I’m a little behind the curve when it comes to my book reading list. I didn’t read Gone Girl when everyone else did (I watched the movie instead). I missed the whole Divergent series when it originally came out. And, all the dog books everyone else has been raving about for months have been sitting on my night stand for months.
However, I did get around to reading one book that was making the rounds last year (at least I think it was last year). The book is “Unsaid,” written by Neil Abramson, and it has been occupying my mind for a while now.
Bare bones, the book is about a dead woman, Helena, and her relationship with those she loves. It’s also a story about coping with life after you lose the love of your life, friendship, and fighting for those who don’t have a voice in our legal system. Woven through the story (and various storylines), there are dogs, cats, horses, a pig, a chimp named Cindy, and a boy named Clifford.
At the beginning of the book we learn that Helena, a veterinarian, has died from cancer. She lingers on in the lives of her husband and beloved animals, unable to move on and unable to help them in their grief. She feels for her animals, for whom she was the prime caregiver, and her husband who is trying to care for them while still dealing with his debilitating grief at losing her.
Reading her words and her feelings in this early part of the book was difficult. I imagined myself in her position and having to watch my own animals struggling to deal losing me. It was painful. I couldn’t help but wonder how they would cope with the loss and with being split up. How scary would it be for them to suddenly be living in a new home or in a rescue? How confused would they be? Would they thrive? Would they struggle? Yeah. Not pleasant thoughts to be thinking.
But soon, the book has you heading in different directions and off on a journey that explores the relationship between her husband, a veterinarian friend, a woman and her son and the pets she leaves behind. Each person is someone you come to care about. Each is struggling with loss and trust and change. Even Helena’s animals become personalities that you root for or worry about.
When Helena’s husband (a lawyer), takes on a case involving a chimpanzee, named Cindy, and the woman who has raised and studied her, the story takes turn. At the center of the court battle is the argument that Cindy, a chimp who communicates using sign language and has been shown to have the capacity to think like a child, should be saved from experimental testing because she is a sentient being. The battle takes many twists and turns but in the end leaves one thinking about the value of an animal life and the value each animal brings to our own lives.
As Helena says near the end of the book:
“I’ve been so foolish, running through the forest searching for some profound and eclipsing life meaning when it is the trees themselves that were bejeweled the whole time: Skippy, Brutus, Arthur, Alice, Chip, Bernie, Smokey, Prince, Collette, Charlie, Cindy, hundreds of cats, dogs and other creatures whom I treated, made better, eased into death, or simply had the privilege to know. Each was worthy in his or her own right for being valued, each was instrumental in connecting us and then moving us onward in our own lives, and each gave more than he or she got in return.”
This is a book worth reading. It leaves you thinking and it makes you appreciate the time you have with the animals in your life. I think I only had two disappointments in reading this book: 1) that I never got to experience Helena being reunited with any of her animals, and 2) that it ended way before I was ready for it to do so.
It’s time for my second annual list of favorite blog posts. This year was full of wonderful posts. In fact, there were so many great ones that I had a very hard time whittling it down to just 10. So, I decided to compromise a bit and make it 11 AND to lump those written by the same blogger together (Yes, several bloggers had more than one good post!).
I want to make clear up front that the blog posts I chose were the ones that touched ME most. I know there are many more that people would nominate for their top 10 or 11, and I encourage you to do so in the comments section below or write your own Top 10 or 11 Blog Posts posts and share them. I always enjoy hearing what you found most inspirational, powerful or funny. This year’s list is quite a variety – some are funny, some are sad and some are thought-provoking. I hope you enjoy the ones I have chosen as much as I have.
So, without further ado, here are My Top 11 Blog Posts for 2011…
1. So You Think You Want a Human?- Prologue by Kevin Myers at Dog Lover’s Digest – Kevin is a great writer. He is smart, witty and has a great sense of humor. If you haven’t read his blog you may want to after reading this post and his accompanying piece, So You Think You Want a Human? – The Announcement. Both pieces are written from the dog’s point of view and while extremely funny, they also have a message to convey. They are definitely worth sharing with friends and family who have a dog.
