Kindness In Colleagues

I am delighted to share this double-layered story of kindness. I call it double-layered because the author of the story, Sylvia McNicoll, is also extremely kind.

First, a bit about Sylvia.

80364750_10162824540175442_3103278716499787776_n
Sylvia and her 2019 Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Fiction

Sylvia is the award-winning author of over 35 books for children. In addition to being a full-time author, Sylvia teaches writing at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. She’s also a devoted grandmother to her nine grandchildren. One would think that between writing, teaching and helping with her grandchildren, Sylvia wouldn’t have time for much else, but somehow, she finds time to help other authors, including me.

52605735_10156754105515202_481210803018530816_o
Sylvia & her grandson spending time on the ice.

Sylvia worked tirelessly, lobbying for the rights of Canadian authors to earn a fair living from their writing. She was among those who lead the charge to protect an author’s copyright by preventing educational institutions from photocopying a book without having to compensate the writer. Unfortunately, this battle continues.

This year, Sylvia is once again a champion for Canadian authors. She helped create an initiative called ‘I Read Canadian’ to promote and encourage everyone to read books by Canadian authors. With the help of her son, Sylvia arranged for numerous authors, myself included, to be videoed while reading from our books and talking about matters that are important to us.

As an introvert, this was completely out of my comfort zone. Sylvia knew this and she made a great effort to help me relax. Knowing I love animals, she brought her dog Mortie along to my session. Thanks to Sylvia and Mortie, I got through it and was able to read the first page of my young adult novel and talk about diversity in publishing. ‘I Read Canadian’ takes place during the month of February 2020.

34906668_10216121256773967_7737866870644015104_n
Sylvia and Mortie

Knowing how busy Sylvia is, I was incredibly happy when she agreed to share a story of kindness with me. And then I was over-the-top excited when I discovered it was about Rob Laidlaw.

Rob Laidlaw is an author, but I knew of him first as the founder of Zoocheck. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international wildlife protection charity, established in 1984. Its mandate is to protect the interests and well-being of wild-animals.

As an animal lover and author, I am delighted to share this story about another animal lover and author—Rob Laidlaw.

Thank you, Sylvia for taking time out of your hectic schedule to write this story.

Without further ado, here it is . . .

 

Kindness in Colleagues

by Sylvia McNicoll

We often joke that it’s a bunny-eat-bunny world out in the world of kids’ lit, but as a children’s writer in Canada I’m lucky to experience great kindness every day.

I ask people for their expertise and assistance in sharing information about their lives and jobs as research for my novels, and they help without any question of compensation. I get support from agents, publishers, bookstore people, teachers, librarians and colleagues in sharing my finished work with the public. People share their happy comments about how my stories make a difference to their kids. Writing friends come out en masse to book award celebrations to support me.

Recently, however, I was on the other side of the bookshelf in terms of looking for that perfect book for a child. At Christmas I have two extra birthdays to buy for and a lot of people to feed. No one gifts a writer with more time.

So it was with intense anxiety that I approached a bookstore associate and asked for a book on bats. “Non-fiction, for kids, something Canadian.” The clerk led me to an American title for adults which he admitted was quite boring but did give out a lot of bat facts. Not exactly what I had in mind.

At home, I googled for a Canadian book for children and as I did, something jogged my memory about a bat book that won the Silver Birch (an award for children’s books written for ages 8-12). I tracked down Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night by Rob Laidlaw. I visited the Chapters website only to find it would be re-released in February, but my granddaughter’s 11th birthday fell on December 25th.

Normally I might beg the publisher to hunt through their bookshelves for a leftover copy of the earlier edition but it was that time of year where everyone was off on holidays. As a desperate measure I emailed Rob from his website. I’d met him back in 2012 at a book launch for his novel, No Shelter Here, Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs. However, I didn’t think that one meeting would mean I’d get a quick response. It’s a busy time of year and Rob is executive director of Zoocheck Canada, a wildlife protection organization. I sighed heavily, not expecting a reply.

He answered almost immediately! Not only did he have copies of Bat Citizens but he said I could pick one up from him anytime from his home. I would have happily driven to North York but then I remembered the delight another child had when I sent a novel addressed to them special delivery.

I asked Rob if he could brave the pre-Christmas post office and send the book to my granddaughter Jadzia by overnight express.

