Think my doggies are my surrogate kids? Think again. Great as humans are, dogs let me experience me a different level of joy, love, care, and wisdom.
How I wish I’d begun to become a student of dogs way earlier. Growing up, I learned to be too nice, too accommodating, and accepting of bad treatment. If only I’d had dogs as a child!
Since caring for them, I’ve learned how what’s good for them is good for myself, too. Daily, training them teaches me about happiness and healthy relationships. One overarching lesson is that we teach others how to treat us.
My dogs patiently show me about boundaries…
What boundaries I need and want. It’s okay to need and want them.
What makes a harmony family.
What dogs are capable of and what’s reasonable to expect from them, in terms of trusting them to learn, remember, and do.
That boundaries are best communicated clearly and nonjudgmentally. If they go unheeded, I can try other ways.
Patience and consistency are essential.
Keeping them physically and emotionally healthy benefits both of us…
Walking my dogs daily means I walk too. It’s a time to bond. For dog and human alike, walking and playing heals mind, body, and soul.
Together, we meet our neighbors.
It’s easy to think I’m too busy for play and walks. They’ve taught me I shouldn’t overextend myself.
They’re always happy to see me! When I’m not thrilled to come home to loved ones and myself, I need to work harder to nurture social and personal havens.
Angels exist, and they’re not just dogs. For all the times I worried that I wouldn’t have the resources to keep pets, people have stepped forward. Striving for independence is great, yet my dogs remind me that everyone and everything in the world are interdependent.
Cesar Milan, a.k.a., The Dog Whisperer, often talks about the importance of choosing pets who match our energy levels. Appreciating compatibility affords me insights into myself and others.
Trust requires time. Every day is another chance at building and rebuilding trust.
Few things can match how, when I leave my home for only a short while, my dogs’ eyes shine with pure joy when I return. We don’t have to be dogs to show appreciation.
Have your pets made you a better human?
Share + Like + Rate + Comment + Follow + Email me at ContactdaAL@gmail.com
#Animals #Writing #Authors
Poet/blogger/speculative and horror fiction author Willow Croft tells how her writing and love of animals merge.
How do animals figure into your love of reading and/or writing? Record your thoughts on my podcast page on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy Me a Coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT
Visit this show’s original blog post for links and photos of Willow Croft’s book and cat.
Time Stamps (where segments begin):
Happiness Between Tails introduction
da-AL discusses today’s guest 2:00
Willow Croft on writing and animals 2:20
A question for you 14:00
Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/depe9/message
Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/depe9/support
Today’s post begins with hefty justice — a letter to you from Patricia Hyde, my friend whose daughter, Rebekah, is determined to do justice for her country by serving in the Marines. Rebekah needs our encouragement while she mends from injuries sustained during military training so she can jump back in where she left off. The week before she began training, she got married. With luck, she’ll finish and see her husband next February, a year later.
Of all the military branches, Marine boot camp is the longest and probably most rugged. While healing, Rebekah still works, doing less taxing activities. Recruits are restricted from the outside world. They are obliged only snail-mail and one phone call a week. That’s it.
Should you find it in your heart to write to her, I doubt you’ll find anyone as grateful to receive your postcard or letter.
After Patricia’s letter here to us, continue on for speculative fiction/horror author Willow Croft’s guest post regarding how she came to be published and her love of animals…
Patricia’s Letter to Us About her Daughter’s Service as a Marine Recruit
Note: info within parenthesis added by da-AL
This story is about my daughter, Rebekah Hyde, age 22. She tried out for the US Marine Band after she finished high school. Alas, she wasn’t selected, so she applied again after graduating from California State University Long Beach. After four years of college, paid for by working at Jersey Mike’s (a sandwich chain) and as a piano teacher, she was accepted into the USMC band. However, she must first get through boot camp.
Her adventure began February 8, 2021. After a two-week quarantine, she was shipped with other recruits to Parris Island, South Carolina.
Two months later, I received a fateful call. My daughter was seriously injured while carrying her 65-pound backpack. She suffered a stress fracture of her pelvis, both sides of her groin were pulled, and one of her fingers was broken. Nothing, though, can make her quit her dream.
Presently assigned to a medical platoon, she is coming along, healing and feeling less and less pain. In a few weeks, Rebekah will be placed in an active platoon to finish boot camp where she left off.
Rebekah is my only child. Strong and courageous, she will not give up her dream of joining the “President’s Own” and traveling with the US President.