2. Be Gentle: I know my dog is old by Susan Seligson – This post actually appeared on TheBark.com, but I felt it was powerful enough it was worth sharing. So many of my friends have lost their senior dogs this year so it struck home. It’s a good reminder to everyone, dog owners or not, to be gentle (and kind) when you encounter an owner and their senior dog.
3. Blog-a-versary! A celebration in photos by Aleksandra from Love and a Six-Foot Leash – i love Aleksandra’s blog for many reasons. She brings attention to what wonderful dogs pitbulls are, she fosters and finds home for pitbulls who otherwise would have perished in a shelter, she educates people about pitbulls and she takes the most amazing pictures of the pitbulls she fosters. This post is more pictures than words, but I think that’s why I love it so much. She captures so much of each dog’s personality in each picture, proving once again that pictures do matter when it comes to helping a dog to find its forever family. There is one other blog post that Aleksandra wrote that is worth mentioning, “Pit bull awareness: words do matter“. It’s educational and informative and leaves you thinking.
4. Drunken Master IV: Canine Fu by Kristine at Rescued Insanity – I love reading Kristine’s blog. She is exceedingly honest about her relationship with her dog, Shiva, and all that comes with that relationship – the good, the bad, the funny and the inspirational. This is one of her funnier posts. I read it back in August, but have remembered if often with a smile on my face. I hope you find it as funny as I did. I also recommend A Letter Long Overdue. It’s a letter to her dog, Shiva. If you’re a dog owner, I think you will be able to relate.
5. Old Ladies Wear Purple In Heaven by Carrie Noar from Tales and Tails – This was perhaps the hardest post for me to read because it was about Carrie’s grand dame Greyhound, Lilac, and about saying goodbye. I love reading Carrie’s posts about her Greyhounds and German Shepherds, especially when they write their own blog posts. Lilac was a beautiful senior girl who had an elegance and style all her own. It hit all of us fans pretty hard when Carrie shared with us that Lilac had crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Carrie’s loving tribute to Lilac’s life is touching and beautiful. I encourage you to read it. I also recommend her follow up post, With Deepest Gratitude, as Carrie shares a little more about how Lilac came to be with her and her husband.
6. Putting the pieces together by Debbie Jacobs from Fearfuldogss Blog – As always, Debbie’s posts leave me thinking. They always offer some valuable piece of insight that leaves me examining my relationship with my own fearful dogs, Daisy and Lady. While Debbie specializes in working with fearful dogs and their owners, this post is particularly applicable to all dog owners, reminding us that our dogs’ issues often cannot be summed up in one root cause, but are only one piece of the puzzle.
7. The Cuteness Curse by Brandi Barker and Megan Ores-Ulrich at Barker Behavior – This post was particularly powerful for me because it covered a lot of the human behaviors I encounter as the owner of a fearful dog. So many well-meaning people have made these mistakes when approaching Daisy or Lady. Brandi and Megan’s advice is clear, concise and straightforward. I shared this one all over the place, so it made sense to include it in my top 10 list.
8. I am living with serial killers by Jan at The Poodle (and dog) Blog – This post is nothing short of hilarious. Jan has a unique way of writing. She is humorous, educational and informative. Her blog has a good mix of everything for everybody. This post takes Jan through an interrogation that will leave you laughing your butt off.
9. Everyday Heroes: Foster Families by StubbyDogs – This one actually came in under the wire, but I knew it would have to be on my list as soon as I read it. Having been a foster parent to several dogs it was nice to see such a loving tribute to foster parents everywhere. I was particularly struck by these two sentences: But when people tell them, “I couldn’t foster because it would be too hard to give the dog up.” They say, “How can it be harder than knowing a dog died because no foster home stepped up?” If you have fostered before or are considering doing it now, this is worth the read.
10. We’re Certified Humane by Lisa Spector of Through A Dog’s Ear (featured on Victoria Stilwell‘s blog Positively) – This was another post that I shared everywhere I could. Lisa’s pondering on the phrase “We’re Certified Humane”, found on a particular yogurt company’s product, and how it could be applied to dog trainers was particularly insightful and thought-provoking. I loved it.
