughed.

I took Cosmo to you every 2 weeks and after each visit, it was like he was touched by an angel. He grew stronger and acted younger as if the clock was being turned backwards. We continued with the treatments for over nine months, nine months that I never thought I would have with my best friend.

We lived in West Seattle for over 1 year when I decided it was time to go back home to my family. It was a very difficult decision to leave because of the amazing things that you did for Cosmo. We drove back home 3000 miles across this great country with Cosmo as my navigator. He was an amazing companion the whole 4 plus day ride home. I never imagined that I would be going back home with Cosmo after all that he had been through, but I owe it all to you and your amazing skills, compassion and humanity. Doc, you gave my buddy and me another year of wonderful life.

On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2012, Cosmo passed away peacefully. He was free from his tired and broken body. He was nearly 14 years old. My heart is broken and he is sorely missed. I cannot ever put into words how truly grateful I am to you Doc for giving me an extra year with my beloved dog, Cosmo. Cosmo was the most incredible dog a man could have ever been blessed to have in his life. He was truly a noble creature in his prime and full of grace at his death.

A Thank You only touches the surface as to how eternally grateful I am to you.

Ali’s adventure

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

So Ali has been laid up after getting a deep laceration over her wrist. The poor girl had been with bandage and e collar for over a week and boy was she getting tired of it. On Tuesday I finally took her sutures out and she was super excited, bouncing up and down and wanting to go for a walk. Well my husband Adam came home at that exact moment and out the door Ali went…and out the gate, which was not closed all the way.

My newly freed dog was running down the street and when I called her name she would turn and look back but then keep on going, tail and head held high. “Catch me if you can.”

We live a few houses from a fairly busy arterial and she was heading that way. “She wouldn’t cross that,” I thought, but no, I saw Ali look both ways and then bounce across the street.

That’s when I realized, “she’s heading for the Mud Bay.”

I should have been suspicious because earlier on a walk Ali spent some time figuring out that if you step on the walkway in front of the Safeway doors they open. She was doing some research on how you open doors.

And she loves Mud Bay. They have nice people who have very yummy food and Ali loves food. And she often gets to pick out her own treat when we go in. Often if we go for a walk and get to the corner where the Mud Bay is, she will try to drag me down there.

Ali did not actually make it to the Mud Bay that day, someone was able to stop her for me a few steps away. At least now I know if she bolts out the door again, I can just go and collect her at the Mud Bay counter. Of course we will do our best to avoid it all in the future by being more careful with the gate.

Yesterday I walked Ali up to the Mud Bay and she happily picked out a long chew stick and carried it all the way home in her mouth, head and tail held high and everyone we passed smiling at her.

And she is now completely free of bandage and e collar and so much happier.

Adventures of Ali – part two

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Every day we see Ali become more comfortable with us and learning how to be a dog in America.

Yesterday we braved the rain to go to Marymoor for a Formosan Mountain Dog meet up. There were about fifteen dogs of many different colors and coats but all around the same size and shape. We had our big moment when I let Ali off leash for the first time outside our yard. She exceeded my expectations by not only coming back when she was called but also keeping an eye on either Adam or me. It was more like she was watching us to make sure we didn’t run away then that we were watching her. She seemed to be saying, “now that I have people who feed me and love me I am not losing track of them!” It was so much fun to see her running free and getting to play with other dogs.

The people there were great and we got to hear so many stories about these brave, loving and intelligent dogs. They were excited to offer us advice on cats, training and being able to let go of a loved foster. Many of the dogs there had much rougher lives than Ali, being hit by cars, having broken body parts, and having rubber bands put around their necks which slowly dig into the flesh and is a way dogs are sometimes killed in Taiwan. In spite of all this I saw an amazing group of dogs just enjoying themselves.

A few days ago Ali started stealing our socks and putting them in her bed so she could suck on them. She had had no interest in toys up until that point. We decided to take her up to the Mud Bay to buy her some things since we preferred she have her own instead of the socks, even though she was gentle with them. We bought her an earth stuffed toy full of little earths. When we got home she was super excited, shaking the big earth and throwing the little earths into the air and running after them and pouncing on them. It was so fun to see this former street dog having fun!