When Rebekah was eight, she begin her music career playing the piano. In the sixth grade, she picked up the flute and immediately fell in love with it. She participated in marching band all four years of high school and also traveled with independent bands like “Impulse,” competing and showcasing her skills with the flute, cymbals, and synthesizer keyboard. Throughout it all, I was by her side as a “Booster Mom.”
I’d appreciate your letters and postcards to Rebekah, to encourage and motivate her through “The Crucible.” Prayers are also welcome.
Please write to Rebekah at: (Note from da-AL — address deleted here from the original post, since Rebekah completed boot camp safe and sound, and is now a full-fledged Marine!)
I acquired a degree in writing and literature from Goddard College (Vermont) back in 1998-2001 but I didn’t actually start writing in hopes of getting published until about the mid- to late 2010s. When I was growing up, creativity was only something you did on the side (if ever!) once you found a job and were a fully functioning and conformist member of society. Only then was it okay to express your creativity, and only if it never took the place of “real” work. And it was because of my 30-plus quest for “real” work that I not only acquired significant physical limitations, I was in a place of mental and emotional desperation. I was living in increasingly conservative, intolerant Florida, I couldn’t find any sort of work, I had been threatened by one of a group of those rabidly conservative types my home state was notorious for, and I had just gotten my master’s degree in a (futile) hope of expanding my hire-ability, with no luck. Although I had started my own freelance business, I was still having problems earning enough income to be independent, and I was just living under so much fear and sadness and stress that I allowed myself to turn to writing, because I just didn’t know what else to do any more. I mean, it was to the point where I was like “I’m almost middle-aged, and I’m still living way below poverty level, I have nothing to show for my efforts to conform to the system just to ‘get a job’ and I have very limited options, so why not write just to keep yourself sane?” And, amazingly, I started to get published in magazines and in anthologies. Granted, there was an immense amount of hard work and dedication involved, but I was actually seeing a return on that, as opposed to anything else I had attempted to achieve over the span of my lifetime. I could spin out so many cliched terms about what getting published meant (and continues to mean), but they are all sincere: a lifeline, a light in the darkness, a refuge, a sanctuary… the list goes on.
So, that’s my main issue with standardized education (and standardized employment, for you grownups out there!). Why force kids to live up to a standard and regimen that many adults (including me!) would have difficulty managing? (I mean, come on, schools; by the time pencils are sharpened, supplies and materials organized, fidgets and energy calmed, and brains drifting into the task ahead, then —BAM! — it’s time to go to the next period or switch to the next educational subject area and OMG I’M THE TEACHER and I’ve just gotten into the zone and HOLY COW it’s already time for the SWITCH?!??!?! And all I can hope for at that point is that I’ve at least provided the kids some levity in their otherwise dull, rote-learning educational experience by watching their substitute teacher’s brain implode.)
I mean, come on, what’s wrong with making education dynamic and fun and intuitive and stress/pressure-free and exploration-based? When did we stop making space for kids to be kids (and not mini-adults) in schools?
So, even though I’m not currently teaching, I still daydream about this amazingly interactive, pod-based learning environment for the school system that allows children to immerse themselves for a week or two in diverse and wide-ranging areas of interest of their choice, while teachers and guest teachers can weave in essentials, like reading, math, etc., as seamless parts of each pod. And utilize them to build up skill zones like critical thinking, creative nurturing, curiosity-fueled engagement, and more.
And, in the end, the school system could actually not only prepare kids for the changing world (of which, I firmly believe, the standardized school system is outdated, inefficient, and impractical, and well in need of not just an update, but a complete overhaul.)
And, in the best part of all, give kids a chance to explore all aspects of their potential, while they have a safe, judgement-free, supportive environment to do so, instead of having to play self-discovery catch-up as best you can at an older age. I mean, I look back now, and I know that tendencies of mine that had been criticized and considered a detriment, would have been an asset in the careers I had wanted to explore.
But I’ve tried to make up for lost time. As you can see from my “Tips” list, below, I’ve had the opportunity as an adult to explore things, and causes — namely animals, and the environment — that interest me. I may never be able to be the marine biologist or live the purely artistic lifestyle I dreamed of as a child, but at least I can reconnect with my innate interests and passions as best I can, with the time I have left. Why can’t kids have that, with all the time they have ahead of them? I don’t think it’s fair, to strip them of their potential, while we, as adults, want to make them fit into confining little boxes just because we had to/have to.
Anyway, I’ll get off my soap box, and into the tips I learned from my explorations as an adult (where nobody could deter me from getting involved in causes like this!).