IMG_6276
Jadzia happily displaying her book-specially delivered by the author, Rob Laidlaw

He agreed. I can only imagine the lineup he endured when he mailed it that night. He also enclosed a book called Cat Champions. How could he have known that Jadzia’s been a cat since the moment she could purr?  Both books arrived in plenty of time to delight the birthday girl. Thank you, Rob Laidlaw.

For more information about Sylvia, her books, and all the other things she’s up to, please go to her website: https://www.sylviamcnicoll.com/

John Oberg—using the power of social media to spread kindness

One of my favourite parts of social media is how it brings like-minded people together and allows one’s community to expand. Social media allowed me to ‘meet’ John Oberg.

John grew up in Detroit, Michigan with his mom, Karen Oberg. As a child, he loved soccer, throwing a baseball, watching the Detroit Red Wings, but it was his love for animals that was his biggest passion.

Growing up, John and his mom were fairly poor and often collected bottles from trash cans for which they received ten cents per bottle.

The search for bottles occurred early in the morning, when deer could be seen roaming. Unfortunately, not everyone was as happy about the deer as John and his mother. John discovered that a cull had been planned to kill off many of the animals. Unwilling to simply stand by and let this happen, John and his mom protested the cull for several months.

13096245_10209266463283664_6818577095266628531_n (1)
John and his mom, protesting the deer cull.

Despite their efforts to raise awareness and stop the cull, the deer were ultimately killed. Though John was devastated by the deaths, this was also a turning point for him. It was the first time he realized he could stand up against injustice and let his voice be heard. John calls it his ‘first foray into animal activism’, and will always be thankful to his mom for supporting him.

John credits his mom for instilling in him his love for animals. Though he grew up eating meat, at the age of 20 he became vegetarian. He did so in order to align his beliefs with his behaviour. He felt if cared about animals, then he shouldn’t eat them.

However, he soon discovered that a vegetarian diet wasn’t enough to prevent animals from suffering. Farm animals, including dairy cows and egg-laying hens are forced to exist under gruesome conditions.

17191469_10212097962069364_8567222717835719771_n (3)

In October of 2009, ten months after becoming a vegetarian, John made the leap to a complete plant-based diet. One particular show that persuaded him to make the switch was a documentary called Earthlings. It’s about humanity’s use and abuse of animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and scientific research.

Becoming a vegan changed John as a person. He became more empathetic and understood the suffering others endure. He found a way to live a life that is true to his heart, that is true to himself.

While many find the early stages of becoming vegan difficult, John says he made an effort to find a social group who supported his beliefs. He did so by attending various vegan and animal rights meetup through the site Meetup.com.

John believes it’s important to find a community of people with similar views to increase the chances of successfully maintaining a vegan diet.

But for John becoming vegan wasn’t enough. He realized he could help even more animals by encouraging others to change their diets to one that is plant-based. So, John became a vegan activist.

58599044_10218673945344836_4405625212826025984_n

This doesn’t mean John forces his views on anyone who isn’t ready or interested in making the switch. He quickly learned that trying to tell someone the benefits of becoming a vegan would often make them feel judged if they weren’t open to this conversation. He usually only shares his opinions when asked.

After graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in Non-profit Leadership and Management, John worked for Vegan Outreach. The goal of this non-profit is to end violence against animals. While working at Vegan Outreach, John travelled around North America, handing out pamphlets about veganism to over a quarter of a million people!

Sadly, during this time, John’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. He took a two and half year hiatus from Vegan Outreach to help care for her. She passed away in November of 2015.

11062088_10207006305101122_3802204927616103004_n (1)
John & his greatest supporter—his mom

John then joined The Humane League, an organization whose mission is to end the abuse of animals raised for food. He worked with them for three years, running and overseeing their social media presence.

557_10208261104190315_592644448608332032_n (1)

Though John loved working for The Humane League, in January 2019, he branched out on his own and harnessed the far-reaching power of social media to spread his message. He launched his own independent animal advocacy initiative.

John looks at social media as a science and believes it offers a huge opportunity to help animals. One such way is to post details of what happens behind the closed doors of farms and slaughterhouses.

When asked how he mentally gets through witnessing such horrors, John says,

It’s difficult to face the cruelty that we inflict on animals behind the closed doors of slaughterhouses and factory farms, but I focus on the fact that by exposing this cruelty, it will make a difference for animals in the future. These animals’ lives and the cruelty they endured were not in vain.”