Her favorite new toys are a little duck and chicken that make bird sounds given to her by my friend and local shaman Rose De Dan. You should have seen Ali’s eyes light up when Rose made the chicken make the chicken sound and then handed it to her. Ali walked around with it in her mout,h so proud, and then lay it at the front door so she would not forget to take it with her when she left. These toys were favorites of Rose’s dog Puma who recently passed away and I think that makes them even more special. Ali now sleeps with the chicken between her paws at night.

Yesterday after the park we met up with Rose and a friend of hers at the PCC. Ali’s hips were a little sore after the park and they gave her some reiki work, which she really enjoyed. Rose’s friend had recently been diagnosed with cancer and Ali seemed to sense that she needed some comfort. She lay down against her in the parking lot of the PCC offering love, energy and support. It seems I have a little healer dog in my hands. I have found when I am upset or if Adam and me get in an argument she is quick to offer her comfort to him or me in a gentle but firm way.

So on to the cats. Despite what I thought Ali has decided that she might be able to live with cats. We had a trainer out yesterday morning who pointed out that she could have easily already killed a cat if she wanted to. As I write she is laying in the middle of our living room with a cat sitting behind her and next to me on the couch grooming himself. One of our other cats just announced herself, jumped over the baby gate and walked in front of Ali. Ali lifted her head to watch but that was all. So the jury is still out on that one but it looked like with enough work it might be possible. It helps that the cats are also learning not to run in front of her.

Meanwhile Ali has decided that she needs to guard the house for us. Unfortunately she sees the paperboy as a threat and since he comes at 4:45am wakes us up. The easiest solution seems to be to cancel the paper and get a good night sleep instead.

I could write so much about this special little girl but I’ll leave it at that. I do want to leave you with a video of the shelter most of these Taiwanese dogs come from. The numbers alone are amazing and the work the volunteers do with these dogs are heartwarming.
Good Life?

Also see What is it like to have a Taiwanese street dog – Adventures with Ali
and Taiwanese dogs – Why we rescue

What is it like to have a Taiwanese street dog? Adventures with Ali

Monday, June 18th, 2012

As many of you know, two weeks ago Ali came to live with us from Taiwan. We are fostering her for a group called Salty Dog Rescue.

So what is it like to have a street dog from Taiwan?

I asked this question before fostering her and couldn’t come up with a whole bunch of answers by Internet searching.

Surprise number one was that Ali came potty trained – I certainly was not expecting that. Not only is she potty trained but she will not poop on our property and prefers not to pee in the yard if she can help it. It means walks are very important but that she is a very clean and neat dog.

However it was difficult last week because she accidentally ate some old cat vomit. Very gross! This gave her diarrhea and since she wouldn’t poop in the yard it meant a night of me not understanding why she keep needing to go outside but would then kept run to the gate and jump up and down to get out of the yard. I was convinced that she hated us because we were not keeping her permanently and she had figured that out and was trying to run away in the night. Instead she was desperately trying to say, “please, please let me out, I really, really need to poop!”

The night after that she was better luckily but it still involved one walk at 3am. Not to mention trying to scrape diarrhea off of your neighbor’s lawns because your dog will not poop on yours.

The other thing that I really didn’t consider is how smart Ali is, and not in a Border collie or lab kind of way. We don’t have natural selection in our dogs in the United States. We pick and bred mostly for looks or for very specific intelligence traits. Ali is here because her parents knew how to make it on the streets. They knew how to blend in, get food, read people very, very well and get along.

I feel like Ali constantly watches us and learns from us. She also is the only dog I have met who doesn’t get tangled on a leash. The second the leash is in the wrong place she corrects it. When I walk her I feel more like I am working with a trained dressage horse. It seems like she can read my mind on where we are going and what my next thought is just by observing my body language.

Yesterday we were at the Fremont street fair with Ali and it was very crowded. She did very well, greeting people and other dogs in our path nicely until we hit the food and then she because completely crazed. There were all these people with plates of yummy smelling food and she wanted some, even more, she needed some. It was if her survival depended on it and it probably did at some time in her life. Before I knew it I had a dog dancing on the end of the leash. She would bound into the air, balancing on her hind legs and looking very cute in front of everyone we passed with the plate of food. Not the easiest thing to deal with when you are the person on the other end of the leash. I felt like I had a circus dog!