About My Love of Animals
Anyone who knows my blog knows I love animals. And if you don’t… well, guess what? I am very passionate about animals and animal welfare. And I don’t just blog about animal welfare causes, like in my fixed post, “The Real-Life Horror of Pet Overpopulation.” I have been very involved in animal rescue causes… everything from cleaning out kennels to assisting on a cat hoarding investigation (and the cats’ subsequent relocation) to wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. I’ve even attended greyhound racing protests. I often have a wonderful rapport with my animal friends, especially cats, chipmunks, and…skunks!
So, even when I’m writing horror, I often include animals in my short stories and other written material. I especially like to include shelter animals and also try to give animals the agency and empowerment they often lack in the real world.
Here are a few examples (links) to stories (in anthologies) that include animals:
So, for this guest blog post, I’d thought I’d share some tips learned from my years in animal rescue and wildlife rescue/rehab.
Can be a hard thing to resist. Even I, a former, longtime, wildlife rehabber who absolutely knows better, sometimes feel the compulsion to feed my wild animal friends (which I don’t give into). But it can do more harm than good. Like with dogs, people food is not good for animals. So, the next time you’re tempted to feed ducks, turtles (or, heaven forbid, raccoons!), or any other kind of wild animal, please try not to give in to the urge. It may seem like a small act, but it can be a matter of life or death for the wild creature.
It should go without saying, right? If you find an injured wildlife, immediately contact your local wildlife center or wildlife rescue group for advice, and the most current information regarding the proper rescue of the animal. Be hesitant about handling injured wildlife, as to avoid injury to yourself from a scared or stressed animal. Also, wildlife rescue organizations always need volunteers, and that can be the best way to learn how to safely handle wildlife, and perhaps even assist on wildlife rescues and releases out in the field.
Instead of an environmentally detrimental turf lawn, consider a landscape design that provides food, shelter, and a more natural ecosystem for animals, birds, insects/bugs, and other critters. If you put out water for wildlife and/or birds, make sure it’s flowing and not stagnant. Standing water cannot only play host to harmful bacteria that can sicken wildlife, it can also be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Consult with the Parks Department or the Extension Service in your area for more expert advice on supporting the local wildlife in your region. Bat houses, birdhouses, and bee houses can be fun additions to your wildlife-friendly zone!
On Adopting Pets
Again, do I even need to say it? Okay, if you insist. “Adopt, Don’t Shop.” Spay/neuter your pets to prevent shelter overcrowding and pet overpopulation. Don’t buy breed or purchase any animals from puppy and cat mills. I worked for a number of years (and plan to, again, when I get settled) in animal rescue and in animal shelters, both as a volunteer and as a paid employee. I even worked on a hoarding case, once. It’s fulfilling work, but also heartbreaking. Heartbreaking for so many different reasons. Mainly, there are too many animals and not enough homes. So, here’s some basics for navigating the pet adoption realm.
Give older cats and dogs a chance. For some reason, people seem to think any animal that’s not a kitten or a puppy as “old”. To put this in perspective, my own two cats (both adopted from a shelter) lived to be twenty and twenty-one, respectively. Cats over five years old are a lot more mellow and are often a better companion for families with kids, especially smaller kids. Teach kids (and, yes, even other adults) to be respectful of the cat’s boundaries, and provide spaces for the cat to get away from visitors, household residents, and the like. Adding vertical spaces to your home (cat towers, cat-friendly shelving, etc) can help the cat adjust and minimize stress and behavior issues. I’m not as much as an expert on dogs as I am on cats, but investing in proper training can be a life saver. Literally, in the case of the dog.
Keep cats indoors. I admit, I grew up in a household that let cats be indoor/outdoor, and I made the mistake of allowing my first cat be indoor/outdoor, and he developed so many behavior problems as a result. Everybody’s divided on this issue, but I am adamantly, fiercely entrenched on the side of keeping cats strictly indoors. It makes it easy to relocate, plus it saves on having to take the cat to the vet every other week for some abscessed wound after it tangled with a raccoon. Not to mention it’s so much less stress when you’re not worried every time the cat disappears that it’s been run over, or poisoned either accidentally, or on purpose by an angry neighbor because cats consistently ignore property lines. Plus, indoors, they’re not wreaking havoc on an already embattled ecosystem. Cats are opportunistic hunters and have a detrimental impact on local birds and wildlife. Now, here’s the worst parts to letting cats run free, and leaving dogs unattended in the yard: they are vulnerable to theft. And by theft, I don’t mean by people like me who might see a loose animal and think it’s a stray (Joking! Well, sort of.). I mean people who cruise neighbourhoods and steal pets in order to use them for bait animals in dog fighting or to sell them to laboratories for animal testing. Urban myth, right? Nope. Every few months, there would be a flood of lost pet posters in my (former) neighbourhood in Florida. I learned what was most likely happening to the animals from an animal rescue worker who’d been volunteering for about twenty years.
