Maris & Maris—Mother & Daughter Devoted to Saving Whales

You never know where a phone call will lead. A few weeks ago, I called SaveTheWhales.org a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the ocean and its inhabitants. I was interested in gathering information as part of my research for a picture book I’m working on. I was beyond thrilled to speak with the co-founder herself, Maris Sidenstecker II. Not only did Maris generously spend time answering my questions, she agreed to let me share her story. I think you’ll find her as inspiring as I do.

The first thing I noticed while speaking with Maris, was her passion for whales. It was this passion that drove her to start Save The Whales when she was 14, and it’s this same passion that years later, continues to drive her to do all she can to help these beautiful animals survive.

But Maris’ love for animals is not limited to these gentle giants. She has always defended and protected animals of all sizes. As a first grader, she led a team of friends to pick up earthworms in the schoolyard after it had rained, so boys couldn’t step on them. She rescued injured snails and fed them in a terrarium so their shells could mend and then she released them.

Ever since then, Maris has helped as many animals as possible. She grew up in a home with rescued cats, newts, lizards, a fish, turtle, and a dog. As a pre-teen she wrote letters to dog food companies asking them not to slaughter wild horses for dog food. It’s not surprising that Maris wanted to become a veterinarian. However, as often is the case, life happens and plans change.

When Maris was 14 she read an article on a flight from Los Angeles to Boston. It was about a pregnant blue whale who had suffered on a dock for several days before dying. The article, written by Joan McIntyre, the director of a nonprofit organization called Project Jonah, deeply upset Maris, but also ignited her call to action. Maris wanted people to know what was happening to whales, so she designed a T-shirt with a blue whale and three simple words: “Save The Whales.” Maris had no idea that this T-shirt would change her life.

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Maris holding the original T-Shirt she designed at age 14!

With her own money, she had a dozen Save The Whales T-shirts printed and she gave them away to friends and family. Soon others started asking how they could get one. Maris and her mother (also named Maris) began selling T-shirts through Rolling Stones magazine and donated the proceeds to Project Jonah. She appeared on local TV programs in Los Angeles, attended animal rights fairs and other street fairs with her mother, where they spread the word about the plight of whales by selling “Save The Whales” T-shirts and handing out literature.

In 1977, when Maris was 16, Save The Whales became a non-profit organization. Maris gave presentations to Los Angeles school children about the life of orcas in the wild while she was in high school. Over 40 years later, Maris and her mom are still leading the cause to preserve and protect the ocean and its inhabitants.

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The Maris’—Mother & Daughter in 2016

Maris went on to become a marine biologist instead of a veterinarian, a decision she made after spending time researching orcas in the wild. Her mother continued to run Save The Whales while Maris was in college. After college, Maris worked at the Catalina Island Marine Institute. She taught groups of school children from all over the western United States about marine life in a hands-on approach. She discovered what an impact this type of learning made on students and knew this method was the best way to inspire students.

In 1988, Save The Whales opened an office in the Los Angeles area. At that time many schools were no longer able to provide field trips for students due to budget constraints. Save The Whales developed an innovative hands-on program called “Whales On Wheels (WOWÔ). Maris and her mom collected permitted whale, otter, and dolphin bones, otter pelts and turtle shells from state and federal agencies. These artifacts had been confiscated from dealers and people attempting to bring whale vertebrae or other artifacts across the border from Mexico or other countries. The artifacts were brought to schools where students were allowed to touch the display items and ask questions about the marine animals

Since its inception in 1988, WOWÔ has traveled all over the country, visiting school children in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and California.

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Kids inside Dee, a life-size inflatable whale where kids see the organs and ribs of the whale.

Maris believes education is the key to saving the whales, the oceans, and ourselves. To date, Save The Whales has educated over 330,000 students through their hands-on school programs. Her proudest accomplishments are the number of students they have reached with innovative programs and saving marine life from the deadly underwater explosives.