11. The Puppiness Project – You Can’t Change Everything (and You Shouldn’t Try) by Pamela Webster at Something Wagging This Way Comes – All year Pamela has been dedicating her Tuesday posts to The Puppiness Project, modeled after Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project. I have found myself looking forward to these posts each week because I always know Pamela will have some wonderful insight to share that makes me think our dogs are much wiser than we are as human beings. This one was particularly powerful for me, but I encourage you to check out her other posts on this topic. They are wonderful.
There were a few blog posts that were not pet related but still powerful in their humor (like this one from TheBloggess.com), personal experience (like this one from Jennifer Margulis about the death of her mom or this one from Kim Clune over at This One Wild Life about remembering 9/11) or messages of personal growth (like this one from Marc and Angel Hack Life)
Welcome to the Saturday Pet Blogger Blog Hop. I encourage you to check out some of the other awesome pet bloggers out there. Much thanks to our most generous and interesting hosts, Life With Dogs, Two Little Cavaliers, and Confessions of the Plume!
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My very first apartment had a lot of amenities I liked – a deck, off-street parking, a huge living room and a large bedroom with a huge closet. It also had something else… a ghost cat. I know. It sounds crazy doesn’t it?
The first time I knew I had a ghost cat was soon after I moved in. I was laying in bed, about to fall asleep, when I felt little cat paws walk up along the side of my body, alongside my leg, and then knead the mattress right next to my hip and lay down. I remember lying there frozen with fear. Did I just imagine that? Was I half asleep and just dreaming it? Was I losing my mind? It kind of freaked me out. The only way I could sleep that night was to tell myself that I had imagined it.
Over time I would come to realize that it wasn’t a dream. I really did have a ghost cat. And, he would often sleep by my side after kneading the mattress. Even after I got my two real cats, Nick and Sebastian, he would come up on the bed and follow the same old routine of walking along the side of my body, kneading the mattress and then curling up beside me. For some reason, it never seemed to bother my cats that there was another kitty, not to mention a ghost kitty, sleeping on my bed.
When I moved to a different apartment across town my ghost cat came with me. His routine was always the same and I began to find his presence comforting.
I once told my mother and sister about my ghost cat, but they just rolled their eyes and tried to humor me. They didn’t believe in ghosts. But I knew that what I was experiencing was real.
When I started traveling for business, my sister would come to stay with my cats so she could give Sebastian his insulin injection in the morning. One evening, I called her to see how my cats were doing and she informed me that she had had a visit from my ghost cat. She told me that the previous evening she had been almost asleep when she felt the little cat paws walking up from the end of the bed and then start to knead. She had assumed it was Nick or Sebastian, but when she looked, both cats were already sleeping next to her. I think she was a little freaked out by the whole thing, but it was nice to have some validation.
Somewhere along the way, my ghost cat just disappeared. I have often wondered what made him go. Was it the new bed and mattress that did it? He seemed to disappear right about that time. Or, did he just find someone else that needed his comforting more? I like to think it was the latter. How nice to think that he moved on to help someone else that needed him.
Have you ever had an experience with a ghost pet of your own?
As a pet sitter with Mel’s Pet Pals, I get to see a lot of cool, interesting, funny and strange things while out and about during the morning, day and evening. I had no idea I was missing so much when I was stuck in my cubicle downtown!
Sometimes it’s what I see on the road while sitting in traffic, or while out on a walk with a dog, or it’s simply one of my kitty or doggie clients acting silly. In any case, I always have my camera handy so I can snap a shot of whatever it is and share it with my client’s parents or with my friends.
I thought I would put together a few of the more cool, interesting, funny and strange things I have seen along the way. Enjoy! And, feel free to share stories of the things you have seen while out and about that caught your attention. I always love a good story!
I don’t know about you, but I am often fascinated by people’s stories. How they ended up doing what they are doing. What motivates them. Who they admire. Places they’ve traveled.
