Three ways to love your pet … and our world

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Sometimes it feels like the problems faced by the animals of this world, and the environment we all live in, are so huge and so far gone that there is nothing we ordinary individuals can do.

Admittedly, as an empath I may be more prone to this occasional overwhelm, but I know I’m not alone. You may have just seen a news report or social media post about a disaster, environmental policy reversal, cruelty case, or fearful prediction that made your heart sink, too.

Consider this, though: If you have adopted an animal, you’ve already exercised the power to save lives and alleviate suffering. Like the young man throwing one beached starfish after another back into the ocean after a storm, we each save the world by doing what we have the power to do.

The practice of Reiki helps me do that by first getting out of the muck of fear and into a place of peace and balance. Only then can I hear God’s still, small voice. Then I can discern and do something useful, whether it’s a Reiki session with a rescued horse or a small change in the way I care for my own animals.

In the interest of ditching the defeatist crap in favor of practical solutions that add up, here are a few ideas. (I receive no compensation from any business mentioned; these recommendations come free and clear.)

1. Be wise about waste

Speaking of crap, pick up after your dog. Yes, you. Yes, really. Earth Rated makes biodegradable poop bags you can easily take on walks. They come in all sizes, some lavender scented. You can even get them in a little dispenser that clips to the leash. It preserves neighborly goodwill, saves shoes, and helps keep contaminants out of our water.

For cats, I recommend disposable, biodegradable Nature’s Miracle litter boxes. (Avoid the cheap imitations if you don’t want a peepocalypse.) You can use the biodegradable bags for the daily scoop, put the whole box in a biodegradable kitchen bag after four to six weeks, and put it in the trash. It uses less litter, avoids plastic litter boxes and liners, and you don’t have to scrub or disinfect.

There are many litter choices on the market beyond the clay or clumping varieties. Recycled newspaper, pine shavings, sawdust, and wheat are some of the options branded as earth-friendly, but I found no independent reviews or studies on this. Since both veterinarians and cats have preferences regarding cat litter, ask your vet before you switch. Then gradually mix in the old with the new. Be prepared to switch back if the new is not to Her/His Majesty’s liking. Litter box boycotts are not environmentally friendly.

By the way, I’ve found Bac-Out to be a good, nontoxic choice for removing pet stains and odors.

2. Play well, play fair

As the lottery commercials say, please play responsibly. A pet toy may not seem to have much impact on the environment, but ethical sourcing and sustainable materials make a difference. Durability makes a difference too; it’s frustrating to find the perfect toy, only to have your little darling destroy it in an hour.

Cheap plastic impulse buys happen to the best of us. However, shops such as Green Doggoods here in Fort Wayne, Indiana sell quality, eco-friendly pet toys. (Green Dog also carries the aforementioned poop bags.) Without much extra effort, you can make more eco-friendly choices, support a local business, and give your beloved animal the best.

Also remember that for cats, nothing beats a cardboard box or a randomly tossed paper wad. Both are recyclable.

3. “Put away the chocolate” notes and other memory tricks

Chocolate is a delight to us, but toxic to our four-legged friends. So any chocolate you receive for Valentine’s Day or any other occasion needs to be kept out of their reach.

It’s easy to forget to do this. When our attention is in several places at once, it’s easy to leave a box of chocolates out. Or not notice that somebody has slipped out the door, a gate was left open, or a water bowl is empty.

Again, small efforts can yield big returns. We can get in the habit of entering and exiting carefully and making sure the gate latches. We can put a “Return to cupboard” note on or inside the the chocolate box. (The little cheat sheet that tells us which truffle is which would be a good place.) We can put reminders to check the water bowl on our phones.

Being more aware of what we’re doing is better for our and our animals’ overall well-being. And in one of those “we are all connected” philosophies we might find tiresome but true, that can’t help but make for a better world.

 

 

‘Said the night wind to the little lamb …’

As a city child connecting with nature, animals, and the bigger picture of Christmas, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” became a favorite. The story behind the song, which I learned only recently, deepens its meaning for me.

But first, the story in the song: The night wind speaks to a little lamb of a brilliant star. The lamb tells a shepherd boy of music high above the trees. The shepherd boy tells a king about a child shivering in the cold of a humble stable and worthy of riches. The king tells the people this child is the bearer of goodness and light … and exhorts all to pray for peace.

Each being tells another about what they see, hear, and know. They’re all experiencing a different aspect of what is happening. None of them are wrong.

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” was written during the Cuban Missile Crisis by an American husband-and-wife team. According to this Franciscan Media account, French-born lyricist Noel Regney endured horrible trauma during World War II after being drafted to fight for the Nazis. The threat of catastrophic war in 1962 brought it all back as he faced the task of writing a Christmas song for a record producer.

Then Regney saw two babies in strollers smile at each other on a New York street. Their innocence reminded him of lambs … and there was the beginning of the song. At home, he wrote down the lyrics and asked his then-wife, pianist and composer Gloria Shayne, to write the music. Neither could get through the song without crying, Shayne recalled later.