The biggest effort of Save The Whales was their battle to stop the Navy from performing “ship shock” tests in the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary, a biologically sensitive area off the coast of Southern California. These waters are home to blue, sperm, fin and humpback whales, as well as dolphins, seals and sea lions. If the U.S. Navy had been allowed to go ahead with its plans – which were to test the hull integrity of its new cruisers by detonating 270 underwater explosives over a five-year period – it was estimated that hundreds of thousands of these beautiful animals, as well as other marine life, would have been killed outright. Others would have faced a slow lingering death from damage to their internal organs and hearing.

It was a long battle of ups and downs, but in the end, Save The Whales was victorious. Instead of 270 underwater explosives, the Navy was allowed one detonation farther offshore under the watchful eyes of observers chosen by Save The Whales, to ensure that the area was free of any deep-diving marine mammals.

Maris survived cancer at the age of 28 and believes what we do on land has a direct impact on the environment. The land and sea are connected. Ironically, at this time beluga whales were dying of cancer and Maris used her own story to talk about what was happening to the whales and that we need to pay attention. Over the years, Maris has made many radio and TV appearances, been featured in print media stories, and been cited in books on behalf of Save The Whales, speaking on whale-related issues, such as the harmful effects of captivity on marine mammals.

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Maris on the ocean with dolphins!

Maris loves interacting with students and receiving thoughtful letters, artwork, and questions from students all over the world. She hopes future generations will protect the planet, the oceans and whales, and that her story will inspire other young people just as the Joan McIntyre article on Project Jonah inspired her.

Her advice for students is to never give up on their dream. She wasn’t an ace in math or chemistry, and struggled daily with these subjects in college. One advisor actually told her to switch her major. Instead, she switched her advisor. This advisor had no idea who Maris was or how much becoming a marine biologist meant to her. “Follow your convictions,” Maris says. She knew she could do it because she was motivated and focused.

When asked the one thing Maris would change in the world, her answer is, “A compassionate world where the environment and animals are respected. We must realize that our survival and that of the planet depends on our daily actions.”

If you would like more information about Save The Whales please check out their website: https://savethewhales.org/

 

 

 

The Power of Love & Healing— Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary

I was trying to think of something fun my university-aged daughter and I could do together. Since we both love animals, I thought it would be nice to volunteer helping animals. I found the perfect place—Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary. We had both heard the story of Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter and their lovely pig Esther, who they had adopted as a tiny piglet. We were thrilled to discover the sanctuary was literally 15 minutes away from our house. We both applied and were accepted as regular volunteers.

Though Esther is the namesake of the sanctuary, there are many beautiful, rescued animals living here. Pigs, goats, sheep, bunnies (I was lucky to spend most of my time in Bunny Town with these adorable little ones) cows, a horse, a donkey, and many birds, including a turkey named Dolly. 

 

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Dolly

You may have heard of Cornelius, the turkey who shares Derek and Steve’s house along with Esther and Phil, their energetic and full of love, dog. But Dolly was the other turkey. Sadly, Dolly has since passed, but I am so grateful I had the chance to know her. She was beautiful—soft white feathers and dark eyes. She was very gentle and most surprising, trusting of humans, despite being raised to be slaughtered as food.  

Dolly would let me pat her silky feathers and she stayed close when I cleaned out her pen, sometimes softly cooing. One of the most heartwarming relationships at the sanctuary was the bond between Dolly and Nancy, a chicken. These two were always together. If one was milling about outside the barn, so was the other. It must have been such a devastating loss for Nancy when Dolly passed.

 

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Best friends—Dolly & Nancy

I am so grateful I had the opportunity to meet Dolly and get to know her, along with many of the other residents. This is one of the great things about Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary—it offers people the chance to really see these animals and learn about them. It is such a thrill to witness a mom pig feeding her babies, to see goats and sheep hanging out together, and to see a friendship between a chicken and a turkey.  