For John, the most difficult part of what he does is dealing with people who don’t understand the problems we face and how to best address them.

People who fail to see the common ground that we all share are the ones who cause the most damage — no matter what side of the debate they’re on.”

But John is inspired to continue his mission to help animals by the many tweets and direct messages he receives from people telling him his posts have inspired them to stop eating animals. Just the other day, John received a message that said,

“I am compelled to tell you that your twitter account has been inspirational and has helped brace me against people snickering at me and saying things like, ‘the dairy industry isn’t cruel…who gave you this stupid idea?’ So, thank you for the tweets and for helping my awakening. Happy New Year.”

In 2019, the content John shared on social media accumulated over 200 million impressions. That is a tremendous reach.

When asked if could change one thing in the world what would it be, John’s answer is,

To get people to understand the cruelty that animals — especially farm animals — face in today’s world and then to understand that they can make simple adjustments in how they eat and live that make a tremendous difference for these animals.”

78323172_10220635152613792_1086048193793228800_n

If you would like to connect with John, you can follow him on Twitter at @JohnOberg. You can also support his efforts to make the world a kinder place for animals at patreon.com/JohnOberg

Beyond Writing

Six months ago, I started a Kindness Is Everything blog. I’m thrilled to say it’s still going! It means so much to me to be able to share amazing stories of people being kind to animals and each other. An added benefit has been staying in touch with these wonderfully, kind people who make such a positive impact on others, for animals and for our planet.

The news is often filled with terrible things people do to animals and each other. Of course it’s important to know these things are happening and try to help, but I think it’s also important to know that kindness exists . . . because it does!

I hope to continue this blog and connect with even more compassionate people. I would love to build a community of kindness to inspire others that it is possible to make a positive difference in the world. So, PLEASE contact me with a story you think will inspire someone. The more stories I receive, the longer I can keep sharing them.

For my last post of the year, I want to share a story of kindness I received.

I am part of a wonderful writing critique group called BAM. These writers, many of whom are award winning authors, welcomed me into their group almost two years ago, and I’m so grateful they did. I have learned a lot from them about the publishing world, and I think I’m a better writer because of their feedback.

unnamed
BAM (back row l-r) Natalie, Carolyn, Jennifer, Lynn, Jeff (front row l-r) Karen, Claudia, Sylvia, Deb—proudly displaying books they received in our fun book exchange game.

But for me, we are more than a critique group. These lovely women have supported me in matters well outside of writing. They are my friends.

A perfect example of their kindness happened when I hosted our 2nd annual BAM holiday gathering. I am the only vegan in our group and I never asked anyone, or expected anyone to make something I could eat, but they did—they ALL did!

Each of these wonderful women, tweaked existing recipes or looked up vegan recipes, and filled my kitchen with the yummiest of dishes.

Their efforts mean so much to me. It was more than providing food I could eat. It made me feel included. It made me feel like I mattered. I can’t think of a nicer gift to give someone—the feeling that they belong and are accepted.

This holiday season and always, I hope everyone—humans and animals alike, are given the gift of love and friendship, and made to feel like they matter.

Please remember, there is no act of kindness too small for the person or animal receiving it.

 

Blankets For Baby Rhinos

0 Cover BFBR Logo

I am thrilled to share this lovely story of kindness. I have been following Blankets For Baby Rhinos on Facebook for over a year, and I have been awed by the generosity of its talented members, who make gorgeous blankets for orphaned rhinos and other animals. I was delighted when founder Elisa Best agreed to share her story with me. I think you will be amazed at how one person’s kindness can inspire so many to do what they can to help these beautiful animals. I hope you enjoy reading this touching story and looking at the cutest photos of the animals in their knitted blankets.

Elisa Best grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and in 1993 qualified as a veterinary surgeon. She had a passion for wildlife, and although she became a small animal vet and subsequently a soft tissue surgeon for dog and cats, her interest in wildlife never waned. While practicing in the UK, she started to see posts from colleagues in South Africa about the number of rhinos being poached and the cruelty involved—she wanted to do something to help.