I’m sure she learned to stand on her hind legs to look cute and get food and that is how she survived on the streets.

We finally took her aside and feed her a whole lot of jerky treats we had picked up from the Darwin’s pet food booth. After that she calmed down a bit but still wanted to dance in front of people. I’m thinking there may be a good trick in this once we get all the basics down. Right now we are still back at sit and stay.

The cats are a bit harder. I think she has learned that if something small runs you chase it. One of my older cats quickly put her in her place by whacking her on the nose early on. That one whack sent her yelping to the far end of the room and since then the two of them are fine together. The two younger boys are a different story. We are slowly all learning to coexist and she does fine with them if she is on leash or if someone is petting her. We are trying to teach that very good things happen (you get lots of love) if you are in the room with cats and don’t chase them. I am hopeful that she will get this with more time and we have a trainer coming out on Saturday to help us with the process.

I keep on thinking she is going to finally get this cat thing down right before she gets adopted. But that will be good for her because it means she can go to a home with cats. However I picture my cats saying, “so we finally become friends with the dog and right when she is fun you get rid of her. What gives here?”

The third thing I didn’t realize is how hard it is going to be to give his girl up. She has now bonded with me, Adam and Martin. She sleeps with us at night. She is with me almost all the time when I am not working. And she is so sweet and loving and is starting to feel like a member of the family. I look into her eyes and worry about her feeling like we have betrayed her when she goes to a new family. At the same time I know we are giving her an excellent start in this country and in her new life. I know that with time she will get used to a new family and learn to love them as much as she loves us. And if they can provide plates of yummy food even better!

Taiwanese dogs, why we rescue

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

A week ago I went to the airport to help out a local group called Salty Dog Rescue and came home with a foster dog.

And so begins my journey with Ali, my Taiwanese street dog.

As we wander around Seattle meeting people, I get the same question over and over again.

We have enough dogs in this country – why are we bringing in more?

I know, I know but anyone who has been to a country with a large stray dog population knows the misery of what being a dog can be. It makes a lot of what we see over here in shelters look like nothing.

In Taiwan there is estimated to be between 500,000 – 1,000,000 stray dogs on the streets, yes that is a million. Dogs are viewed as a nuisance by some and there are those that put out inhumane bear leg traps. Dogs end up losing parts of their legs in the process and many die horrible deaths from abuse or starvation. There are of course many dog lovers there also but the number of strays is too overwhelming to be solved by simple adoption – there is too many.

Yes I know, adopting out these dogs is just a branch of the problem.

The root of the problem is spay/neuter and education and there are groups over there working on it. Meanwhile there are all these dogs and as many dog lovers knows – it is hard to look a dog in the eye and tell them they don’t matter.

Sometimes you have to focus on the branches in order to tackle the root of a problem. When we focus on the branches instead of the root by bringing dogs to this country, we are also helping the groups over there that are striking at the roots of the problem through spay and neuter and education. It is a long hard road they are on and being able to look some of these dogs in the eyes and tell them that there is hope and that they can be loved and respected, is a big thing to these rescue workers when you see so much suffering on a daily basis.

Believe me, when I did shelter work, if I had to go to work each day just to spay/neuter and euthanize I would not have been able to do it very long. It was the fact that I was able to help individual animals, be able to look in their eyes and say, “we will find you a better home.” Without this I could not have done the hard parts of my job.

So bringing dogs to this country opens a ray of hope beyond what can be achieved by just adoption within Taiwan. And if you are one of those lucky dogs who does make it over here you have a chance to have a home, have a human who loves you, have food and safety and also become an ambassador for all the dogs back in Taiwan who are not so lucky.

More on Ali soon….meanwhile here are some links to read more about Taiwanese dogs

Animal Rescue Team Taiwan is the group that Ali came from over in Taiwan. You can use Google translator if you want to read it in English.

Here is a little about the Formosan Mountain Dogs
which these street dogs are descended from.

Salty Dog Rescue is the Seattle group, which brought Ali over here. They have a list of dogs up for adoption and who need foster homes. They also have links to articles on the animal abuse in Taiwan.

All the photographs of dogs in this article are looking for homes, click on their photos for more information.