With American Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, I give thanks to places like Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary, who not only rescue farm animals and give them a chance to heal, love and be loved, but gives humans a chance to see all of this, and hopefully appreciate the beauty of farm animals. Perhaps this holiday season, some of you will visit an animal sanctuary and this experience will translate to more kindness in the world for all, including farm animals.

To find out more about Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary, including making a donation, volunteering, or visiting the farm, please check out their website—

https://www.happilyeveresther.ca/

 

Scott Bainbridge—Helping Animals is More Than A Career.

I first met Scott Bainbridge in grade 7. I should have known then what an incredibly kind person he would become. Even back in middle school, when kids are often not at their best, Scott was kind, open, and welcoming. A quality he continues to show to humans and non-humans alike.

Scott’s love for animals began as a child living in rural Northern Alberta. His family lived in a small town where unfortunately, farm dogs were abandoned once they had outlived their usefulness. Scott would do his best to care for them.

Scott turned his desire to help animals into a career. In 1999 he became a veterinarian. He had initially hoped to attend vet school much sooner but did not receive the high marks required. Instead, he went into advertising sales for four years and then eventually returned to school to upgrade his marks and take another shot at his dream.

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Scott and one of his patients.

It all worked out. He now co-owns, Dundas West Animal Clinic (DWAH), located in Toronto, Ontario. DWAH has been nominated as Toronto Star’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Veterinary Clinic and is currently named top vet clinic in Toronto by Now Magazine.

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Scott is also the resident vet on Global TV’s “The Morning Show”. He appears on a regular basis answering pet related health questions for viewers.

In addition to helping his many patients, Scott makes time to help animal rescue and adoption groups. He works closely with Toronto Cat Rescue, Team Cat/Dog Rescue, Black Dog Rescue, The Moosonee Puppy Rescue, Adopt A Dog Save A Life, GINA (Greyhounds in Need of Adoption) and Sistering—a shelter that helps marginalized women and their pets.

And for the past ten years, Scott has been running his own DWAH in-house cat adoption program. He thinks they have placed hundreds of stray cats and kittens into their forever homes.

Scott loves the challenges of being a veterinarian. He compares his job to that of a pediatrician since his patients are unable to communicate what is wrong with them, which means he has to rely primarily on his diagnostic skills.

Recently, Scott and his family bought a vacation home in Ecuador. While most of us would take the opportunity to relax, Scott noticed the number of stray cats and dogs. Not only did he notice the problem, he decided to do something to help. Veterinary services are scarce on the Ecuadorian Coast and unfortunately, most local people cannot afford to spay or neuter their pets. He, along with a team of veterinarians, technicians, and assistants from Dundas West Animal Hospital have agreed to work with a registered charity C.A.R.E (Coastal Animal Rescue of Ecuador) and travel to Ecuador to assist with a spay/neuter clinic in the coastal town of Montanita in February of 2020.

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One of the many beautiful stray dogs of Ecuador.

On a personal note, Scott counselled my family a couple of times on how best to help our ailing pets. He also generously allowed my daughter to spend a day at his clinic, shadowing the vets, so she could get an idea of what it would be like if she became a veterinarian.

I am so honoured to call Scott a friend. There is no end to his kindness. I hope you will check out his GoFundMe page and donate whatever you can to help Scott help the stray dogs and cats of Ecuador. Just like there is no act of kindness that is too small for the animal or person receiving it, there is no donation that is too small.

For more information about Dundas West Animal Hospital, go to: https://dundaswestvets.com/

And to help spay and neuter the cats and dogs of Ecuador, please check out:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/ft7x3g-ecuador-spayneuter-clinic?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_lico%2Bupdate&fbclid=IwAR3fnGRV95l1jhpOKL2BXMShDDnx_JN-pIU_Tu7TeAn1fcY49RMU47d7Zbk

 

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The Bainbridge’s! Andra, Stilton, Calum, Scott. And centre front—Kia.