“Cute” pets like rabbits do not make good pets for kids. Which is a shame, because rescued rabbits need homes too, as they are often acquired as gifts and then discarded like so many other pet animals once the novelty wears off. I always make the joke “Unless your kid is 4-H experienced…” because rabbits require so much finicky care and handling. If rabbits are held the wrong way, they can kick and break their backs. They need so much specialized care, and unless the parent or guardian is prepared to take on that care, I wouldn’t recommend it. And, hopefully this goes without saying… get the rabbit spayed/neutered! Because rabbits really do breed like, well, rabbits! Or save yourself a lot of headache and stress, and turn the kid onto herpetology (from a licensed breeder that only sells captive bred reptiles, etc.).
Still have questions? Need advice on the weird and wacky things cats do? I’m always willing to talk animals. Visit me on my blog.
Do you know someone who could use a snail-mail letter or postcard? And have you rescued any animals?
Share + Like + Rate + Comment + Follow + Email me at ContactdaAL@gmail.com
“Cat Communicating Medical Ailment in a Dream,” by Pamela Cummins
Everyone knows that I am a Crazy Cat Lady with two spoiled cats, Merlin and Rhiannon. One morning I was wondering why one of my furry alarm cats didn’t show up. Then I discovered Merlin sitting on the couch. To my surprise, he growled at me when I attempted to pet him.
He was cranky the whole day. I knew that something was wrong with him; however, to my relief – he did eat a little food and used his litter box. I can communicate with my two cats (and other animals) with body language, feelings, and/or flashing pictures in each other’s minds. Alas, I was too emotional to receive any information on what the problem was.
That night I told Merlin, “If you’re not better tomorrow, you’re going to the vettie-poo.” He gave me a dirty look. Just so you know – Merlin is a vet’s worse nightmare! Which makes me dread his yearly check-up when he’s healthy. How would Merlin behave when he wasn’t feeling well?
Here’s the dream I had right before I awoke the next morning: Merlin jumped up and laid down by me. Then he showed me his spinal cord in an x-ray vision, at the bottom of his spine (by his hips) it was red and swollen.
Upon awakening, I immediately knew that Merlin’s hips were out of alignment! Merlin was lying next to me on the bed, so I asked Merlin, “Does your hippy, hip hurt?” His response was rubbing the side of his face against my hand and licking my fingers. You may be laughing at the way I speak to Merlin, yet he understands a large vocabulary of words! Can you imagine if I didn’t pay attention to my dream and shoved him in his cat carrier for a vet trip? That would have hurt his hips even more! In a few days, Merlin was back to his usual self. Another bonus from my dream was I saved money on a vet visit, hurray!
“Stay safe.” How many times a day do you hear that? During this COVID19 era, whether the conversation is for business or pleasure, the majority of mine end with someone telling me, “Stay safe.” Then I ask them to do the same.
Here in Los Angeles, weeks have turn into months. No complaints from me, proud of the liberal blueness of my state as I am. Assuming folks remind me to ‘stay safe’ at home with super-clean hands, for my part, I mean something different. Stay safe, dear reader — stay safely happy as well as healthy.
Now that we’re on the subject, how are you managing that? Me, I do my usual keeping busy. Let me preface that with: it’s easy for me. I am most definitely lucky, lucky, lucky. I’ve got food, shelter, and all my people are sound inside and out. That includes my four-legged furry little girl. And I live in an area where Spring has sprung amid a fabulously mild climate.
Recently I heard that sheltering has affected dogs (surely the menagerie of other beloved pets too) — in a good way! It turns out that at least one doggie needed vet-prescribed relaxation to recover from wagging their tail so much. Ah, the sheer bliss of having one’s person(s) home ‘round the clock, ‘round the week!
My heart goes out to everyone who struggles as a result of the pandemic. Thank you, all who are working away from home. You are my heroes.
But I feel guilty. You too? Because for as terrible as the situation is…
These are some of the gifts that I will miss when sheltering is over…
I live within walking distance from a commuter airport, and my home has single-paned windows. Fewer flights mean I’ve been sleeping better and now I hear more birds in the daytime.