That’s why I was so pleased when Mary Haight of Dancing Dog Blog agreed to do an interview. She has a passion for animals that I can appreciate and she often takes up their case on their behalf. She also does a great job keeping people informed of the most current news, product reviews and is always searching for the facts behind each story. If you’re not following her blog, you should be. I always learn something new when I read her posts and I am sure you will too.
What made you choose to blog about animals and animal-related topics?
I’ve been an animal lover since I was a child. We always had cats in the house growing up and I started riding horses and got my first dog in my twenties. Later I had been involved in not-for-profit work on food safety issues and was passionate about it, but there wasn’t a lot of good news to report in that niche. I’m not a scientist schooled in public health, or a nutritionist, and felt if you don’t make the basis of what you write what you truly know, blogging becomes unsustainable.
With animals, I had the passion to sustain authenticity over time, and I have been involved in that sector for more than a decade. Blogging about animals allowed me to explore topics that would broaden the readership and provide me with opportunities to see another side of life with dogs.
I have also been an officer on the board of Lake Shore Animal Shelter Chicago’s oldest no-kill shelter, for nearly 13 years.
So, how did you get started blogging? What motivated you to start?
A friend of mine who knew I had a lot to say on animal welfare issues told me I should start a blog, but I wasn’t truly motivated to start blogging until something happened at Animal Care and Control in Indiana (ACC).
A request came to shelters in Chicago announcing that ACC was moving into a new facility and had approximately 100 animals they would not be taking to their new place. They informed the shelters in Chicago that if they would like to save them they were welcome to come and get them. Obviously this type of communication wasn’t the best given animals’ lives were at stake. A blog was born.
What topics or issues tend to get your juices flowing when it comes to blogging?
I like to tackle issues. Breed-specific legislation, mandatory spay/neuter, puppy mills, pet shops, pet food problems and internet puppy sales are all related to putting a stop to animal cruelty.
But, most people just want to have fun with their dogs, so I cover ground there too with reports and clips from dog shows and trials, stage and movie reviews. I also offer interviews with trainers and other professionals. And, I like to put together useful information in the tabs section of my blog like: how to figure out if pet insurance is for you, how to choose a boarding/daycare facility, dog play and games, pet friendly hotels, dog allergies, pet beds, and even dog food recipes.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an animal advocate/pet blogger?
Giving animals a voice. Getting the message out. Giving people information they want or need to help them strengthen their relationship with their furry ones and offering helpful information to people on the edge of giving up their animals. Having other bloggers talk about something you wrote that you feel is important for people to know, and then having their readers see it and share it. Word gets out and animals needing help get it.
It’s also rewarding when you get a variety of responses to whatever was written, especially when you see new people speaking up and coming back to do it again. And it’s wonderful how you can feel as if the people who read and comment regularly are more like friends than strangers, even – or maybe especially – if you disagree. I think the pet niche must have the best people in it – there’s so much great camaraderie here!
Favorite blogging moment or experience?
I wrote “Giving Pet Shops and Puppy Mills the Boot” and followed up with an email interview with Best Friends Animal Society Elizabeth Oreck, National Campaign Manager of Puppies Aren’t Products, and several of my favorite bloggers wrote about it or mentioned it in a recap. I was grateful for that and for the response it elicited in the comments section. I even had a great conversation in the comments area with a journalist I respect. The follow-up helped clear up a lot of misunderstandings some in the sheltering community had. I felt lucky and happy with what I was doing.
What did you do prior to blogging?
I had just come off a ten-year stint caring for my mother. I sold the house in August of 2008, moved to another area, and started the blog toward the end of that year. Prior to that, I was president of a manufacturing firm.
Do you have other blogs you follow that are not animal or pet-related?
Sure! Here’s a few: The New York Times, Huffington Post, ScienceDaily, Food Politics, Environmental Working Group, OrganicHatSEO, treehugger, Problogger, Rubin Museum of Art (check out the art from the Himalayas and if they still have slides, Carl Jung’s “Red Book”), Zen Habits, Damian Calvo (filmmaker)