 

The Animal House Jamaica

I am so happy to share this story of kindness. While many us love animals, it takes a special person with a huge heart to dedicate their life to helping animals. Maureen Sheridan has been doing exactly that since 1990, when she started The Animal House Jamaica.

Maureen  was born in England and grew up in both the UK and Canada (lots of transatlantic crossings), but has called Ocho Rios, Jamaica home for 38 years.

Maureen saw the need for a rescue because there was no one on the north coast of Jamaica helping the many animals that needed help.  Since then, The Animal House Jamaica has helped stray, injured, abandoned, and feral animals by providing food, shelter, and medical care.

Dogs such as Fergie, who was hit by a car and left on the roadside to die, probably wouldn’t be alive today if not for The Animal House Jamaica.  X-rays sadly showed that Fergie has two broken legs and a fractured pelvis. The injuries are so severe that surgery is not an option, and the only thing left to do is a double amputation. The Animal House Jamaica will do whatever is needed to help Fergie, even this expensive procedure.

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Fergie

 

Here are a few of the animals rescued by Maureen and The Animal House Jamaica—

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8 yr old George abandoned when his owners departed for parts unknown, after living with them since he was a puppy.
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Ace, one of 4 pups rescued, along with their tiny mom, from the south coast of Jamaica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ochie, found at a resort, suffering from a terrible maggot wound. Luckily, after veterinary care, his wounds are healing.

Maureen plans to continue taking in animals for as long as is needed. While The Animal House Jamaica does not receive any help from local volunteers, they have been blessed with many volunteers coming from abroad to help care for all the animals.

Not only do people from other parts of the world come to The Animal House Jamaica to help care for the animals, they also offer them permanent homes. Many adopters are from the USA and Canada, and they have even adopted animals to visitors from Europe who have fallen in love with a Jampup or a Jampuss (yes, Jamaican cats).

My family has been blessed with our very own Jampup—Roo. While my daughter was in Jamaica, she found a little pup wrapped in plastic, dehydrated, and with many wounds. My daughter wanted to bring the puppy home to Canada, but the pup was too sick to travel back with her. This is where Maureen and The Animal House Jamaica stepped in. They helped us find a vet to take care of Roo while she recovered from her many injuries, and when she was well enough, arranged for Roo to be flown home to us. I will forever be grateful for all the support we received from Maureen.

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Our very own Jampup- Roo!

Like us, many adopters keep in contact with Maureen by sending her photos of the dog or cat that joined their family. The Animal House Jamaica has had many success stories which can be seen on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/theanimalhousejamaica/

Sadly, some dogs and cats are not adoptable. But these dogs and cats still have happy lives, as they will spend the rest of their days, months, years taken care of by Maureen. Some even live in her house!

The Animal House Jamaica has taken in and cared for thousands of animals since inception. This kind of care costs money. Most of her funding comes from donations. If you would like to donate, please check out their website at https://www.theanimalhousejamaica.org/

Maureen believes animals should be treated with care and respect, and she works hard to educate people about the importance of treating animals with kindness. When asked for one thing she would change in the world, Maureen’s answer was—world peace.

Kindness in the Healthcare Profession

 

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A happier memory of a cycling—Matt in Greece

Monday August 5th started wonderfully. A day after being on hospital call, my husband, Matt was looking forward to enjoying the last day of the Civic Holiday long weekend. The weather couldn’t have been nicer. We had breakfast outside and then he and our daughter, Alyssa headed off on their bikes, excited to ride the dirt trails at a nearby conservation park.

Maybe 40 minutes later I get the call, the dreaded call. Alyssa’s voice full of panic—Dad fell off his bike, hit his head, he’s moaning, not moving, not talking, the ambulance is coming.

I rushed to them, all the while thinking, please let him be okay, please let him not be paralyzed.