Though I didn’t eat out much even before the sheltering, stocking up for two weeks at a time takes rethinking errands and cooking. That’s not so bad — I’m finding that shopping far less often leaves me more time to write, to walk, to do all kinds of things.
Nature too is getting a ‘reboot.’ Fewer drivers result in cleaner air, more birds singing this spring-time, and less road-kill. It’s nice to look up to a night sky of more twinkling stars, fewer airplanes.
It’s lovely to see neighbors I never knew. They ride their bikes past my window, their kids following like ducklings.
More pets are out with their owners. On my strolls, dog in tow or not, it’s a relief to not worry about rush-hour traffic mowing us down.
People are adopting more pets!
My expenses are down. Since this started, I haven’t needed to put gas in my car.
I have less laundry and buy fewer clothes I haven’t gotten my hair styled, and I definitely use fewer cosmetics.
My rare drives are a breeze in the reduced traffic.
Definitely, it would be great to see my friends and family in person soon. On the other hand, with all this extra time, we’re keeping in closer contact thanks to Zoom and FaceTiming. Moreover, visual visits require us to really pay attention to each other.
When I had my annual physical, speaking with my doctor didn’t cost me a co-pay, as it was a phone visit.
Without the commute to parties and my beloved yoga studio, I’m keeping fitter with fewer days of over-indulgence and the daily zoom workouts.
My husband is whiling away his extra time by assuming much of the grocery shopping and cooking duties.
For all anyone knows, I’ve got a mustache and mask-tan lines on face — but I won’t tell!
Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way. When I asked my Facebook friends, they had plenty they appreciated. I forgot to ask permission to name them, so I’ll paraphrase. Some are exercising to videos and glad for more time to cook, garden, create art, and to watch old and new favorite TV shows. Personally, I’m totally on the same page as the friend who’s binging on “Monk” shows. Even my local newspaper, The Long Beach Post News’ columnist Tim Grobaty, reports some good fallout from all the pollution slow-down.
Horses are wonderful!!! Not that I really know much about them, aside from how beautiful they are, the little I’ve learned from TV — and thanks to fellow bloggers. (Certified self-avowed Horse Addict Anne Leueen is one such blogger.) As far as I’m concerned, Mary Lynne Carpenter (creator of The Backyard Horse Blog: Living The Dream and The Reality of Keeping Horses at Home) has won the lottery — she has backyard horses! The very idea sets my mind reeling at how fun that must be. Surely my doggie would love having a companion and accompanying her people outdoors far more than she gets to these days. Not that I’d be picky, but if I had one, perhaps it would be nice if it were not too big… and if it was black… with a little white!… to go with my existing four-legged sweet family.
Whoa Bessie — again, sure I know nothing about horse husbandry. And yes, I’ve left out that we live in the big city in a) a small house with b) a backyard the size of — what? — more insignificant than an Olympic-sized swimming pool? No worries — I’m living my vicarious whimsy through Mary Lynne. Home for her is somewhere in the United States, among equestrian pals. She writes about their dreamy as well as sometimes challenging times together for various horse publications and sites, plus her own new blog. Here she shares a sliver of the bitter-sweet heaven-on-earth backyard part of backyard horse ownership…
I first saw the nest out of the corner of my eye. It fell to the ground as I rode my lawnmower past a tree branch. The nest’s appearance stopped me cold on that warm Spring day. The nest’s maker selected chestnut-colored horse’s hair as its main ingredient. I keep my horses at home, so it is not unusual for me to find these horse-hair nests. The birds take discarded strands of mane and tail that they find lying in the pasture or snubbed up on a fence post where a horse scratched an itch. I marveled at how resourceful and industrious the birds are. I never built anything in my life except for building a mess.
At the time I found the nest, I didn’t have any chestnut-colored horses. I puzzled over the situation. Then it hit me. My horse, Pumpkin Spice, was chestnut-colored. Spice was euthanized the year before due to an illness. That means that Spice’s hair had been collected from my pasture while he still lived in it. Unbeknown to me, the nest clung to the tree branches for almost a year after Spice’s death.
Happening upon the nest was like running unexpectedly into a friend from the past. A reunion tinged with sadness for all that was lost. Yet a welcomed and treasured event nonetheless. Spice was such as kind horse, so relaxing to be around. I enjoyed his company very much. While I still miss him terribly, I see that parts of him live on not only in my heart. In a practical way, his hair helped house the new life of another even after his own death. How fitting that the nest, in the shape of a circle, also symbolizes the circle of life.
What sort of horse might you keep in your backyard?…
Share + Like + Rate + Comment + Follow + Email me at ContactdaAL@gmail.com