That was the light they found and shared during during a dark time. We can share our light, too — through a smile, a prayer, a gentle pet, an ear scratch, a bag of food to an animal shelter or rescue. It doesn’t matter how small, stupid, or pointless we might think it is. That bag of food might help a lonely veteran keep his dog. Your smile at the woman at the grocery store may be the only kindness she experiences that day. That prayer may turn on a light for you.

“Pray for peace, people everywhere,” indeed.

Bing Crosby’s 1963 rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is probably the best known. I grew up with the Andy Williams version from the 1966 Great Songs of Christmas album. For this tribute to the animals I’ve worked with this year in my animal communication and animal Reiki practice — and their wonderful people — I chose Mannheim Steamroller’s instrumental version.

Just like the little lamb, the animals of our time tell brilliant stories of hope. I’ve heard a cat’s deep love for her person as she is ready to cross, a draft horse’s amazement at being able to choose, a deaf and blind duck giving life a chance, and more. For each one, I am grateful.

(Photo by Allison Wheaton)

The naming of horses

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I caught Dolly in the middle of lunch with hay on her face, but her star quality shines through.

There are many rules for naming racehorses, but none for your average equine citizen. From what I’ve observed, horses often get new names when they get new people, new homes, new jobs, a second chance, or any combination of these. Some retired racehorses, like my friends Beau and Pirate, go by shorter versions of their racing names.

This isn’t unique to horses. Look at the way we humans take on and drop nicknames, take spouses’ names, reclaim family names, hyphenate, and depending on who’s talking, go by names like Mom.

One horse I know chose a name his new person wouldn’t have picked in a million years. Another came by hers through blonde star synchronicity. Yet another, when given the choice, kept the name she had.

Duke

I felt the sadness of the 17-year-old shire as soon as Allison Wheaton, director of Summit Equestrian Center, sent me his photo. After years as an Amish farm horse, and apparently not the best of situations, he was to become Summit’s newest resident late last year.

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This is Duke a few months after his arrival at Summit Equestrian Center. He still wasn’t out with the herd, but he’d decided he liked Reiki.

Allison asked me to communicate with him before he arrived and find out what he needed in the transition, and what he might like to do. And would he like a new name, or would he prefer to keep the one he had (Angmar)?

The notion that he had a choice about anything was a strange concept to this heavy-hearted soul. Yet when I asked him what he wanted to be called, I heard: “Just call me Duke.”

I passed that along. Since most school/sports rivalries are not on my radar, it didn’t occur to me that Allison, a University of North Carolina grad, might wince at the name of her alma mater’s chief rival. As I learned later, she had vowed never to name a dog, horse, or anything else Duke. But Duke it was.

As fall deepened into winter, Duke acclimated and found his footing as a therapy horse. He found he appreciated being listened to and liked Reiki, especially once he realized it was his choice. Getting him to the point where he could join the rest of the horses in the pasture took months, many introductions, and a few scuffles.

Then one day this spring, Duke caught my eye from across the pasture. He was standing up straight, ears forward, with the rest of the crew.

“Do you see where I am? Do. You. See. Where. I. Am?” I heard.

Yes, Duke … I see you.

Dolly

Malibu, a Tennessee Walker-Belgian cross, had a few different homes by the time she joined the Summit herd. No one seemed to have time for her, and now she had no idea where she belonged.

Three or four days later, “Hello, Dolly!” — from the musical of the same name — got stuck in my head. I listened to the album over and over as a child and saw Carol Channing in what many consider her signature role as Dolly. But I hadn’t heard it recently or thought of it much.

The day after that, I received a text from Allison that the newcomer had settled in a bit, but Malibu didn’t seem like the right name. “Dolly? There’s got to be a sassy blonde star name that fits better,” she said.

I told her about the musical and sent a video link to the song. It includes the lyric “Tomorrow will be brighter than the good old days.”

Allison was thinking of Dolly Parton and I was thinking of the fictional Dolly Levi — but both seemed to fit. So Dolly it was, and she’s already shed stardust on a couple of participants in Summit’s veterans program.

Lulu

Some horses keep their names. Lulu, a beautiful paint mare, was rescued from a horrible neglect situation. As Lulu began a new chapter at Summit, Allison asked me to see if she wanted a new name as well … like Cheyenne?

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Lulu has been learning to trust again.

When I asked Lulu, she told me she knew who she was and it didn’t matter what the humans called her. Cheyenne was fine, but she was also fine with sticking with Lulu, so that’s what we did.

Recovery is all about ups and downs, and less than two years later, Lulu’s is no exception. She has a good buddy in Pirate, one of the aforementioned retired racehorses, and she’s helped some of Summit’s human clients heal their own wounds. Every time I check in with her, even if she is struggling with the effects of her past, I see her choose to give her new life — still as Lulu — a chance.

You tell me …

How did your horse friends get their names … or new names?