My daughter called a few minutes later—Another cyclist, who unbelievably happened to be a firefighter, stopped to help. This kind stranger took over the 911 call from my distraught daughter, assessed Matt, and stayed with them while they waited for park patrol to find Matt and bring him to the parking lot. I will forever be grateful to this amazing and compassionate person.

After a gruelling 20 or 30 minutes, an ATV drove out of the shrub, pulling Matt along on a stretcher to the waiting ambulance.

The paramedics were great. They quickly assessed Matt and drove us to Milton District Hospital. He was seen quickly. X-rays and CT scans were performed, and his pain, which was excruciating, was tended to. Hospital staff  were professional, competent, and understood our stress and worry, and were willing to answer questions, in a kind manner.

The x-rays and scans showed he had multiple fractures in his back and one in his upper rib. It was decided to transfer him to the nearest trauma centre, Hamilton General Hospital.

The trauma team was waiting for him. He was again assessed and re-scanned and then taken to a spot in the emergency . . . this is when things took a turn for the worse.

I understand it was a busy day,  there were several traumas to deal with, but it is cruel to keep someone with so many broken bones in agony, without any pain relief. Hamilton General Hospital is a teaching hospital, so the residents are often the primary contact. Apparently, the residents (many of whom had only graduated from med school a month prior) were overwhelmed with the number of traumas and were backlogged in writing pain medication orders.

Matt suffered for hours on a backboard with no pain relief. But that wasn’t the worst of it. One particular nurse in the ER department, who I’ll call Shelly, made one of the scariest days of our lives, unbearable. She was condescending and rude when I asked for an update about his orders. Any request was too much, even a blanket to help with his chills.

Later that night, when he finally had some pain meds and we were told that his breaks, though substantial, were all stable and would eventually heal on their own, Matt wanted to try and walk to the bathroom. He called for Shelly, and eventually she came and said he could go to the bathroom, and that was it. She didn’t even escort him to make sure he didn’t fall. Instead she went back and sat at the nurse’s station.

Shelly’s treatment of Matt and our family was awful, but two other patients received even worse care—an elderly man suffering from some form of dementia, and a woman suffering from some form of mental illness. They were confused and scared and wanted to leave. Instead of speaking to them in a kind and professional manner, Shelly yelled at them, mocked them, even said the woman was ‘off her rocker’ to another nurse. She escalated their distress to the point security had to be called. It was a terrible thing to witness.

Perhaps Shelly was having a bad day,  maybe there was something going on for her personally, but she is a nurse in the emergency department of a trauma centre, where patients and families are possibly going through the worst day of their lives. I think it’s fair to expect a little compassion and kindness from healthcare professionals.

Fortunately, the shift changed, Shelly left, and a new crew of nurses arrived. They were great. They actually checked on Matt, asked him about his pain, provided pain relief in a timely manner, and generally treated him well. They were also great with the elderly man and woman. Instead of escalating these individuals’ distress, they diffused it.

Matt’s time at Hamilton General showed us how important it is for healthcare professionals to be kind and compassionate and what a difference it makes.

On the opposite side of the kindness spectrum was the outpouring of support and love we received from family and friends. Our children drove hours to come to the hospital, missed work to stay by our side, and also helped ensure our animals at home were taken care of. We didn’t have to worry about anything other than Matt getting well enough to leave the hospital.

And then there were all the offers from friends— to keep me company at the hospital, bring food, provide transportation, even grocery shopping! Matt’s colleagues also have gone above and beyond. They stepped in and have taken over seeing his patients in hospital, nursing home, and his office. This has been a great source of relief to Matt, knowing his patients will continue to be looked after until he is well enough to go back to work. And of course, so many people filled the universe with positive, healing thoughts for him.

Yes, we saw the bad side of one person in particular, during this difficult time, but we saw an abundance of good in so many more.

I have much to be grateful for. First,  Matt will heal completely and second, we are surrounded by so much goodness.