Rhinos are an endangered species, hunted for their horns. In the early 1900’s there were 500,000 rhinos living in Africa and Asia, now there are less than 30,000. In the last ten years, 7,000 African rhinos were killed. When a poacher kills a rhino, often two lives are destroyed—the mother and her calf. Baby rhinos live with their mothers until they are about two or three years old. Thus, losing their mother, can be devastating to a young rhino, and many don’t survive.

In November 2016, quite by accident Elisa founded Blankets For Baby Rhinos Facebook group.

The group’s initial purpose was to knit squares to make blankets for baby rhinos at an orphanage in Natal, South Africa. The young rhinos found warmth and comfort in these blankets.

1 J'aime and carer, Megan
J’aime and carer, Megan
4 Khula at ZRRF
Khula

In addition to providing blankets for rhinos, the group has raised more awareness of the crisis affecting rhinos.

In just three years, the group has grown to over 3500 members worldwide. The outpouring of support and knitted blankets means they can now sell some of the blankets to raise funds for other items desperately needed by rhino orphanages. The group has purchased equipment, medicine, other veterinary supplies and food for the rhinos, meerkats, elephants, and dogs who are part of the anti-poaching units.

2 Miss Molly at ZEN
Miss Molly

 

9 Winston, the warthog at HESC
Winston, the warthog
12 Baloo, the meerkat from Solidearth 1
Baloo, the meerkat

They also donate hats and scarves to the anti-poaching rangers. These rangers are vital to wildlife protection and put their lives at risk to protect these animals. For them, receiving a handmade gift from overseas with a note offering support and appreciation, means so much, and really helps them to do their job.

Blankets For Baby Rhinos is entirely volunteer based. Thus, any funds raised go directly to helping rhinos, elephants and pangolins as well as smaller donations to meerkats, flamingos, penguins and primates. They also support those who help care for these beautiful animals.

 

11 Atlas, vervet monkey at Bambelela
Atlas, a vervet monkey

 

3 Suzi at Chimp Eden 1
Suzi at Chimp Eden

 

8 Jeffrey Junior at OFIA
Jeffrey Jr.

The group is currently run by Elisa Best and Nita Smith. Nita manages the South African side of the operation. She works tirelessly to get the supplies to where they are most needed. Alongside Nita and Elisa they have several key volunteers in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the USA who generously help to raise funds, distribute goods and raise awareness.

10 Shaq, the zebra at TRO
Shaq the zebra

 

5 Hatari, the buffalo at TRO (1)
Hatari the buffalo

 

6 Amara at Shamwari
Amara

In October of 2019, Elisa received the Vet of The Year award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The award was in recognition of her work to help rhinos and other iconic African wildlife, such as elephants and pangolins.

James Sawyer, UK Director of IFAW, said: “Elisa’s pioneering approach to harnessing practical public support to help rhinos and other rescued African wildlife is really impressive and she is a great example of animal welfare in action. We hope her efforts will inspire the next generation of animal welfare and conservation campaigners. She is a very deserving winner of IFAW’s Vet of the Year Award.”

Elisa says she hopes that Blankets For Baby Rhinos shows that everyone can do a little to help animals and this can make a big difference.

 

7 Ntonto at ZRRF
Ntonto

When asked the one thing she would change in the world, her answer is, “To make people realize how valuable wildlife is to us all and that if we don’t look after it, it will be gone forever.”

If you would like more information about Blankets For Baby Rhinos, please check out their website: https://www.blanketsforbabyrhinos.org/ or join their Facebook group.

 

 

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.

IMG_0084
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.

Copy M1 and M2 June 2016
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.

© STW 2 2018
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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. 

 

Dolly 2.
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.

 

Dolly and Nancy
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.

IMG_20190402_134351_217
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.

IMG_20190305_204424_252

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.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20190820155929881_COVER
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

 

IMG_7390
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.

69473163_10157206491195520_6656060047249899520_o
Fergie

 

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

67701014_10157136645875520_1762640297512140800_o
8 yr old George abandoned when his owners departed for parts unknown, after living with them since he was a puppy.
67972872_10157160049270520_470085068195364864_o
Ace, one of 4 pups rescued, along with their tiny mom, from the south coast of Jamaica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

67802945_10157136633100520_5133353472049020928_o
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.

57590788426__0BAF6B67-8035-4456-A126-04AFD78EB0B3
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

 

fullsizeoutput_21b
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

Image

 

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.”