With much love and gratitude, I thank all of you who kept Matt in your hearts. Eventually, the memory of that awful nurse will fade, but I will forever hang on to the kindness shown by so many more.

 

 

A Ferret Named Randall

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This amazing story of kindness was sent by Kate Kenzie. Kate is a book blogger and writer from Yorkshire.

On a warm summer’s day Kate and her husband were on their way to pick up some plants, but they got delayed.

As they were driving along in the middle of nowhere, as Kate describes it, they spotted a ferret at the side of the road, drinking from a can. With two ferrets at home, Kate and her husband were comfortable handling them. Kate’s husband stopped the car and scooped up the small shocked creature. A second ferret was nearby, but sadly had been hit by a car and died.

They wrapped the surviving ferret, who would come to be named Randall, in Katie’s jumper so they wouldn’t get bitten before proceeding to get the plants and a box to put him in. By the time they were halfway home he had escaped from the box numerous times as ferrets are keen escapologists. When they got home, they checked Randall over and called the local ferret rescue. No one had reported a missing ferret, but the rescue was full and asked Kate if they would be willing to look after him. They agreed. The next day, they took Randall to a vet who discovered Randall’s canine teeth were broken. He had probably been hit by a car as well, but other than the broken teeth and some bruising, he was physically okay.

It took Randall a while to settle into his new home. He was very shy, but would fight with the other two ferrets, so they were kept apart. If Randall was brought out to play, he would run back to his hutch and hide.

Fortunately, with a lot of love and patience, Randall was eventually coaxed out of his shell. That was five years ago. Now Randall loves cuddles and attention. He even comes when he’s called. Thanks to Kate and her family, Randall had a happy ending.

When asked what one thing she would change in the world, Kate said “for people to care about nature and the environment they live. Small changes can collectively make a big difference.”

Kyla and the Coot

This story was shared by Kyla Morris. Kyla lives in East London. On a winter’s night in November 2010, Kyla was walking home from work with a colleague alongside a busy road during rush hour, when she heard a thump. She looked around to find a Coot on its back waving its legs. The poor bird had been hit by a car. Kyla stopped the traffic, ran into the road, and picked up the bird. All the while her colleague was staring after her not knowing what she was doing. Having been brought up in a rural area, Kyla knew the bird would be in shock and needed to be kept warm. She put the bird inside her jacket. By the time she got home, the Coot was unconscious, so she sat very still for over an hour with the bird tucked inside her coat.

Eventually, the bird woke up, and Kyla discovered it had a cracked beak. She called a wild bird rescue who told her to keep the Coot warm and release the bird as soon as she could.

Kyla put a blanket inside a box as a safe place for the bird and closed the lid. In the morning, the bird was gone. Kyla found the Coot in her bathroom. With the help of a sheet, she was able to carefully put the bird back inside the box.

Kyla was worried infection would set in the bird’s beak and called a vet. She was told the Coot would most likely be put down by the vet, as birds are too fragile and rarely survived accidents.

Not wanting to risk the bird’s life, Kyla decided not to take the Coot to a vet. Instead she put the box in an airing cupboard to make sure the bird wouldn’t escape this time.

The next morning, the Coot was still alive. Making sure the lid was closed, Kyla carried the box to Victoria park, a local park, and opened the box by a large lake. As soon as she uncovered the lid, the Coot flew out, toward the lake, hopefully to see many more days.

When asked what one thing she would like to see change in the world, Kyla said she would encourage people to have more compassion.

To see the lovely park and pond where Kyla released the coot, please click on the link below.

Bathing Pond, Victoria Park- where Kyla released the coot

THE BUDDY BENCH

This wonderful story about friendship, inclusivity, and kindness comes from Maya and Liberty Persaud. Enjoy!

Being new at school is always hard, and being new at school in a new country is even harder.  Maya and Liberty, and their parents Ryan and Sarah, moved to Curitiba, Brazil, in July 2018.  Their parents work at the International School of Curitiba, where the girls attend school. The previous four years, they had been attending school at Korea International School in Seoul.  At the young age of nine, the girls sure know a lot about traveling to new places and the challenges of making new friends.

When they arrived at the International School of Curitiba, sisters Maya and Liberty, in Grade 3, had a great idea, inspired by the school their mother worked at in Milton, Ontario, Canada. They decided, with other ISC Ambassadors, to create a Buddy Bench, to help students make new friends. This is how it works: a child, who is feeling lonely, can sit on the bench to signal they need someone to play with. Once other children see that student at the bench, they can invite him or her to be a part of their game and feel included.  Maya said: “We hope that children use the buddy bench and feel that it will help them make friends.”

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Liberty & Maya & the Buddy Bench

The girls were asked what is one thing we can do to make the world a kinder place.  Liberty said: “It would be a better place if people took the time to get to know each other more, as it would make the world a better place.” Maya responded: “If people did not fight over small things it would be better, and if people were feeling sad that other people would come to them. It would be better if all students were included.”

 

Fostering-When A ‘Fail’ Is actually A Good Thing

I received this lovely story from Bradley Bravard, a writer living in Florida.

Bradley used to foster dogs. Over the years, he fostered for several different rescue groups. He always made sure he only volunteered with organizations that had strict adoption policies. This gave him confidence in knowing that the dog was going to a good home. Bradley would then open up his heart and welcome the next dog who needed a place to live until they too were adopted.

But Little Steve was a different story. Little Steve was a blind miniature poodle who Bradley started fostering in 2013. Bradley is unsure of the dog’s history and the reason he ended up in a shelter. But fortunately for Little Steve, he found Bradley. Even though he was blind, Little Steve learned how to navigate his new surroundings. He also enjoyed being held.

Soon after Little Steve came to live with Bradley, the rescue disbanded, and Little Steve became Bradley’s dog. This is sometimes called a ‘foster-fail’, when the foster home becomes a permanent home. It’s not really a fail. Especially for the dog who now has a loving, forever home. Bradley and Little Steve shared their lives for the next four years, until Little Steve passed away from old age.

Bradley has fostered many breeds of dogs—labs, beagles, basset hounds, to name a few. He strongly believes people should choose adopting from a shelter instead of buying from a breeder.

No matter what type of dog they want, there is a rescue group out there with exactly that dog.

Bradley is no longer fostering rescue dogs, but he and his wife have a wonderful dog of their own, a fun-loving hound mix named Rosie who was adopted from a county animal shelter.

When asked what he thinks would make the world a kinder place, Bradley said, “To always value life—people, animals, and the environment, before money and material possessions.”

For more information about Bradley, please check out his website, The Creative Life Adventure at https://thecreativelifeadventure.com/

 

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Little Steve

 

The Real Cheshire Cat

At last! My first KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING blog post. I’ve wanted to collect and share stories of people being kind to animals and each other for a long time. But as is often the case, life gets busy, and these ‘sort of things’ are pushed aside.

Well, no more. I’m choosing to allow myself a little joy each day! And that includes starting this blog. And I can’t think of a better day to begin—Father’s Day.

A large part of my love for animals was instilled by my dad. Watching him around animals is pure joy—for him, the animal, and whoever is lucky enough to witness his perfect mix of calm and excitement as he cuddles and plays with a dog or cat. I look forward to sharing one of his stories soon!

I’m so humbled by the response from friends and strangers alike, who answered my call for stories. Reading about these inspiring acts of kindness restored my belief that people can make a positive difference in the lives of animals and each other.

My goal is to post a story every week. A tall order, but one I believe is doable. There are so many people showing kindness each and every day. I hope you will send me your story of kindness.

I’m delighted to share this story from C.H. Brown. It seems appropriate that hers is the inaugural post on my blog. She, like me, is a writer, a vegan, and an animal lover. Plus, she was the first person to generously respond to my request for stories. I hope you find her act of kindness as heart-warming as I did.

Written by C.H. Brown in her own words- Enjoy!

The Real Cheshire Cat

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Cheshire

Three years ago, I was lounging in bed on a Saturday when I heard a little meow, which I now understand to mean “Feed me!” in cat tongue. I stepped out on my front porch to see a small, thin cat with the most beautiful, emerald green eyes I ever saw. Judging by the rip in his ear and demeanor, I figured he must be a stray. Being the animal lover that I am, there was no question what to do next: I scooped him up and brought him inside.

The First Days with Chesh was an adjustment for the whole house. My husband and I already had two big, droopy-eyed hound dogs, and we didn’t plan on adopting a second cat. Even so, no matter how many loving families offered to home him in the days that followed, I couldn’t give him up. I kept making up excuses as to why the homes might not work. When I finally told my husband that I wanted to keep Cheshire for good, it came as no surprise. His name came easily to me, being a book lover particularly fond of Alice in Wonderland.

Within a couple weeks, Cheshire was happy to be picked up and held regularly, although only by me. Eventually though, he opened up to our pets and other people. In fact, he now romps and plays with the big dogs. he loves stretching on the yoga mat with me and going on hikes at our state park. Most nights he even shares my pillow. I would definitely describe us as inseparable.  

Despite all of this, the Cheshire Cat wasn’t exempt from life’s challenges. Both Chesh and I struggle with anxiety, often caused by loud noises, sudden movements, or sometimes nothing at all. This can make it difficult to keep him calm when strangers get too close, or when we take walks where things are constantly moving around us. Still, we help each other overcome our anxiety. Sometimes, I still have panic attacks and, when I do, Chesh is the first one to sense my change in emotions and come running. But that’s not the hardest part.

The worst time was when our other cat, Cleopatra, suddenly became very sick. Over time, Chesh and Cleo became incredibly close, something of a cat couple. The vet took one look at Cleo and diagnosed her with Feline Leukemia, a disease that attacks the immune system. What’s worse, we were too late; she died there on the table. Knowing how close the two cats were, I was heartbroken that we were losing the baby in our family and Cheshire wouldn’t get the chance to say goodbye. Then, I learned this disease is highly contagious to other cats.

After Cleo passed, my husband and I hurried home, a one hour drive away, so we could bring Cheshire to have him tested before the vet closed. We got there in time and the vet gently drew his blood. The results took ten minutes. I think that was the longest ten minutes of my life. It was a terrifying notion to think I could lose any one of my animals, especially both cats in the same day. The vet reentered with a sad look that said it all: Cheshire was positive for Feline Leukemia.

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Cheshire & Cleo

That was over four months ago and, although we feel the absence of Cleopatra in our hearts, we’re a healthy family. Last month, Cheshire tested positive once again for leukemia, but you’d never know by looking at him. After months of medication and natural healing methods, like crystal and reiki sessions, Cheshire is completely symptom free. The vet says he probably doesn’t even know he’s sick and, the way I see things, he’s not at all.

When I watch him run and play, I’m confident Cheshire Cat will live a long and happy life. This experience showed me that I need to stop letting my anxiety control my actions and focus on living in the moment. The truth is, all things come to an end, good and bad. Keeping this in mind, however much time the Cheshire Cat and I do have together, I’m spending every day smiling. I’ll never forget the day I opened my door to meet those bright green eyes, and I’m so grateful for these unexpected gifts.

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C.H. Brown lives with her husband in Tennessee where she writes a wide variety of prose, featured with Inner Sins, Blood Moon Rising, Cemetery Moon, and more. When she’s not writing, Brown seeks adventures in a world of her own, cuddling with the real-life Cheshire Cat or sunbathing on the yoga mat. Find more on C.H. Brown and her upcoming novel, The White Rabbit’s Apprentice, at writerchbown.wordpress.com or Twitter @writerchbrown.